birderfrommaricopa.com

Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Greer Recreation Area

The Greer Recreation Area is a promising place for birding, especially in late spring and summer when it is birded most.  With an array of different habitats, many bird species call Greer home.  There are many different locations to explore within this recreation area.  The 8,100-8,500' Greer area offers grasslands, lakes, rivers, canyons, and several forest types to that make up the habitat variety.  Sought after birds in this area include Osprey, Red-naped and Williamson's Sapsuckers, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Clark's Nutcracker, American Dipper, Gray Catbird, Red-faced Warbler, and more.  Greer is a mountain community that has a very pleasant atmosphere, great weather, and great birding.  This write-up here will mainly pertain to late spring and summer birding in the Greer area.  For a list of many of the birds that have been found in Greer, click the link here- Birds of Greer, Arizona

Getting to Greer:  Greer is located after taking Highway 373 south for a few miles.  Highway 373 is accessed from Highway 260.  If traveling east on Highway 260, Highway 373 is 49 miles east of Show Low.  Vise versa, if traveling west on Highway 260, the Highway 373 turnoff is 10.5 miles west of the town of Eager.

Important: Directions for this area will be based upon going south towards and into the town of Greer after turning south on Highway 373 after coming east or west from Highway 260.  For an overview map of the birding areas mentioned on this section, click here to access the link to the map overview page-  Greer Birding Hotspot Overview Map

Lang Creek:  After 0.1 miles, one will see a sign for Lang Creek.  There is a small pull off on the east side of 373 with a fence.  Hikers are welcome to get access through this fence.  Walk southeast along Lang Creek to observe a variety of birds who favor ponderosa pine habitat as well as Canyon Wrens in the canyon.  This creek turns into a rugged canyon.  One can stay above the creek and walk along the canyon's ridges for easier hiking and scenic views, or the more adventureous can walk down into the canyons.  Lang Creek collides with Hall Creek after about a mile of it's duration.  Hall Creek and it's canyon are signed off while traveling on the 373 after 1.1 miles.  These canyons are high and narrow, and are filled with mixed conifers.  Explorations down in these canyons may result in some neat surprises.

Benny and Rosey Creeks:  At 2.5 miles, look for the Squirrel Springs Trailhead on the right side (south/west) of the 373.  This parking area access both Benny and Rosey Creeks, as well as the Squirrel Springs Trail System, which has many hiking trails through mixed conifer and aspen forest that are worth exploring.  Benny Creek is popular among birders, and it can be birded on both sides of the 373.  On the west/side of the road (same side as parking lot), follow the road down to the creek and access a trail on the east/south side of Benny Creek.  This trail runs for nearly a half-mile before it climbs up into nearby Rolfe C. Hoyer Campground.  This side of the trail is shadowed by a thick Douglas-fir forest, goes right along Benny Creek and it's riparian habitat, and the opposite side of the creek has some meadow openings and is dominated by open ponderosa pine forest.  Birds to look for along this trail include Williamson's and Red-naped Sapsuckers, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Brown Creeper, Red-faced and Virginia's Warblers, and more.  Long-eared Owl and breeding Northern Pygmy-Owl have been found here before.  On the east/north side of the 373, Benny Creek widens up significantly from the opposite side of the road.  It has several channels throughout this section of the creek that provide ponds and wetlands.  Listen for Virginia Rail and Sora.  Open ponderosa pine forest make up the habitat selection on both sides of the creek at this point.  There isn't a trail here, but walking along the forested hillsides for a half-mile or more above the north side of the creek is an easy hike.  Look for ponderosa pine dwelling species such as Western Bluebird, Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches, Plumbeous Vireo, Western Wood-Pewee, and Grace's Warbler.  Rosey Creek is best birded from the west/south side of the 373 from the Squirrel Springs parking area.  It ends shortly on the east/north side of the 373 when it flows into Benny Creek.  Similar birds are seen at Rosey Creek that are seen at Benny Creek.  For more on Benny and Rosey Creeks with photographs, eBird link, and maps, a separate page is available at the link here- Benny and Rosey Creeks

Benny Creek and Rolfe C. Hoyer Campgrounds:  At 2.8 miles, Benny Creek Campground, and then at 3.2 miles, Rolfe C. Hoyer Campground, are accessed.  Benny Creek will be on the left (east) side of the 373 while Hoyer will be on the right (west) side.  Both are good places to stay at during birding trips, and both may offer good birding in pine habitat.  Benny Creek is a smaller campground while Hoyer has 100 units and nice showers.

