birderfrommaricopa.com

Tommy J. DeBardeleben

July 2012

 

July 22nd, 2012:  Birding the Flagstaff Area

Hi everyone,

Yesterday on July 22nd, 2012, my brother Tyler DeBardeleben and I explored
the Flagstaff area.  We birded for much of the morning on the Kachina
Trail in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, followed by quick visits to Upper
Lake Mary and Mormon Lake.

It was a beautiful morning, and the Kachina Trail had wonderful birding as
the birds were in abundance among the 30 species observed.  This trail
consists of mixed conifer and aspens.  The best highlight was an adult
male WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER who made a brief appearance.  It has been a
few years since I've seen this awesome species.  Three different RED-FACED
WARBLERS where on the trail.  CLARK'S NUTCRACKERS were heard throughout
the morning, and one landed above the trail and gave us good views.  One
VIRGINIA'S WARBLER along the trail was also nice.  Two distant OLIVE-SIDED
FLYCATCHERS were heard in the distance during the hike.  Other highlights
included numbers of CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHERS, all three NUTHATCH SPECIES,
plenty of BROWN CREEPERS, WARBLING VIREOS, both GOLDEN and RUBY-CROWNED
KINGLETS, as well as several flyover RED CROSSBILLS.  HERMIT THRUSHES were
also in abundance and could be heard throughout the morning, one of my
favorite songs.  We also encounted a herd of ELK and a MULE DEER along the
trail.

A one hour hike down the Arizona Trail just south of Kachina Trail gave us
a BAND-TAILED PIGEON. 

We stopped at Upper Lake Mary for lunch, where two OSPREYS were present.

A stop at Mormon Lake overlook provided two LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS in a
cottonwood, as well as a VIRGINIA'S WARBLER.  Large herds of ELK were on
the flats of the dry lake, including an isolated herd of twelve large bull
elk.  Bull elk like to herd together before the upcoming fall mating
season, which is always cool to see.  Another great day of birding.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)

 

 

July 30th, 2012:  Birding the Mazatzal Divide Area in Maricopa County for the first time

Hi everyone,

Yesterday on July 30th, 2012, my cousin T.J. Knupp and I explored a
stretch of wildnerness in the higher elevations of Maricopa County in the
Mazatzal Mountains that I have never been to before.  This area is a road
when looking at a map that is titled the Mazatzal Divide Trail, and it
starts just north of Four Peaks.  It goes for many miles north of this
point, going between Four Peaks and Mount Ord.  In the field when finding
this road, it is signed off as Forest Road 422.  As most of the Slate
Creek habitat is likely gone, I tried to ease my pain a bit my seeing if
this stretch of the Mazatzals held any interesting habitats and I was
surprised by what I saw on Google Earth.  I have been daydreaming and
talking about exploring this area for several months now, and it payed off
as T.J. kindly took me through much of this area, on a 4X4 road in his
Nissan Extera.  This area goes through an interesting array of habitats,
including a lot of great ponderosa pine and oak forested habitats.  Most
of these habitats are on cool north facing mountainsides.  As with most
Transition Zones in Maricopa County in the Mazatzal Mountains, the
Maricopa and Gila County lines constantly are close to one another, and
that was much of the case with this area.  However, two good areas along
this long stretch are strongly in Maricopa County, which is what we set
out to explore on this road of splendor!  T.J. and I work at the same
place, and it getting away to places like this is good for mental health!

