birderfrommaricopa.com

Tommy J. DeBardeleben

April 2012

 

April 15th, 2012:  Birding the Four Peaks Wilderness Area for the first time

Hi everyone,

Yesterday on April 15th, 2012, Brendon Grice and I explored the long,
rocky, bumpy, and rough route of the Four Peaks Wilderness in the Mazatzal
Mountains.  This route is spectacular, and holds great birding potential
all along the way.  The road leading up to Four Peaks is called Forest
Road 143.  It is accessed from Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) between mile
markers 203 and 204, or from Highway 188 by Roosevelt Lake.  Both sides of
this road will take you to Lone Pine Saddle of Four Peaks, which is the
trail head that will take one to the top of the Peaks.  The entire Forest
Road 143 runs for about 30 miles.  Going through Maricopa County from
Highway 87, it is a very rough route to Lone Pine Saddle for 18 miles.  If
coming to this saddle through Gila County, which is accessed from Highway
188, is a much more suitable 11 mile route to Lone Pine Saddle.  Brendon
and I came through the area of course from the Maricopa County side, where
we had a great day of birding.  Despite the roughness of this road, we
still saw plenty of small passenger cars driving up the road.  So a
conclusion is that most vehicles can probably do this route!

Habitat wise, we were impressed along the entire route.  This is the only
singular route in Maricopa County where one will go through the various
habitats and life zones from the Lower Sonoran zones up to the Transition
Zone forest habitats.  We made stops all along the way to see the great
habitat and avian diversity.  The Lower Sonoran desert habitat is
beautiful along this road, which had a lot of the regular desert species
viewable from the road.  The Upper Sonoran Zones are gradually reached and
are great as well.  There is a very attractive clump of pinyon-pine and
juniper habitat along the road, which noticeably stands out at a
distance.  Riparian habitat is also prominent in several creek crossings
which come alongside Forest Road 143.  These riparian habitats are spread
out and are medium-sized in distance and length, but are very attractive
and provide more habitat diversity to this area.  A few of the riparian
sections alongside the road held dense stands of tall willows with a few
cottonwoods in the midst.  Others were dominated by Arizona sycamores and
walnut trees.  There was also a location with a good clump of oaks and
sycamores. We spent time birding these habitats before reaching the
forested and higher elevation Transition Zone at the Lone Pine Saddle. 
The Lone Pine Saddle is just north of the Four Peaks, and is below the
summit.  Just like with all Transition Zones in Maricopa County, this area
too is of course constantly crossing over with Gila County.  Once parking
at the Saddle, we were at 5700' feet in elevation, in beautiful ponderosa
pine and oak forest.  We hiked through this habitat up to 6100', as the
trail we took turned out to mostly be in Maricopa County, as we did cross
over the county line a few times.  Sadly, a lot the area too was burned
out in a fire 16 years ago, so a lot of the good habitat is gone.  The
bird life we saw however proved it is still a productive birding place in
the habitat that is still left.  There isn't as much forest here as one
would find at Mount Ord or Slate Creek Divide, but it still is very good. 
Better some than none! 

Bird wise, there weren't many quiet moments as we had a lot of different
species that kept the day entertaining.  We started off by hearing flocks
of BREWER'S SPARROWS singing, as well as BLACK-THROATED and WHITE-CROWNED
SPARROWS.  CANYON TOWHEES and LUCY'S WARBLERS were also plentiful. 

Further up into the road we came up on the patch of pinyon and juniper
habitat, which turned out to be productive.  3-4 GRAY VIREOS were in this
spot, which are a species Brendon and I don't see enough of.  One of the
birds was cooperative for Brendon's camera.  Surrounding the habitat we
were birding in, we heard and saw GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES, WESTERN SCRUB-
JAYS, SCOTT'S ORIOLE, GREATER ROADRUNNER, JUNIPER TITMOUSE and AMERICAN
ROBIN.  Once we got to the good chaparal habitats, we enjoyed a number of
singing and perched BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS.  We both agreed that the song
of the Black-chinned Sparrow is one of the best sounds to hear!  Also
present as we were watching the Black-chinneds were CRISSAL THRASHER,
singing RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS, and a few flocks of BUSHTITS. 