Greer Lakes:  At 3.2 miles, the turnoff to the Greer Lakes is on the left (east side) of the 373.  This paved road that runs for nearly a mile accesses all of Greer's three reservoirs:  Bunch, Tunnel, and River Reservoir.  With the exception of River Reservoir, this road is the main way to access these lakes.  The lakes are surrounded by ponderosa pine and open grassland habitat.  Look for pine-loving birds such as Western Bluebird, Brown Creeper, Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches, Grace's Warbler, Plumbeous Vireo, and more.  The grasslands in the area are good for seeing Mountain Bluebird, Vesper Sparrow, and Eastern Meadowlark, as well as migrating hummingbirds where there are wildflowers.  Look for Osprey, Bald Eagle, Canada Goose, Double-crested Cormorant, and a variety of waterfowl throughout the year.  River Reservoir is usually the most productive for birding during the year, especially with waterbirds.  Parking at Tunnel Reservoir and walking east of the parking lot and through the forest along the east side of Tunnel Reservoir and west side of River Reservoir will produce a variety of birds.  At the end of the road through Greer lakes, one accesses the dam of River Reservoir.  If present, waterfowl tend to like this north side of River Reservoir more often then the other areas of the Greer Lakes.  For more information on the Greer Lakes with photos, eBird link, and a map, a separate page is available at the link here- Greer Lakes

Forest Road 87:  At 3.5 miles, a turnoff on the west side of the 373 accesses Forest Road 87.  This is a graded dirt road that accesses Highway 273 in six miles, which gives close access to places such as the Mount Baldy Wilderness, Crescent Lake, and Big Lake, all of which are accessed from the 273.

Little Colorado River (1st/North Crossing):  There are a few places in Greer where the Little Colorado River comes into contact with the 373.  At 4 miles, a bridge goes over the Litlle Colorado River.  Immediately after crossing the river, there is a pull off immediately south of the river on the west (right) side of the 373.  Park off to the side here.  There is excellent riparian habitat along the river on both sides of the 373.  Trails go along the south side of the river on both the west and east sides of the 373.  Both sides are excellent for viewing Gray Catbird, who favors the high elevation willow habitat here for nesting.  A variety of different birds can be seen along these trails, which include riparian and open habitats, as well as ponderosa pine forest birds.  On the west side of the 373, a trail runs south along the Little Colorado River for 0.3 mile until it comes into contact with private property.  On the east side of the 373, the trail goes for 0.5 mile along the River until it ends at the south side of River Reservoir.  This east side has tremendous habitat.  Channels of the river form both wide and dense marshes.  Listen for Sora and Virginia Rail.  Marsh and forest birds to look for on both sides of 373 include Osprey, Band-tailed Pigeon, Willow (occasionally) Cordilleran, and Dusky Flycatchers; up to six species of swallows, Virginia's, Yellow, and MacGillivray's Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Song and Lincoln's Sparrows, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, and more.  For more information on the 1st and north-most crossing of the Little Colorado River in Greer with photographs and maps, a separate page is available at the link here- Little Colorado River (1st/North Crossing)

County Road 1126:  At roughly 4.3 miles, look for County Road 1126 on the left (east) side of 373.  The road is also signed off for the Butterfly Lodge Museum, a well known small museum in the area.  County Road 1126 is a dirt road in good shape that runs for two miles of drivable road in the northeastern direction.  This road is excellent for birding, and it passes through mixed-conifer and aspen forest.  River Reservoir's eastern half is accessed along the road, and many cabin neighborhoods are also found.  Park along the road and walk anywhere to look for species associated with these forested habitats.  Owling at night may produce Northern Saw-whet Owl and Flammulated Owl.  After driving about 0.6 mile on this road, look for a pull off on the left side of the road.  There is a path that leads down to the south side of River Reservoir, and it also accesses the east side of the Little Colorado River trails mentioned at the hotspot above.  At 1.2 miles, the east side of River Reservoir is accessed on the left side of the road.  There are restrooms here and a day use area.  At 2 miles, look for Hacienda Cabins and road 1017.  Park at a nearby pull off and walk south on Road 1017 a short distance to Road 1018.  Once at Road 1018, go to the right (west) for a very short distance until a small and often flowing drainage is found.  Walk south through the gate (make sure to close the gate after opening it) and follow this little spring for a short distance.  This is an excellent area for viewing Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Walking up on the surrounding slopes give amazing views of the area and will often result in eye level views of Olive-sided Flycatcher, which is difficult.  At the public driving end of Road 1126 at 2.1 miles, park and look down just to the northwest.  There are two ponds one can walk down to and explore.  Look for Sora, Spotted Sandpiper, and waterfowl.  County Road 1126 continues further north past this point (see next hotspot), but has to be accessed by foot only.  For more information on County Road 1126 with photos and maps, a separate page is available at the link here- Greer-County Road 1126

North County Road 1126:  This side of County Road 1126 gives access to more species in the Greer area that can't be found elsewhere in the area.  It can be accessed in two places.  One is from the dam of River Reservoir (see Greer Lakes directions) and the other is accessed from the end of the main County Road 1126 (see County Road 1126 directions).  The northern stretch of this road takes one through ponderosa pine forest and eventually out to grassland, the Little Colorado River Sanitary project, and eventually pinyon-juniper and confier habitats along rocky bluffs.  These rocky bluffs and pinyon-juniper habitat are good for both Pinyon Jay and Montezuma Quail, as well as Bushtit and Hepatic Tanager.  Once passing the Little Colorado River Sanitary fenced-in-area, head north either on paths through the area or through the grassland to access the rocky bluffs and pinyon-juniper habitats.  This is a very pleasant hike, and a variety of birds are seen along the route.  From River Reservoir dam, head immediately north through a fence.  There is a faded side road heading west from here and it eventually connects with County Road 1126.  From the parking area at River Reservoir off of Greer Lakes Road to walking along River Reservoir Dam to taking this faded side dirt road to County Road 1126, it is 0.8 mile (look at map).  Once Road 1126 is reached, the rest of the hike to the rocky bluffs is 1.4 miles.  Once the rocky bluffs are reached, walk a good distance east and west along them overlooking the South Fork Valley below to for best chances at hearing or seeing the elusive Montezuma Quail.  There are fenced areas along this ending stretch, look for openings at the west and east perimiters of the fence lines to get access to different areas of the bluffs.  From main County Road 1126, park and walk past the closed gate on North County Road 1126 out to this area for 2.7 miles.  There is also a fenced in and elevated pond in the Little Colorado River Sanitary Project that can't be viewed from the ground.  Listen for Yellow-headed Blackbird and Sora.  For more information on North County Road 1126, photos and maps are on a separate page at the link here- North County Road 1126

East Fork Road (County Road 1121) and East Fork of the Little Colorado River:  At 4.5 miles, look for County Road 1121 (East Fork Road) on the left side (now south side) of 373.  This road access the East Fork of the Little Colorado River, Butler Canyon Nature Trail (see next hotspot description), and the old Montlure Church Camp.  East Fork Road runs for 1.5 miles and ends at the Church Camp.  The southern stretch of this road has been charred by the 2011 Wallow Fire, but it can be productive for American Three-toed Woodpecker.  The first half of this road is very productive for birding, as it travels along the East Fork of the Little Colorado River.  Bird along the river and in the mixed conifer and aspen forests.  Look for Gray Catbird, Dusky Flycatcher, Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Red-faced Warbler, and more along the river.  Swainson's Thrush has been found here in the past.  Look for Williamson's Sapsucker all along the road in wooded habitats.  For more information on East Fork Road and East Fork of the Little Colorado River, photos, an eBird link, and a map are found on a separate page at the link here- East Fork Road and East Fork of the Little Colorado River