This area is reached by taking Forest Road 143 up to Four Peaks from
either Highway 87 or Highway 188.  If coming to Four Peaks from Highway 87
from Forest Road 143, the Mazatzal Divide Trail/Forest Road 422 is found
one mile north of the intersection of Forest Road 143 and the road to the
saddle to the Four Peaks Trail which is signed Lone Pine Saddle and Pigeon
Trailhead (road to Lone Pine/Pigeon Trail is heading south).  Road
422/Matzazal Divide branches off to the west one reaching it, where it is
well signed off.  Much of this road is actually in excellent condition,
probably ninety percent of the six miles we drove on.  The other ten
percent is what prevents most vehicles from driving the route.  This road
is probably a favorite among ATV fans, but we had it all to ourselves for
our first exploration.  About three miles in on the road, good forest
habitat is reached, which is mostly Gila County from the road, although
the county line is always very close.  Most of it is on a north facing
slope, where it is very shady.  Ponderosa pines and oaks filled this area
along Road 422 that was very lush, but the understory was very thick,
consisting of manzanita and other dense brush.  It was too difficult to
navigate through.  At about five miles, we came across the first area that
is strongly in Maricopa County that I have been eyeing.  This spot is also
a heavily forested area on a north facing slope.  The mountain section can
be explored by taking a drainage up through the forest, as there was
actually a convient trail through the area that made navigation rather
easy on a gradual climb in elevation from 5270' to almost 5700'.  This
north facing mountainside is covered with thick timber and towering
ponderosa pines.  It had plenty of oaks and some other habitat along the
drainage, but it wasn't as thick in this area as it was from the Mazatzal
Divide Road/F.R. 422.  This mountainside was still very thick and shady,
and the habitat was impressive.  It didn't have the Douglas firs or
sycamores I was strongly hoping for, but the fact it is northfacing,
thick, and shaded, can make a huge difference.  Another area T.J. and I
set out to explore can be found eight miles north from the start of the
Mazatzal Divide Trail/F.R. 422.  There is another well forested
mountanside on a northfacing slope well in Maricopa County that looks very
interesting, and can be reached by hiking about a mile west from the
road.  T.J. and I spent the first few hours scouting the area and getting
a better feel for things, and only had time to explore the drainage of the
first attractive area strongly in Maricopa County before running out of
time.  This gives us another excuse to return to this area to explore this
more northern stretch of the road.

Birding wise, we spent 3.5 hours in the drainage, while covering the area
slowly.  This area actually has a trail leading into the drainage from
Road 422 (at about 5 miles, there is a fence with a cut opening to mark
the beginning of the trail on the west side of the 422) that goes down
into the forest and meets up with the drainage, and then trail goes up
through the drainage, and it helped us navigate through the area much
easier, as the trail was marked by stacked up rocks in when it got
confusing.  We first started walking up through the rocks of the drainage
before we realized there was in fact a trail, which may be part of a trail
system.  The trail often crossed the rocks and went on both sides, which
made things fun and interesting.  At the base of the forested drainage,
the habitat is chaparral/juniper, but not much further up the mountain,
tall ponderosa pines fill the rest of this shady mountainside.  We didn't
have anything too out of the ordinary, but had some very noteworthy
sightings.  The most interesting sighting I had were at least four
CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHERS who seemed to be guarding their territories.  I
found them in two parts of the drainage.  Several times I heard them give
their single high "seep" callnote, and the other time I heard them giving
buzzy vocalizations that they give when chasing each other around.  I
can't describe this call well, but it's rather buzzy and sounds a little
fartlike, and it isn't described in any of the field guides I checked.  If
someone can reply to me about this who knows a lot about empid behavior I
would appreciate it.  Do empids behave like this only when they are
breeding, or do they do it in migration to?  It would be very interesting
if they bred in this area, but finding them in this drainage in
June/beginning of July would be a lot better.  Also very interesting were
a high abundance of WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES and ACORN WOODPECKERS.  The
Western Wood-Pewees were literally everywhere thoughout the area, while
the Acorn Woodpeckers were more along Forest Road 422.  GRACE'S WARBLERS
were also very conspicuous throughout the area, as I found at least ten
birds as a safe call, but probably more like 15 birds.  Other warblers
seen were a few BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS, one HERMIT WARBLER (somewhat
early), one OLIVE WARBLER, and at least four PAINTED REDSTARTS.  Raptor
wise, two recently fledged COOPER'S HAWKS were in a tall stand of pines
near the base of the drainage, and several ZONE-TAILED HAWKS soared and
screamed overhead.  A large owl perched in an oak turned out to be a GREAT
HORNED OWL, a lifer for T.J.  I was hoping for a split second it would be
my first ever look at a Spotted Owl.  Near the base of the drainage in the
surrounding juniper and chaparral habitat, were 3-4 GRAY VIREOS, some of
them very vocal.  Other vireos were represented by several singing
PLUMBEOUS VIREOS and one singing HUTTON'S VIREO.  A BAND-TAILED PIGEON was
also a good find, as well as several BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS. 
Interestingly, I found a few CHIPPING SPARROWS along the Mazatzal
Divide/Forest Road 422, and I thought I heard several more calling as we
were driving through the area.  Mount Ord is the only place I've ever
found breeding Chipping Sparrows in Maricopa County, so perhaps this could
be a second place.  At least five HAIRY WOODPECKERS were in the area, most
detected while hiking through the drainage.  WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH was
our only nuthatch for the day, and BRIDLED and JUNIPER TITMOUSE were also
present.  We tallied 35 species for the area.  Besides cool birds, there
always seems to be a non-avian highlight.  Ours this time was a TARANTULA
who crossed our path, and we got to see this giant spider for a good
amount of time until it hid under vegetation.  There is plenty of
potential in this area, and it's gonna take more exploring.  We even
started the drainage later as we spent the first few hours looking over
the area to figure it out.  An earlier start would be better.  Regardless,
the area was very birdy the entire time.