The sparsely spread out riparian habitats accessed close to Forest Road
143 that consisted of willow, cottonwood, sycamore, walnut, and oak
habitat held a lot of interesting birding also.  Breeding species had
returned, and a lot of migrants were passing through.  This included
HOODED ORIOLE, BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, BELL'S and WARBLING VIREOS,
LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, YELLOW-RUMPED, VIRGINIA'S, NASHVILLE, YELLOW
(many singing), ORANGE-CROWNED, and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS; as well
as a JUNIPER TITMOUSE carrying nesting material in the oak habitat. 

The best part of the day was found of course in the forested habitats once
we were close to the Four Peaks at the Lone Pine Saddle.  Birds were
everywhere here too.  Some of the species I expected to be here
suprisingly weren't.  We didn't detect any Painted Redstarts or Hairy
Woodpeckers.  We did have an obliging male OLIVE WARBLER in good view for
a long time, as well as a few GRACE'S WARBLERS.  BLACK-THROATED GRAY and
VIRGINIA'S WARBLERS were everywhere.  A BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD trilled
overhead.  We then heard and quickly spied a ZONE-TAILED HAWK soaring high
overhead.  Minutes later, we spied a large raptor soaring higher than the
Zonie, which turned out to be GOLDEN EAGLE, thanks to Brendon's camera! 
It was a great highlight, another species we don't see often (only the 3rd
in my life!).  Other birds in the pine, oak, and surrounding habitat
included ACORN WOODPECKER, NORTHERN FLICKER, HUTTON'S and PLUMBEOUS
VIREOS, WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, and HOUSE WREN. 

On the way back down to Highway 87, we had a nice sighting with a RED-
TAILED HAWK sitting on a nest.  We observed this bird for awhile, which at
times flew around with it's mate.  The Red-tailed Hawk was one of sixty
different species we encountered during the day.

The Four Peaks Wildnerness is an awesome area to explore.  I highly
encourage and recommend it!  On another note, there are a few roads that
branch off north from Forest Road 143 once north of the intersection with
the road to the Lone Pine Saddle.  Once of these roads is called Oso Road,
and another is called Mazatzal Divide (according to Google Earth).  I
don't know anything about these roads, but they do continue on the
ridgeline of the Mazatzal Mountains for a very good distance, passing
through more good forest habitat right on the Maricopa/Gila County lines. 
Some of this section looks very intersting as well and looks to have a few
north facing forested slopes, by looking at the map overview.  Hopefully
I'm right on that one.  There's plenty more of exploring to do in the
Mazatzal Wildnerness!  Thanks again Brendon for the awesome day of birding!


Four Peaks Wilderness (Maricopa County), Maricopa, US-AZ
Apr 15, 2012 7:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
19.999 mile(s)
Comments:      <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.2
60 species

Gambel's Quail  50
Turkey Vulture  10
Zone-tailed Hawk  2
Red-tailed Hawk  5
Golden Eagle  1
American Kestrel  1
Mourning Dove  30
Greater Roadrunner  1
Anna's Hummingbird  10
Costa's Hummingbird  1
Broad-tailed Hummingbird  2
Acorn Woodpecker  2
Gila Woodpecker  5
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  3
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)  5
Ash-throated Flycatcher  10
Bell's Vireo  5
Gray Vireo  7
Plumbeous Vireo  2
Hutton's Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  2
Western Scrub-Jay (Woodhouse's)  20
Common Raven  10
Violet-green Swallow  1
Juniper Titmouse  5
Verdin  4
Bushtit  10
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
Cactus Wren  4
Rock Wren  3
Bewick's Wren  30
House Wren (Northern)  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  3
American Robin  2
Northern Mockingbird  2
Crissal Thrasher  2
Phainopepla  10
Olive Warbler  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  3
Lucy's Warbler  5
Nashville Warbler  1
Virginia's Warbler  10
Yellow Warbler  5
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)  5
Grace's Warbler  3
Black-throated Gray Warbler  20
Green-tailed Towhee  5
Spotted Towhee  20
Rufous-crowned Sparrow  5
Canyon Towhee  5
Brewer's Sparrow  100
Black-chinned Sparrow  10
Black-throated Sparrow  20
White-crowned Sparrow  30
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Northern Cardinal  4
Hooded Oriole  1
Scott's Oriole  3
Lesser Goldfinch  20

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)




Good Birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben
(Glendale, Arizona)

 

 

April 20th, 2012:  Birding the Salt River and Gilbert Water Ranch

Hi everyone,

I spent some time today birding the Salt River and Gilbert Water Ranch. 
By noon, I had had enough of the heat and called it quits.  I had a good
day however with several good highlights.

I left extremely early to get to Coon Bluff Recreation Site at 4:30 A.M. 
After Jim Koptizke telling me about his success owling with Jay Miller on
the entrance road to Coon Bluff, I decided to try it for myself.  I had
about 30 minutes left of good darkness, and had no problem hearing ELF,
WESTERN-SCREECH, and GREAT HORNED OWLS, as well as COMMON POORWILL and the
trills of LESSER NIGHTHAWKS.  The night five!  Thank you Jim and Jay!  The
Elf Owl, Western Screech-Owl, and Common Poorwill were new Salt River
birds for me.  I love to keep a list for this awesome area. 

As light came, I scanned Saguaro Lake for gulls to come up with a flock of
5 RING-BILLED GULLS.  WESTERN GREBES were in large numbers, and an adult
BALD EAGLE sat on the shoreline. 

I then spent a few hours at the Foxtail/Sheeps Crossing area at the Salt
River.  There weren't a lot of migrants, other than a handful of WILSON'S
WARBLERS.  My first BULLOCK'S ORIOLE of the year showed well.  A school of
large fish were swimming in the Salt River, which attracted an adult BALD
EAGLE who perched just over the water.  I was also able to locate a young
BALD EAGLE in a cottonwood.  The only notable migrants other than the
Wilson's Warbler were singles each of LAZULI BUNTING and PACIFIC-SLOPE
FLYCATCHER. 

My last stop of the day was spent for a few hours at Gilbert Water Ranch. 
I was happy to see the BROWN THRASHER working it's usual haunt.  This bird
was in song as well and gave me plenty of clear and close up views.  A
WESTERN GREBE in pond 3 was a nice highlight, and Barbara Amato pointed me
out to an EARED GREBE in breeding plumage in Pond 4.  A SOLITARY SANDPIPER
was in the pond between ponds 2 and 3.  There weren't too many migrants
here either, but included YELLOW and WILSON'S WARBLERS, LAZULI BUNTINGS,
and a CHIPPING SPARROW. 


Good birding,


Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)

 

 

April 23-24th, 2012:  Birding Tres Rios Wetlands and Glendale Recharge Ponds

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the late report, but I birded for a few hours each morning of
April 23 and 24th, 2012.  I went to the Tres Rios Overflow Wetlands on the
23rd, and the Glendale Recharge Ponds on both days.

I did my usual loop of the Tres Rios Overflow Wetlands in three hours,
starting at 6: 30 A.M. on Monday.  It was very birdy as usual, 77 species
were heard or seen.  Migrants diversity was very low still.  Highlights
included BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCKS, a pair of BLUE-WINGED TEAL,
numerous AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS, LEAST BITTERN, BLACK VULTURES, 2
PEREGRINE FALCONS, 5 SOLITARY SANDPIPERS in a small and flooded grassy
patch, both YELLOWLEGS, a surprise in a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER giving it's
tu-tu-tu note when a mixed flock of shorebirds kicked up, COMMON GROUND-
DOVE, one MARSH WREN, 2 WILSON'S WARBLERS, 2 GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES, several
flocks of LARK SPARROWS, a few LAZULI BUNTINGS, and a nice male BULLOCK'S
ORIOLE.  This area is very long, going from 91st Avenue almost to 115th
Avenue.  When I've covered it length wise in four visits in the last
month, I've averaged 83 species per morning.  It's such a nice place, with
a load of bird life!

Highlights from the Glendale Recharge Ponds over the two mornings were 8
AMERICAN WIGEON, a pair of BLUE-WINGED TEAL, CINNAMON TEAL, a flock of
about 25 WHITE-FACED IBIS, 2 WILLETS, 4 WILSON'S PHALAROPES, one BARN
SWALLOW, as well as GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, 3 WILSON'S WARBLERS, and a
handfull of LAZULI BUNTINGS in the riparian areas. 

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, AZ)

 

 

April 28-29th, 2012:  Birding Mount Ord, Morgan City Wash, and Glendale Recharge Ponds (my first Whimbrel)

Hi everyone,

This weekend of April 28th and 29th of 2012 was filled with some awesome
birding.  It included a lifer, a strikeout on a potential lifer, many year
birds, some awesome birds I don't see enough of, plus an overnight camping
trip (a classic birding weekend).  Three locations-Mount Ord, Glendale
Recharge Ponds, and Morgan City Wash provided this story.  All in two
days! 

The weekend really started on Friday, April 27th.  That took place on what
was planned as a weekend long camping trip to Mount Ord, where I was
joined by my brother Tyler and my cousins T.J. and Trevor Knupp, who
aren't birders.  They did help me out with owling at night, where none of
my forest hopefuls responded or called during the night.  T.J. was
extremely sick the following Saturday morning, and we had to head for
home.  I did get four good hours of birding in however near the top of Ord
and it's upper slopes before we went home..

We were camping right by the locked gate where the road continues to the
summit of Mount Ord (where authorized vehicles are only permitted).  Our
campsite was almost right on the Maricopa/Gila County line, as we were
slightly in Gila County.  I woke up on Saturday to an amazing abundance of
forest birdlife.  Both WESTERN and HEPATIC TANAGERS sang in our campsite,
and were right over my head as I first walked outside.  A few PINE SISKINS
were also around and VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS graced the sky in high numbers
from the start.   Walking near the summit and around the upper slopes gave
me a good variety of warblers.  I noted 1 OLIVE, 10+ VIRGINIA'S, 40+
YELLOW-RUMPED, about 10 GRACE'S, about 20-30 BLACK-THROATED GRAY, and 3
TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS, as well as 4 PAINTED REDSTARTS.  Continuing to the
summit area of Ord, I was happy to find a single BAND-TAILED PIGEON, a
species I don't see often in Maricopa County.  During the walk up the
mountain, I observed about 10 CHIPPING SPARROWS, some in full song. 
Several WESTERN BLUEBIRDS were also nearby.  Both Chipping Sparrows and
Western Bluebirds nest in this summit area, as both of them are very local
breeders in the county.  As I was near the top, I could hear several
NORTHERN PYGMY-OWLS below me.  I decided to walk down the forested slopes
on the Maricopa County side of the mountain that were more level to where
we camped, to try and get a visual of the owls.  Tyler joined me, and the
owl called again and we were able to track the bird down.  We both got
great visuals of the owl for over 30 minutes, who was actively mobbed by a
parade of different songbirds.  As we went back to camp, an hour or so
later could hear the owl (or maybe a different owl), calling close to
camp.  It was right near the road (on the Maricopa side), and I was able
to show T.J., Trevor, and Tyler the bird, which they all enjoyed.  At one
time, the owl flew into Gila County, giving me a Gila bird.  The Northern
Pygmy-Owl was by far my favorite bird of the morning.  Other highlights
among the 36 species I recorded near the top of Mount Ord were ZONE-TAILED
HAWK, ANNA'S and BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS, ACORN and HAIRY WOODPECKERS,
PLUMBEOUS and HUTTON'S VIREOS, JUNIPER TITMOUSE, WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH,
CANYON and HOUSE WRENS, BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW (in open and shrubby part of
one of the slopes), BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, LAZULI BUNTING, and SCOTT'S
ORIOLE.

