Friday, July 1, 2016

A New Birding Hotspot For The Public: The Dean and Beloat Riparian Area

Hi All!

Over the past couple years I have birded at a nice riparian corridor along the Gila River in Buckeye, AZ. This area has attracted some very nice birds like eastern vagrants and endangered breeders. Now I am happy to present that half of the D and B area is open to the public! Half of the Dean and Beloat area (southeast of the intersection) is on private property while the other half (southwest of the intersection) is public, the public half is better for birds anyways. PLEASE ONLY BIRD THE PUBLIC HALF. Here is a map of the area.

Red marks the area which is on private property (while everything else is open to the public), green marks the dirt stretch of Dean Road, black marks the parking area, and yellow marks the part of the dirt road which should be hiked.

Here is a closer map with the good stands of trees labeled as S (stand) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

S1 is a small stand of willow and tamarask trees along with a super thick understory and some fairly healthy marsh habitat. In this area I have had special birds such as Ridgway's Rail (summer) and Fox Sparrow (winter). Although I haven't found anything particularly 'rare' in S1, I have no doubt that it has attracted many nice eastern vagrants and will, over the years, get its fair share of glory among birders.

S2 is one of the larger riparian areas and it has produced many great birds over the last couple of years! It has the largest willows in the area and the best habitat for vagrants in my opinion. In this stand of trees vagrants I have seen include Broad-winged Hawk, American Redstart, Black-and-white Warbler, and more! This area is also good for Yellow-billed Cuckoos too. This is one of the better stands of trees in the area for Western Screech-Owls as well.

S3 is a small stand of tall willow trees but although it is limited in habitat I have had a Winter Wren and a probable Brown Thrasher (heard only so I wasn't confident in calling it for sure) in this area. I also heard a Ridgway's Rail in the marshy habitat that borders this stand of trees.

S4 is like S3 but about three times as large and it seems to hold good birds usually. In the past I have had Black-and-white Warblers in here and a probable Blackburnian Warbler.

S5 has been the best stand of trees for rarities over the years. It is a thick stand of willows with nearby marsh, and tamarasks bordering it. In this stand of trees I have had Prothonotary Warbler, Black-and-white Warblers, American Redstarts, an American Redstart x parula sp. (likely Northern) hybrid, a pair of probable Streak-backed Orioles (long story short I got brief views of a pair of orioles that looked good for an adult male and 1st year female Streak-backed Oriole pair), and more!

S6 is a good stand of thick willows with a lot of water. In this area I have had a couple of potential rarities that got away before I could see anything diagnostic but a Swamp Sparrow who stayed for a couple weeks was nice.

S7 is a very different habitat from the rest of the area. It is a tamarask forest which is actually quite productive most of the time. In this area I have had notable birds such as a Northern Parula and Gray Catbird. Willow Flycatchers also appear to breed in this area.

Year-Round Residents 
Birds that mostly say year round at this spot and are common to uncommon include Mallard (year-round but more in the winter), Gambel's Quail, Neatropic and Double-crested Cormorants, Least Bittern (uncommon), Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret (more in the summer but still year-round), Cattle Egret (same as Snowy), Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron (same as Snowy), White-faced Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper's Hawk (more in winter but still year-round), Virginia Rail (a lot more in winter but a a couple pairs stay to breed), Common Gallinule, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Curlew, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Common Ground-Dove (mostly summer but they should be here in winter too), Mourning Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Barn Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl (in fields and ditches to the southeast), White-throated Swift (uncommon), Anna's Hummingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker (be cautious as there are Northern Flickers as this spot from fall-spring), American Kestrel, Black and Say's Phoebes, Ash-throated Flycatcher (more of a summer bird but still a couple here in the winter), Common Raven, Horned Lark, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Verdin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Crissal Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Phainopepla (very uncommon), Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrow, Abert's Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark (a lot mroe in the winter but a pair or two stay in the nearby fields for the summer as well), Yellow-headed Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

