Thursday, May 31, 2012

Birding in Arizona - Day 4, Mingus Mountain

Sedona is famous for its red rock and is a real tourist spot in Arizona.  The scenery is indeed quite spectacular:

A potential birding highlight of our whole trip was Mingus Mountain.  We set-off early to arrive just after dawn (which is at 05:20), making it out around first light.

The drive up was pleasant, passing through some rickety old towns that try and pass themselves off as tourist locations, before reaching the top of the mountain.

Birds were in fact surprisingly sparse, perhaps because of the hour and indeed the elevation.  We did see this sub-species of the Dark-eyed Junco:

More flowering cacti:

Probably my favourite bird picture of the holiday thus far, a Wilson's Warbler:

And very drably plumaged Western Bluebirds:

It took us a while an reference to the guidebook to work out what species they were:

Spotted Towhee sang as the day warmed:

The view from the top is magnificent, it's very hard to try and capture the scale of the landscape:

Gray Flycatcher provided one lifer:

As did one of the four target species of warbler, though the only we saw, Grace's Warbler:

Mingus Mountain didn't live up to expectations.  We also didn't enjoy finding a partly buried dog that had been disturbed by the Coyotes.  The smell was nasty.  So we decided to head back down to Plan B, Red Rock State Park close to Sedona.

Birding in Arizona - Monday, day 3

The reason we stayed in Mesa was that our primary Monday destination was the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, a renowned spot.  It was only about a 45 minute drive from the hotel so we arrived before it opened (at 6am), though the staff arrived around 05:50 and let us in early :)

We birded around the car park until the visitor centre and access to the arboretum itself was opened.  We spotted female Bullock's Oriole, fleetingly, but got quite close to calling Gambell's Quail, unexpectedly sat up in a tree:

The morning flew by as we walked around the site, so in no particular order some of the highlights of our visit, including Cactus Wren, look closely to see what it was eating:

A flower garden with feeding butterfly and Hummingbird:

We repeatedly bumped into some other birders, Gordon, Ellen and Brendan.  The latter had been photographing a Varied Bunting in the demonstration garden and was kind enough to show us the bird:

Flowering Yucca:

No idea what it is but the bees loved it!

Views from the trail:

A 'glowing' cactus:

And a flowering one:

More views:

This is a noisy fellow, the Yellow-breasted Chat:

Wondering what we were doing:


Yellow Warbler:

Warbling Vireo:

Gordon and Ellen pointed out Zone-tailed Hawk and Canyon Wren for us, both too distant for decent pictures but both lifers.

My target bird for the whole trip was a Verdin, we saw quite a few in the arboretum:

including recent fledglings:

A female (possibly juvenile as it looks like the bird has a gape) Phainopepla eating berries:

A massive and massively old cactus:

Female Lesser Goldfinch:

Summer Tanager:

Great-tailed Grackles displaying:

Hooded Oriole:

And Black-throated Sparrow:

Finally, Costa's Hummingbird:

We had another iHop lunch then drove on up to Sedona, our next location, for two nights in Los Abrigados a timeshare-cum-hotel resort.

Birding in Arizona - rest of Sunday

On the edge of Patagonia, heading North (Sunday night we had reserved a hotel in Mesa, just to the East of Phoenix) we stopped at a famous (amongst birders) rest-stop on the road out of town.  We hoped to see Rose-throated Becard and Thick-billed Kingbird, but dipped out on both species.
We did enjoy a good view of a Western Tanager:

And a perched Gray Hawk:

But nothing else in around fifteen minutes of hovering around, so headed on to the third spot for the day, Patagonia Lake State Park.  Now it being Memorial weekend in the USA we anticipated people being out and about.  We were still surprised by the number of people in the park, and the $15 day-use entrance fee!

This is classic Arizona habitat, Mesquite trees and cacti:

In which you find all sorts of things, including Black-headed Grosbeaks:

Sunlit flowers:

Summer Tanagers:


On the water we saw Pelicans and Coots (distant) and Double-crested Cormorant:

We walked right under these birds, a pair of Rock Wrens building a nest in a tree hole:

We also got a great view and were able to positively identify for ourselves Lucy's Warbler:

A lifer for us and the last bird in the Park, a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, a tiny little flycatcher:

We drove on from the Patagonia area to Mesa, stopping at an iHop for a late lunch and then checked in to our hotel, the Arizona Golf Resort to process the first two days photographs and grab an early night.  We liked the resort, the food was good, the unit spacious, clean and comfortable and we would stay there again.

Birding in Arizona - Day 2, stop one

We left the hotel early, having been assured that even if the reserve was closed we'd be able to access it.  As it happens we were ahead of the official opening time by nearly an hour and a half and there was no access.  The road itself though provided great birding and indeed a great view:

We really enjoyed the chance of seeing the Broad-billed Hummingbird close-up:

One perched in the strong morning sunlight about three metres from us:

Another road bird, this one a lifer, was this Dusky-capped Flycatcher:

Another lifer, Bell's Vireo, part of a small flock, moving around and feeding together in the early morning:

One stopped briefly for a photograph, for which we were grateful:

The manager of the reserve lives in the accommodation opposite.  He had just got up, saw our car parked outside so came out, opened the reserve to us then headed back in for his morning coffee.

Gila Woodpeckers were on the Hummingbird feeders again:

Helen hadn't seen this type of flower before:

On the trail the apparently ever-present (at least in Arizona) Lark Sparrow:

And good numbers of the Phainopepla, this one a male:

A Red-tailed Hawk passing overhead silenced the birdsong briefly:

In one clearing we enjoyed watching various flycatchers feeding, including this Vermilion Flycatcher, finally an in-focus photograph without flaring of plumage in the light!:

We really enjoyed the Nature Conservancy Sanctuary (though it's hard to find, you will need directions to locate it) and late morning, having exhausted the trails, headed on.

As we drove out along the rough road, we spotted Gambell's Quail, running away from the approaching vehicle: