birderfrommaricopa.com

Tommy J. DeBardeleben

May 2011

May 1st-2nd:  Gila County-Roosevelt Lake and the Pinal Mountains

Hi everyone,

Leaving off from my post last night and my Short-tailed Hawk retraction
today, Jim Kopitzke and I birded in Gila County on Sunday, May 1st, making
a quick stop at Roosevelt Lake and then arriving at the Pinal Mountains on
Sunday night, and then spending the night in the Pinals and birding there
the majority of Monday, May 2nd. 

A quick one hour run through the Roosevelt Lake area produced several good
birds.  Most notable were three immature NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS on the lake,
which were just north of the Cholla Campground turnoff.  Jim noted a
single adult bird here last year, in which this species is scarce in this
part of Arizona.  Also filling the lake were the amazing sounds of WESTERN
GREBES.  Most of the birds were very distant, although one was fairly
close for us to see well.  Other highlights around the lake was a single
GADWALL, a flyover ZONE-TAILED HAWK, VIOLET-GREEN and CLIFF SWALLOWS,
great looks at an adult male HOODED ORIOLE, and a calling BULLOCK'S ORIOLE.

From the lake, we went straight for the Pinals, and arrived at the Lower
Slope/Kellner Canyon Picnic Area.  It was about 2:30 in the afternoon when
we started birding, which was very productive with 33 species in about an
hour's time.  Birds were everywhere, with the main highlights being a
singing GRAY VIREO that I was able to get a look at, CACTUS, ROCK and
BEWICK'S WRENS; VIRGINIAS, LUCY'S, BLACK-THROATED GRAY, MAcGILLIVRAY'S
(3), and WILSON'S WARBLERS; two BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS, LAZULI BUNTINGS,
and a HOODED ORIOLE. 

From the lower slopes we hit the pines and started birding along the road
almost up to the Sulfide Del Rey Campground, where we spent the night. 
Birding here during the afternoon, the main highlight was a DUSKY-CAPPED
FLYCATCHER that Jim found just north of the campground.  This bird called
continuously for a very long time, and we were able to find it in the
pines, getting decent looks.  As we were setting up camp, a nice YELLOW-
EYED JUNCO came in and hopped around the campsite right by the tent and
picnic table.  Walking down the road, I was able to pick up several more
of the Yellow-eyed Juncos.  Other highlights in the area included BROAD-
TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS, ACORN WOODPECKERS, HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER, numerous RED
and WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, HERMIT THRUSH, OLIVE, GRACE'S, and
AUDUBON'S WARBLERS, PAINTED REDSTARTS, one HEPATIC TANAGER, many RED
CROSSBILLS, and a few PINE SISKINS. 

We then continued to the summit area of Pinal Peak were we spent the rest
of the daylight.  The main highlight here was a calling STELLER'S JAY who
seemed to be mobbing an Owl with an AMERICAN ROBIN.  Once it got dark, we
tried owling without success.

The winds picked up at night and were bad most of the day on Monday, May
2nd.  It was very cold and windy most of the A.M.  Despite the wind,
however, the birding was fantastic and birdlife was abundant.  Walking
down the road a good distance after we started at Sulfide Del Rey
Campground was the most productive.  It was a warbler heaven, and we were
treated to eight different species, some showing very well and in good
numbers.  Our year's first RED-FACED WARBLERS were present throughout this
stretch, as they sang throughout, probably close to ten in total.  Two
male HERMIT WARBLERS were also a treat.  We also got to see two OLIVE
WARBLERS, and more numerous were VIRGINIA'S, YELLOW-RUMPED "AUDUBONS'S,
BLACK-THROATED GRAY, and GRACE'S WARBLERS, as well as many PAINTED
REDSTARTS.  The best highlight of the day and the entire two days at the
Pinals came from a very vocal and cooperative GREATER PEWEE.  This bird
sang in front of us from anywhere to 15 to 30 feet away, below eye level. 
I haven't seen many Greater Pewees and Jim hasn't seen enough either, this
was a nice treat for both of us.  We ended up walking away from the
Greater Pewee, who was still singing after about ten minutes!  Another
interesting sighting was an out of place LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER in the
pine/sycamore mix.  It called for a few minutes, which was the wrong
habitat for this species completely.  The DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER was
still present in the same area as we found it the previous night.  Another
notable sighting was a high abundance of RED CROSSBILLS, in which large
flocks flew over the pines throughout the entire hike.  Other highlights
from the morning in this area were ZONE-TAILED HAWK, BROAD-TAILED
HUMMINGBIRDS, ACORN and HAIRY WOODPECKERS, PLUMBEOUS, HUTTON'S, and
WARBLING VIREOS; WHITE and RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES everywhere, one BROWN
CREEPER, singing HERMIT THRUSHES (one of my favorite sounds), more and
more YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS, and one LAZULI BUNTING. 