Barn Owl being chased by a Cooper's Hawk

Summer Breeders (June-July)
In addition to the species of bird that can be seen here year-round there are also birds that can only be seen here during the summer. Species that call Dean and Beloat their breeding grounds for the most part include Swainson's Hawk (a probable breeder somewhere down in the river but a lot more expected during the spring and fall), Ridgway's Rail (S1), Yellow-billed Cuckoo (mostly S1), White-winged Dove, Lesser Nighthawk, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Willow Flycatcher (mostly a migrant but at least one pair breeds here in S7)Western Kingbird, Cliff Swallow, Lucy's and Yellow Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, and Bullock's Oriole.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Wintering Birds (November-March)
Birds that are strictly wintering birds (snow birds) include Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, and about any species of wintering waterfowl (as there are large ponds on both sides of the D and B area), Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Bald Eagle, Sora, Greater Yellowlegs (also can be seen during migration), Least Sandpiper (same as Greater Yellowlegs), Wilson's Snipe, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Merlin, Peregrine and Prairie Falcons, Vermilion Flycacther (around the house around the Dean and Beloat intersection), Loggerhead Shrike, House, Marsh, and Bewick's Wrens, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, American Pipit, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow (very uncommon here), Savannah Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Green-tailed and Spotted Towhees, and Brewer's Blackbird. Uncommon to rare birds for this spot which I have seen here in the winter have included Wood Duck, White-tailed Kite, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Plumbeous Vireo, Dusky Flycatcher, Winter Wren, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Fox Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Pine Siskin, Lawrence's and American Goldfinches, and Evening Grosbeak.

Black-and-white Warbler

Spring and Fall migration (April-May and August-October)
Birds that I have seen here often that are strict migrants include Lesser Yellowlegs, Vaux's Swift, Western Wood-Pewee, Hammond's Flycatcher, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Cassin's and Warbling Vireos, Tree, Violet-green, Bank, and Barn Swallows, Nashville Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Brewer's Sparrow (could be seen in winter too), Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, and Hooded Oriole. In migration this spot is amazing with songbirds! And if one birds this area during migration you never know what you might find! Fall migration has treated me quite well providing many good rarities.

American Redstart x Parula sp. hybrid 

Here is the overview for this hotspot on eBird HERE. This page is very helpful in getting directions to this area and gaining a mindset of the birds that can be found here.

I made this post so other birders can explore this area and hopefully contribute to the eBird data of unique oasis. PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL TO ANYONE YOU ENCOUNTER WHILE AT THIS SPOT, BECAUSE, YOU, AS A BIRDER, REPRESENT THE ENTIRE BIRDING COMMUNITY. Keep an eye out for other wildlife to as there are a few species of large mammals that call this place home as well as snakes. This area can also have a good amount of mosquitoes in the late summer and fall so bring bug spray. Water is also important for birding anywhere in Arizona. Most of all, have a great time enjoying the birds and other wildlife of this new birding hotspot!!!

God Bless and BIRD HARD!!!



  1. Caleb, you have birded and birded and birded and birded and birded the D and B and have made it into one of Maricopa County's best birding locations! Seeing the D and B become an eBird hotspot is a true honor and achievement! All of the info you posted was right on. The D and B has become your signature spot - never stop birding it!!!

    1. Thanks Josh!!! D and B is a great birding location and I can't wait to see what others might find! I'll make sure to bird my heart out at this spot, not literally ;)

  2. Thanks Caleb for the info. I would love to explore this area in the fall through winter, but live about two hours from it (San Tan Valley). Would you let me know when you are planning to bird there in that time frame, and I would love to hook up with you. I am from Michigan and still pretty intimidated by birding in Arizona:-) Oh, I possibly would have a teen-ager with me who is interested in birding & photographing birds. Thanks so much for considering my request.
    Judy Sink

    1. Hi Ms. Judy!

      I would love to show you around D and B! I assume you got a hold of this post by the listserve, so if that is how you found this post you should know my email, please send me an email when you decide to come out this way. Fall and early winter are great times to visit this area as the birds are abundant and there is usually a rarity or two around. See you around!


  3. Curious as to best way *to* bird it. I was there yesterday and it seemed like a majority of the activity was well off the road in the thickets. Do you just walk the road and bird what's visible? Or are there paths, etc. into the thickets that I missed?

    1. Hello unknown! There is a short yet clear path at the beginning of S5 but other than that you either have to bird from the road or bushwhack. When birding along the road just scan the trees for any movement and listen for any birds calling. Parts of V6 are pretty open too.

    2. Excellent, thanks. I would add that there are some serious ants around. Watch where you stand while scanning that tree line! I didn't and got mauled by (fire?) ants. :) I also bushwhacked a bit but wasn't sure if there were clear paths in the undergrowth that I missed. Thanks!

  4. Yeah the bugs can get you sometimes. There are a couple bee hives, a few large ant hills, and at times a lot of mosquitoes (thankfully not lately though). However, birding this area is well worth any bee sting, ant bite, or itchy mosquito bite in my opinion :)

    Have fun birding this area everyone!

    Also, I have recently got into odes (dragonflies and damselflies) and this area is great for them as well, at least in the summer/fall!