Once I got back home on Saturday afternoon, I decided to go to the
Glendale Recharge Ponds in the evening, mainly to see Tracy McCarthey's
CASPIAN TERNS.  I got to the basins and was able to see the nice flock of
six, who were very active during my visit.  Thanks Tracy!  Another
highlight at the ponds was my first SEMIPALMATED PLOVER of the year. 

My plans for today, Sunday morning, were based on trying to relocate Troy
Corman's Blue-headed Vireo at Morgan City Wash.  I met up with Tracy
McCarthey, Brendon Grice, and Steve Hosmer.  The four of us spent the
morning searching for the vireo, who never appeared.  We searched and
searched, but could only come up with BELL'S and WARBLING VIREOS.  The
search was still fun and hopefully this bird will be the next addition to
the Maricopa County list, another amazing find by Troy.  Besides missing
the vireo, we did have a good morning with a lot of migrants to look
through.  Our best highlight was refinding Troy's female BROAD-BILLED
HUMMINGBIRD.  This bird was cooperative for us, and a new county bird for
Tracy, Steve, and Brendon.  The morning was filled with warblers, as we
encountered 10 different species.  Highlighting this family were at least
10 TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS and a single HERMIT WARBLER.  WILSON'S WARBLERS
were everywhere, and there were also a few BLACK-THROATED GRAY and
MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLERS.  YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS have returned, one of the
songs that is always great to hear for the first time after their return. 
Another interesting sighting came of a pair of ZONE-TAILED HAWKS.  These
hawks seemed to be scouting nesting areas, and circled around us for some
time before leaving the area.  Other highlights at Morgan City Wash among
52 species included a flyover flock of WHITE-FACED IBIS, a calling WESTERN
SCREECH-OWL, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER, BROWN-CRESTED
FLYCATCHER (many in the area), several BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS, LAZULI
BUNTINGS and a BULLOCK'S ORIOLE.

After I got home, I saw the report from the Glendale Recharge Ponds from
Nathan Williams and I immediately headed for the ponds.  I met up with
Tracy McCarthey for the second time today, and we enjoyed the rarities
once again at these productive ponds.  My main highlight was the
continuing 2 WHIMBRELS.  This bird was a lifer for me, and one I've been
looking for for several years in Arizona.  These two Whimbrels never took
flight from basin 1 while we were there, and even vocalized several
times.  It was a perfect way to get a lifer!  Tracy's main highlight was
the continuing LEAST TERN, which was a year bird for her (as well as
me!).  This small bird sat in the middle of basin one, and actively fed at
times.  The Least Tern commonly sat among other larger birds, dwarfing in
comparison.  We didn't see the California Gull.  Other highlights included
AMERICAN WIGEON, WHITE-FACED IBIS, OSPREY, SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS, a few
SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, a single WILLET, and an increase in WILSON'S
PHALAROPES.  Thanks to Nathan and the Kansas birders for finding and
reporting these awesome birds! 

It was a great overall weekend of birding.  I recorded 111 species between
these three locations (which are all very different!).  18 year birds and
1 lifer, making it a great weekend.


Good Birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)

Birding in Maricopa County

My online guide to the birds and birding locations of Maricopa County

 

The Maricopa County Big Year

Two Big Years I did in Maricopa County

 

Birding in Arizona's White Mountains

My online guide to Birding in Arizona's White Mountains