I'd be interested if anyone else has ever birded this area before along
the Mazatzal Divide Trail.  If anyone has, please let me know or reply
here on the listserv.  This area if very remote and should never be
explored alone.  In wilderness areas this far off from the normal roads,
there are many hazards with limited help.  If anyone comes here, please do
be careful.  I will try and publish the area on my website soon with
better overviews of where to bird.  With another great Maricopa County
area under my exploration list, I am one greatful birder!

BIRD LIST FROM THE MAZATZAL DIVIDE:
Mazatzal Divide Trail-F.R. 422 (Maricopa Co.), Maricopa, US-AZ
Jul 30, 2012 7:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
5.0 mile(s)
35 species

Turkey Vulture  5
Cooper's Hawk  2
Zone-tailed Hawk  4
Band-tailed Pigeon  1
Mourning Dove  2
Great Horned Owl  1
Anna's Hummingbird  1
Broad-tailed Hummingbird  3
Acorn Woodpecker  20
Hairy Woodpecker  5
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)  2
Western Wood-Pewee  30
Cordilleran Flycatcher  4
Say's Phoebe  1
Bell's Vireo  3
Gray Vireo  4
Plumbeous Vireo  4
Hutton's Vireo  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Woodhouse's)  20
Common Raven  1
Bridled Titmouse  5
Juniper Titmouse  2
Bushtit  20
White-breasted Nuthatch (Interior West)  4
Bewick's Wren  10
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  10
Olive Warbler  1
Grace's Warbler  10
Black-throated Gray Warbler  3
Hermit Warbler  1
Painted Redstart  4
Spotted Towhee  30
Chipping Sparrow  2
Hepatic Tanager  4
Lesser Goldfinch  10



Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)

 

 

July 31st, 2012:  Birding Tres Rios Wetlands and Glendale Recharge Ponds-Tricolored Heron

Hi everyone,

Jim Kopitzke and I explored the Tres Rios Overflow Wetlands and Glendale
Recharge Ponds this morning and early afternoon for a fun day of birding. 
We had plenty of good highlights throughout the day.

