Sunday, September 21, 2014

Birthday Birding

On September 15th it was my golden birthday and I turned 15. I ended my 14th year with 316 life birds and was pumped!!! My parents asked me what I would like to do for my birthday and of course I said I would like to go birding. So my Mom took me birding at Ashurst Lake and Lower Lake Mary which is a great combination for getting high species counts. On our way to Ashurst Lake we have to drive by Mormon Lake which is an amazing site, with elk that come in by the hundreds and the awesome beauty of the scenery.
If you are looking for the elk in this picture well they aren't there, most likely some hunters pushed them in the woods. Shortly after we passed Mormon Lake we turned off on Ashurst Lake Rd and with four miles of driving on a dirt road we arrived at the lake. I had a feeling that there were going to be some good birds out there but you never know. The birds at Ashurst Lake don't usually stay around very long at all or at least the birds that use the lake don't.  For instance, there can be three Forster's Terns at the lake one day and none the next, and I have encountered that with the Willets that they have been seeing. Well back to the trip. Once we parked the truck the air was filled with the songs of the Western and Eastern Meadowlarks,  I can't tell the difference between the songs, but I can tell the calls apart. There was also a singing White-crowned Sparrow who didn't want to be all over the internet so he stayed down low in the bushes. However, a Orange-crowned Warbler reacted to my pishing (bird calling) quite well.
Once we were done looking at all of the songbirds and a Bald Eagle we headed down to the lake shore to look for the shorebirds, waterfowl, and hopefully some gulls or terns. While my Mom and I walked along the shore a Semipalmated Plover flew by us calling and landed not to far, that's when I took this photo.
Just in case some of you don't know what semipalmated means,its when the feet are webbed.

Once I took a few shots of the plover I started scanning the lake and right off the bat I saw something different and I knew what it was right away. Here is a photo of what I was looking at.
 The bird was my lifer Sabine's Gull!!! Once I took my first look at the bird with the scope I walked back in disbelief. After observing the bird for a while it swam into a flock of Eared Grebes. I then saw one of the grebes had its head halfway in the water and that was when I had flashbacks of  a camping trip at Lake Pleasant last year. (I will blog that trip at a later date) on that trip I was observing the 4+ Horned Grebes I saw and all of the birds had a distinctive feeding habit of sticking their head halfway in the water and then diving, here are a couple of photos from Lake Pleasant.

   After observing the bird for a few minutes at Ashurst Lake I finally got enough field marks to call the bird a Horned Grebe! When I was able to confirm the Horned Grebe I went back to the Sabine's Gull and watched it for a while before it it took flight further down the lake.  We then started scanning the south side of the lake and I was surprised that the only shorebirds I saw were two  Killdeers! However, there were many ducks including, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Cinnamon, Blue-winged, and Green-winged Teals, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, and Ruddy Duck. Once we finished scoping the ducks we started walking back when we noticed the Sabine's Gull was within thirty feet of the shore, only on the other side of the lake! We hurried back to the truck and drove to the other side of the lake. When we parked and walked down to the shore the gull was right there in front me!!! Now finally here are some better photos of the gull.

Every time an Osprey would fly over the Sabine's Gull would get nervous and sometimes even take flight.

In the two photos above you can see one of the key field marks, the black and white wings. Once we were done birding Ashurst Lake we then drove down to Lower Lake Mary. When we got there and paid our fee we walked down to the nearby marshy area and began railing.
Last time I birded this area I had twelve Virginia Rails! But this time we only had about four, mostly because I didn't have enough time to REALLY look for them. I also had about three Soras.

Two Soras on the left and a Virginia Rail on the right. Can you spy them?

While we were eating our lunch a Chipping Sparrow flew right in front of us posing for this photo.
I had an awesome time getting to bird on my birthday and starting 15 off with a lifer. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and it will not be the last of my Flagstaff birding, I still have a couple more to go!!!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Mr. Laurence!!! Birding at Ashurst Lake is always fun, and they always have some awesome bird(s)!!!

  2. Happy belated birthday and what a present you got! Dang. Nice bird, man.

    1. Thanks Mr. Josh!!! You will find your own SAGU soon I know it, just look around those ponds and after a few visits you might get one and hopefully in breeding plumage!

  3. Awesome post Caleb! What a nice birthday that must have been!

    You have killer photos of that Sabine's Gull, it's not very often one sees them up that close in Arizona. Ashhurst Lake is one I'll have to look into, like you said it can change by the day.

    And once again, Happy Birthday!

    1. Thanks Mr. Tommy!!! It was a truely awesome birthday! Ashurst Lake is great.