Butler Canyon Nature Trail:  Immediately after turning onto East Fork Road (see previous hotspot for directions) the Butler Canyon Nature Trail will be on the left.  Park on the right side of the road in a parking area.  The Butler Canyon Nature Trail is a loop trail that is a mile in length and is a very beautiful trail despite being hit in places by the Wallow Fire.  This trail goes through mixed conifer and aspen woodland.  Many forest birds will be seen here, but woodpeckers are the main draw.  Look for six woodpeckers on this trail:  Red-naped and Williamson's Sapsuckers, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker.  American Three-toed Woodpeckers are usually the main target for birders birding at Butler Canyon.  Look for them in areas especially with burned trees and listen closely for their foraging activities of lightly flacking bark off of trees in pursuit of insects.  Other bird life to watch for here includes Great Horned and Northern Pygmy-Owls, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Clark's Nutcracker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Townsend's Solitaire, Virginia's and MacGillivray's Warblers, Green-tailed Towhee, and more.  About halfway through the one mile loop of the Butler Canyon Nature Trail, a road runs through the area.  Follow this road to the east for more good birding and more woodpecker activity.  For more information about the Butler Canyon Nature Trail with photos, eBird link, and a map, a separate page of information is available at the link here- Butler Canyon Nature Trail

Osborne Road and West Fork Trail No. 94:  At 4.8 miles on 373, look for Osborne Road (County Road 1323) on the right (west side of 373) immediately past the second Little Colorado River crossing into Greer.  This road takes an awkward right and upward "slant" on a one lane road shortly before it becomes a regular graded dirt road.  There are many cabins along this road, but it is a pleasant road to park along, walk around, and bird.  Habitat consists of open meadows and mixed woodlands.  Osborne Road can be traveled for 0.5 mile before private property prevents folks from going any further.  At 0.2 mile after turning onto Osborne Road, look for the West Fork Trail # 94 Trailhead.  This is a seven mile trail that eventually leads to the West Baldy Trail #94.  It is a long trail that has a lot of climbing in it's first few miles.  However, the first half mile of the trail is very pleasant for birding and is easy for all.  One starts off by following a small creek along the trail.  Once Badger Pond is reached, you have gone a half mile.  One can even complete a loop trail that loops around Badger Pond and goes on the other side of the creek along the main trail before the loop connects again before the start of the trailhead.   Red-faced Warblers are often seen along this half mile stretch near the creek, as well as adjacent to Osborne Road by the trailhead in the creekside habitat.  Among the common forest birds along the trail, Northern Goshawk and American Three-toed Woodpecker have been found near Badger Pond.  For a more detailed map overview and a few bird pictures from this area, a separate page is available at the link here- Osborne Road and West Fork Trail No. 94

Molly Butler Lodge and Rendezvous Diner Hummingbird Feeders:  Between 4.9 and 5 miles into Greer, Molly Butler Lodge and Rendezvous Diner restaurants are found on west side of 373.  Both have spectacular food.  Look for hummingbirds here at convenient feeders the restaurants put out during the year.  In summer, these feeders can have dozens upon dozens of hummingbirds.  While Rufous and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are abundant in July and August, look for the uncommon Calliope Hummingbird and an occasional Magnificent Hummingbird.

Town of Greer:  The town of Greer itself holds good birding oppurtunities, especially within the 5-6 mile area before the 373's pavement becomes a dirt road for the short remainder of it's duration.  Look for Clark's Nutcracker, Band-tailed Pigeon, Williamson's Sapsucker, Cordilleran Flycatcher, and more along the road.  At nearly six miles before the 373 turns to dirt, the last two roads heading east off of 373, Rohrer Road and a road just north of Red Setter Inn, cross the West Fork of the Little Colorado River.  American Dippers are sometimes observed near these bridges.  It doesn't hurt to check if you are passing by!

West Fork of the Little Colorado River:  At 6 to 6.4 miles, the end of Greer is reached after pavement ends and a dirt road ends the last half-mile or so of 373.  There are pull offs here until the road ends.  This is the West Fork of the Little Colorado River.  Thick riparian habitat lines the river and mountainsides surround both sides of the river that are full of mixed conifer and aspen.  By traveling to the very south end where the road ends at 6.4 miles, there is a trail that heads south for seven miles called the Government Springs Trail 95-A.  One can walk a short distance along the Little Colorado River along this trail but can also walk a much longer distance.  The first stretch of the trail is hard to navigate through.  Walking along the immediate area of the river just north of the end along trails lining the river is also a good way to bird this area.  Look for American Dipper, Red-faced Warbler, Virginia's Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Lincoln's Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, and more.  For a more detailed map overview, an eBird link, and bird and scene pictures from West Fork, a separate page is available at the link here- West Fork of the Little Colorado River

 

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