Saturday, November 15, 2014

Yet another trip to Hassayampa and Lake Pleasant

On November 13th, Mr. Paul Doucett and I birded the Hassayampa River Preserve and Lake Pleasant. We had many goals that we set, the target birds that I looked for were Williamson's Sapsucker and Winter Wren at the preserve and Common Loon and Red-breasted Merganser at the lake. Mr. Paul wanted at least five year birds to bring his year list to 190. His goal for the end of the year is 200 (which I believe he will crush). As we arrived at the preserve a little after 8:00am  I decided that we should try something new. I usually bird the Palm Lake Loop and the Mesquite Meander trails first but I decided to bird the River Ramble and Lyke's Lookout trails first. The first 15 minutes of birding these trails were not nearly as good as I imagined but we didn't give up! As we walked a little ways down the Lyke's Lookout Trail we saw a bird fly north down the western most stream in the river bed. Once I put my binocs up I noticed it was a Rufous-backed Robin, an ABA code 3!!!

The robin was very skittsh though, and it was hard to get any good photos but here are a couple more.

While I was off trying to photograph the robin and not lose it another bird flew up and into the canopy.

Right when I got my binocs on the bird I knew it was a Varied Thrush! When I looked back to signal Mr. Paul he told me that he saw the bird. The Varied Thrush was a bird both Mr. Paul and I have dreamed of seeing ever since we first saw the cover on the Sibley's Guide to the birds of Western North America.

I only saw the bird once before it disappeared into the riparian forest. Mr. Paul and I walked a little further to see if there was anything else new but we came up empty. So we walked back to where we saw the birds and they were both along the so called river, and at one point they were within twenty feet of each other!

                                                                    Varied Thrush

Rufous-backed Robin

Both Mr. Paul and I were stoked to have two rare birds, one that is rare for North America and another that is rare for AZ, but it got even better when we found a continuing rare for Maricopa Williamson's Sapsucker!

On our way back to the Picnic Area along the River Ramble I was able to get my third lifer of the day, a calling Winter Wren! Along the Palm Lake Loop we had another couple of highlights to add to our morning, a Gray Flycatcher and possible flyover from a calling Red Crossbill.
                                                                      Gray Flycatcher

While I was sitting at the Picnic area waiting for Mr. Paul to come I found a Fox Sparrow, and after friend and fellow birder Mr. Tommy D saw the photos he said it was a rare for AZ Red Fox Sparrow! Thanks Mr. Tommy!

                                                                        Fox Sparrow

We were able to see and hear 41 species at the preserve and we birded at this birders paradise for about four hours! After birding the preserve we drove for half an hour until reaching Lake Pleasant. The Maricopa side of the lake held a Pied-billed Grebe a few Ring-billed Gulls, some Buffleheads, and a dozen Snow Geese. But on the Yavapai side we spied two continuing Brown Pelicans.

                                                                       Brown Pelican

We also had a Ring-billed Gull that flew right by us.

                                                                     Ring-billed Gull

By the end of the day we had many highlights and Mr. Paul got himself 8 year birds (only seven away from 200!) and I got 6 bringing my year list to 279 (29 species above my list last year). Thanks for the awesome day of birding Mr. Paul!!!


  1. Wow Caleb, what an awesome day in the field! Congrats again on all of the lifers. I hope the Varied Thrush stays put for me. I don't know if you've realized it yet, but you discovered a fourth rarity on your post besides the Rufous-backed Robin, Varied Thrush, and Winter Wren, and it's an Arizona Bird Committee Review Subspecies. The Fox Sparrow you found is a Red Fox Sparrow and it's rare in Arizona. It's good to keep track of what Fox Sparrow species your seeing, because they might be split eventually. Some field guide authors treat the Fox Sparrows as separate species already. AZFO doesn't post pictures of VATH and RBRO anymore unless it is Regional Interest, but they do want pictures of Red Fox Sparrow, and a report can be submitted to the Arizona Bird Committee. It's great you got pictures of it too. Once again, what a great day out in the field, I'm very impressed with your fantastic birding skills.

    1. Thanks so much Mr. Tommy!!! I thought there was something different about that FOSP but I don't know to much about them. I will corect my stuff on the FOSP and hope that Mr. Steve doesn't throw everything in the eBird trash. I saw someone reported the thrush yesterday so it might hang around!

  2. What a fantastic bunch of rarities you got on one trip Caleb! That crushes any outing I've had this year, great job!

    1. Thanks Mr. Jeremy!!! I was extremely stoked, I am surprised I didn't have a heart attack or something like that.

  3. You followed your gut and it paid off. This is a real jaw-dropper of a post. You are turning into a formidable birder. Great, great finds. Pretty cool that we got our VATH lifers in the same week on opposite sides of the country.

    1. Thanks Mr. Josh!!! This was one of my best trips I have taken so far, with the exeption of my first trip to SEAZ! That is pretty crazy that we got our lifer VATH's on the same week, what bird will it be next?!

  4. Geez man you totally cleaned house. I was there on Sunday and too late, it would appear (or unlucky, or rusty, or all of it).

    Great finds and nice documentation too. You've made the Hassayampa work its magic for you!

    1. Thanks Mr. Laurence!!! Don't worry, it won't be long before you find a mega rarity at Hass. I bet you will find a Short-tailed or Broad-winged Hawk or both!