Monday, November 3, 2014

Birding the Hassayampa River and Lake Pleasant with a bit of SAS in the mix

On October 29th I was invited to go on a birding trip to the Hassayampa River Preserve by Mr. Paul Doucett. We were planning to bird the US 60 rest stop (along the Hassayampa River) before the preserve opens at 8:00AM and then bird the preserve, and after all of that we would drive on up to Lake Pleasant. The first bird I saw when we arrived at the rest stop was a beautiful male Vermilion Flycatcher.
  After birding the rest stop for about 50 minutes we hiked back to the car when my brother spied this Red-naped Sapsucker that allowed us get within about five feet from him!

 We then drove about a mile down the highway and turned off onto the short dirt road that leads to the Hassayampa River Preserve. Once we parked we met up with the Sonoran Audubon Society (SAS), watched the hummingbird feeders for anything different, paid our fee, and then started birding the picnic area. But before I get any further, here is a photo of one of the many Anna's Hummingbirds.
 Now lets get back to the picnic area. The picnic area (which is just behind the visitor center) holds some very nice birds and as I walked around the palms I spied three Band-tailed Pigeons! However, I was only able to photograph of of the three due to the tree being very thick with leaves and branches.
Booya, a double pigeon species day! I nearly had a heart attack when I had a flock of Rock Pigeons fly over, but Band-tailed Pigeons?! Someone call an ambulance!!!
Luckily everyone was able to see the pigeons, I didn't want any doubt in the air. The pigeons took flight a couple times but kept on returning to the same tree. Unfortunately we couldn't spend to much time on the pigeons because we had a walk to start! The first trail we picked was the Palm Lake Loop, we decided to bird the east side of the loop. We then took a shortcut on the Willow Walkway and right before we reached the PLL again our group spotted five more BTPI's!
Many birds later we reached the Mesquite Meander trail (home to a pair of nesting Tropical Kingbirds in the summer) but the many dead snags didn't hold anything strange.While I was watching the sky I found Mr. Paul's target bird of the trip the Harris's Hawk!
There was also a juvenile Cooper's Hawk watching us through the thick riparian forest.
After the Mesquite Meander, we hiked over to the River Ramble trail where we split off from the group who were leaving. Along the river we had a few mixed flocks which held many Yellow-rumped, and Orange-crowned Warblers, as well as Ruby-crowned Kinglets, there were also smaller numbers of Cassin's Vireos, Black-throated Gray Warblers, Bridled Titmouses, and Hermit Thrushes. After stopping at the end of the Lykes Lookout trail we headed back to the picnic area where I photographed this Hermit Thrush.
Once we were done eating our lunches we drove over to Lake Pleasant.  Mr. Tommy D has been seeing some Herring Gulls, so that was my target bird. We birded the Maricopa side of the lake first. The Maricopa side did not have much to note, but Mr. Paul did get his lifer Ring-billed Gulls.
After we covered most of the stops along the Maricopa side of the lake, we drove to the one stop on the Yavapai side which was the same spot where I got my lifer California Gull last time I was there. As soon as we stopped I started scanning, it did not take me long to find a juvenile Herring Gull flying towards us!
                                                                 Herring Gull Life bird 320!!!

Surprisingly the Herring Gull was not a life bird for Mr. Paul! With Mr. Paul being from the east coast he thought it was funny seeing a gull with the desert behind it! Our day ended with a pair of Common Ravens and a Side-blotched Lizard, who unlike the other lizards that usually show off on how good they are at push-ups just sat there posing for photos.
                                                                Common Raven

                                                                   Side-blotched Lizard
I hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for reading! I also must thanks Mr. Paul and the SAS for great day of birding with many highlights!


  1. Very nice photos and write up Caleb! Awesome Sapsucker photos, photos that good don't come along very often. Congrats on the lifer, 320 is a lot of birds!

  2. Thanks Mr. Tommy!!! It was crazy, our group ran into that lady fro ASU, and she asked them to sign the paper of course! When those sapsuckers let you get close they sure don't care. I think the sapsucker deserves a better name.

  3. Congrats on the Band-tails, tough birds to find and even tougher to get shots. Cheers!

    1. Thanks Mr. Laurence!!! BTPI's are a nice bird to see and it is an extra bonus getting one in my home county! I didn't Even photograph my first AZ BTPI until this year at Happy Jack.

  4. Nice, nice birds Caleb. Leading off your post with that VEFL shot is like a movie that begins with an intense action scene or a book that grabs you on the first page.

    Congrats on the lifer! I saw that photo of the gull flying with a desert backdrop and my immediate reaction was the same as Paul's! So I had to laugh when I read your recounting of his comment.

  5. Thanks Mr. Josh!!! Even though I have a pair of VEFL's in my yard throughout the winter I can never get tired of those little cardinal-like-flycatchers!!!