Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Part 1 of an Awesome Week of Birding

It all started on February 3rd when I got back from youth group at my church; my Mom told me about a call we got from Mr. Tommy D, and he wanted to know if I could take a day out to the East Valley. Well, before I knew it I was in the car with Mr. Tommy and on my way to our first stop, Sunflower. Our target bird for Sunflower was the Evening Grosbeak. Mr. Troy had been here couple days before and he had three of these beautiful finches. As soon as we arrived in Sunflower we could hear them calling and when we looked up there was a flock of around thirty flying over us! By the end of our Sunflower stop we had a conservative estimate of 60 EVGRs!

Evening Grosbeaks

There were also a lot of Cassin's Finches in the area as well.

Cassin's Finches

Here are some photos of the other birds and wildlife around Sunflower as well as a shot of the area.

Northern Cardinal

Townsend's Solitaire

Coues White-tailed Deer

After having an amazing morning in Sunflower and seeing many new birds for my Maricopa County list, we drove over to the Maricopa side of Mt. Ord. Both Mr. Tommy and I love birding in higher elevations, and we always hope to find something super awesome, like a Spotted Owl on its day roost or a Pine Grosbeak on the top of a tall pine. But, even if we don't find anything out of the ordinary it's still fun getting to watch those higher elevation species! Once we started birding the 1688 trail we could hear Red Crossbills, Hutton's Vireos, Pygmy, and White-breasted Nuthatches, and there was even a Red-naped Sapsucker giving its mew call.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Pygmy Nuthatch

After we reached the end of the trail and started heading back I heard what I believed was a Golden-crowned Kinglet, but the Brown Creeper sounds very similar. As we started scanning through the many Ruby-crowned Kinglets one caught my eye, and guess what it was; that's right, my lifer Golden-crowned Kinglet!

Golden-crowned Kinglet--Lifer!!!

After watching the kinglet for a good ten minutes Mr. Tommy heard an Olive Warbler singing and before we knew it, the OLWA was in the same tree as the GCKI!

Olive Warbler

Before we ended our Mt. Ord expedition we came across a Red Crossbill high in a tree.
Red Crossbill

Mr. Tommy also spotted this tarantula.

Here are a couple of photos of the scenery from the 1688 trail.

Our next stop after Mt. Ord was Coon Bluff along the Salt River. I have never gone birding around this area so it was awesome getting to explore a new area in Maricopa County! Our target bird for this stop was a Harris's Sparrow that has been hanging out with a small flock of White-crowned Sparrows. Mr. Tommy and I searched the area a few times and had several flocks of white-crowns, but no Harris's. We did, however, have a couple of nice flocks of Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwings

After missing our target bird at Coon Bluff we made our last stop of the day at the Gilbert Water Ranch. Our target bird was the Brown Thrash that spent the winter here but had not been reported for a couple of weeks. I had already gone out searching for this bird twice and I missed it by just a few minutes! So I was very eager to find this bird. As we made our way to the thrasher spot we ran into a Harris's Hawk, at least we got one Harris's that day!

Harris's Hawk floating--On a light pole!

As we approached the spot where the thrasher had been seen, we flushed a rufous backed thrasher out of the middle of the trail! As soon as the bird landed on the side of the trail we knew it was the Brown Thrasher! The bird only stayed still for a second or two but it was unmistakable! We then stayed in the spot for a few more minutes without the bird coming out, so we decided to make a quick loop around the preserve one more time to give the bird a little time to calm down. As we walked around the preserve Mr. Tommy spotted this hybrid Cinnamon X Green-winged Teal.

Cinnamon X Green-winged Teal Hybrid

After watching the teal for a minute or so we hiked over to the thrasher spot again. Even though the sun was starting to set I was still determined to get better looks! After walking back and forth through the area a couple of times our hopes started to fade. But as I looked through the super thick salt bushes I could see a medium sized bird preening its self. Once I lifted my binos onto the bird I saw it was the thrasher! 

Brown Thrasher--Lifer!!!

The bird then started skulking down low in the brush and then the thrasher got scared up by a mockingbird and landed in a reasonably good peach. Even though the sun had already set I was able to get a few diagnostic photos.

By the end of the day I got many Maricopers, two lifers (GCKI and BRTH), and we ended the day with 110 species of bird!!! Thanks Mr. Tommy for the amazingly-awesome day of birding!


  1. Great birds Caleb. That Brown Thrasher is a pain. It does not like having a picture taken:) At all! Hope you are having a fun weekend birding.

    1. Thanks Mr. Chris! I know right! I am very tempted to go back out to Gilbert and get better looks, but there are some other awesome birds to see; these photos will have to do for now. You have a great weekend too.