We started at Tres Rios Overflow Wetlands (accessed by permit) and started
birding at 6:30 and finished nearly 3.5 hours later.  It was incredibly
birdy at this spot during the morning, and we had a good tally of 61
species as our final tally, which is good for this time of year.  I'll
summarize the main highlights.  This place is always good for AMERICAN
WHITE PELICANS, as we counted six of these giants.  LEAST BITTERNS were
plentiful, as we heard or caught sight of at least 13 birds throught the
two miles of extensive wetland habitat (including distant heard birds in
the chained wetlands with no public access).  We caught sight of 7-8 Least
Bitterns flying through the marsh, some of which were nice males who gave
us aweseome looks.  Singles of both VIRGINIA RAIL and SORA were vocal but
hidden in the wetlands.  COMMON GALLINULES were plentiful, along with with
tiny young chicks, which was very interesting to see.  A sighting that
really impressed us was an abundance of COMMON GROUND-DOVES, a species we
don't see often in high numbers.  We counted at least 20 individuals as a
safe number.  When we came upon an area with thick habitat and several big
cottonwoods, we flushed two BARN OWLS, which was our first of the year. 
Our first RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD of the year also made an apperance, a female
who chased away a Black-chinned Hummingbird.  Two LUCY'S WARBLERS were
present, our only warbler other than a distant YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and
vocal COMMON YELLOWTHROATS in the marshes.  BLUE GROSBEAKS and LAZULI
BUNTINGS were both plentiful.  Flocks of YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS flew
through the area, which is always spectacular to see. 

After Tres Rios, Jim and I decided originally to call it a day as we were
about the head to Glendale, the long loop of Tres Rios was tiring in the
heat. Once we started driving home, Jim changed his mind and I changed my
mind.  We decided to take a quick swing by Glendale after saying no way. 
I wasn't fond of the heat and either was Jim, but that quickly changed
when Jim spotted a TRICOLORED HERON in Basin 3 (northwestern basin).  We
watched this beautiful heron for over an hour, a great find by Jim.  This
was also an adult Tricolored Heron, who's white plume really stood out. 
It was perched at the northside of this basin with several Great Egrets
before it flew around some.  We left the ponds with the TR HE still being
there.  Hopefully it'll stick around for awhile for others to see!  I was
sick of the heat and starting to get lazy and took a lame scan of pond 3
and was done, and Jim picked out the heron, one I would've missed if Jim
wasn't there.  Shorebird diversity wasn't too great, but we did pull out 9
species.  The Sanderling was a no show, and the best shorebirds were a
small flock of WILSON'S PHALAROPES and a single SOLITARY SANDPIPER.  One
AMERICAN AVOCET, ~15 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, and two SPOTTED SANDPIPERS
were also present.  The Tricolored Heron was the perfect ending to a great
birding day!

BIRD LIST FROM TRES RIOS:
Tres Rios Overflow Wetlands, Maricopa, US-AZ
Jul 31, 2012 6:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
61 species

Mallard  30
Cinnamon Teal  10
Ruddy Duck  1
Gambel's Quail  50
Pied-billed Grebe  3
Neotropic Cormorant  40
Double-crested Cormorant  30
American White Pelican  6
Least Bittern  13
Great Blue Heron  40
Great Egret  20
Snowy Egret  40
Green Heron  8
Black-crowned Night-Heron  10
White-faced Ibis  2
Turkey Vulture  20
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Virginia Rail  1
Sora  1
Common Gallinule  40
American Coot  20
Killdeer  X
Black-necked Stilt  30
Least Sandpiper  2
Rock Pigeon  3
Eurasian Collared-Dove  20
White-winged Dove  10
Mourning Dove  100
Inca Dove  5
Common Ground-Dove  20
Greater Roadrunner  1
Barn Owl  2
Black-chinned Hummingbird  2
Rufous Hummingbird  1
Gila Woodpecker  1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  3
Black Phoebe  5
Western Kingbird  4
Verdin  10
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
Curve-billed Thrasher (Western)  1
European Starling  X
Lucy's Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  20
Yellow-breasted Chat  1
Abert's Towhee  20
Lark Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  X
Summer Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  4
Blue Grosbeak  10
Lazuli Bunting  10
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Yellow-headed Blackbird  100
Great-tailed Grackle  X
Brown-headed Cowbird  X
Bullock's Oriole  1
House Finch  X
Lesser Goldfinch  10
House Sparrow  X


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