Continuing up to the area of Pinal Peak, we added some good birds to our
year and trip lists.  Several small flocks of MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES were in
the Douglass firs, which were great to see.  A single male TOWNSEND'S
WARBLER was present near the chickadees, making him the ninth warbler
species of the day.  Jim heard a CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER below us briefly. 
RED-FACED WARBLERS were singing in this area near the top too, as well as
GRACE'S WARBLERS and PAINTED REDSTARTS.  A WESTERN TANAGER sang as we were
in an Aspen grove.

After the great time birding the pines, we made one last stop at the lower
slope area and walking to the Kellner Canyon Picnic Area, which was our
last stop before heading home  Birding was great here again as well. 
Several nice male SCOTT'S ORIOLES were singing along the way, and one gave
us a great showing near the immediate picnic area.  Down here, we noted
three empids in GRAY, DUSKY, and HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHERS.  A CASSIN'S
KINGBIRD was also present.  Three vireos, PLUMBEOUS, HUTTON'S and WARBLING
all were vocal.  A calling MAcGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER gave us ten warblers for
the day.  BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS were singing on the hillsides, and one of
them gave us a great and close look.  Our trip came to a good end, as an
OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER perched on a snag in the open. 

My first ever trip to the Pinals was a great one, and a place I look
forward to coming back too, hopefully in the near future!  Our total list
from the Pinals numbered 79 species.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)

 

 

May 22-23rd, 2011: Slate Creek Divide Area

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the very late post, but I observed things during this outing
that should be reported.  Better late than never.  On May 22nd, I headed
up to the Slate Creek Divide area after work, with my friend, Norman
Dong.  We got there an hour before dark and camped overnight, and then
spent the majority of the day looking for wildlife in the drainages that
run into Maricopa County.  We also owled Sunday night without success. 
Norman is an avidly into Herbs and he really wanted to see the Arizona
Black Rattlesnake in Maricopa County, which I was hoping to show him and
was our primary reason for coming down here.  Despite careful searching in
great habitat, we didn't see one snake the entire time.  Me being the
birder on the other hand, birds were everywhere.  This trip wasn't really
on my agenda till last second, but it turned out to be excellent birding
wise.

We spent almost the entire day on Monday working the drainages that run
south into Maricopa County.  The "main" drainage is accessed by taking
Forest Road 201 to it's very end, which meets at the trailhead (part of
the Arizona Trail) that goes to the Peeley Mountain summit.  From the
trailhead, the drainage is very noticable.  When taking it south about a
mile, it soon meets the fork of another drainage, which in my opinion has
the best habitat in all of Maricopa County.  If taking this second
drainage, it runs northeast through great habitat, or southwest, depending
on which way you go.  Like I mentioned in earlier posts, the habitat is
amazing, and at parts (especially the the second drainage that is accessed
by taking the first drainage south) has excellent habitat composed of
Douglass fir, ponderosa pine, oaks, and sycamores.  Last year, I
discovered Dusky-capped Flycatchers here in good numbers, which turned out
to be feeding young.  When I reached the fork of the drainages this time,
I heard my first DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER in Maricopa County for 2011. 
Norman and I kept track of each one we heard, which turned out to be a
minimum of seven individuals.  I feel like there were more, but seven is
the definate and safe number I was able to come up with.  So I'm very glad
to say this population is back again for at least the second consecutive
year.  Some seemed to be calling solo, while I observed at least two pairs
with great views.  One landed directly above me in a sycamore and was
giving the mournful call.  The Dusky-cappeds usually are found about right
where the fork of the two drainages meet.  Most of them are found well
spread out if heading in the southwest direction for a good ways once you
reach the fork.  If heading in the northwest direction from the fork, I've
had some just beyond that point, but not much further.  They highly favor
the immediate "fork" area of the drainages and southwest from there.  If
you want to bird this area, be sure to bring someone else around, it is
not safe by any means.  There are many rattlesnakes, as well as bears,
mountain lions (from what I've heard), poison ivy, scorpions, and it's
very rocky as well and easy to lose footing.

There were some other good highlights as well from the area during the
outing.  I was also very glad to find a PYGMY NUTHATCH along the main
drainage when coming down, only my second ever in Maricopa County (the
first was at Mount Ord last year).  While showing Norman a PAINTED
REDSTART that had come down to eye level, I tried to call it in very close
by pishing, and a nice flock of MEXICAN JAYS flew in instead at very close
range.  Raptor wise, we encountered ZONE-TAILED and COOPER'S HAWKS.  ACORN
and HAIRY WOODPECKERS both put on good shows.  One OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER
was present on a dead tree and a few WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES were present. 
HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER was the only empid I could come up with.  Three
vireos were the usual HUTTON'S, WARBLING, and PLUMBEOUS VIREOS, all very
vocal.  RED-BREASTED and WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES were around in good
numbers, I always especially enjoy the Red-breasteds.  A BROWN CREEPER
gave me the grand slam tree hugger day.  One WESTERN BLUEBIRD was present,
and I awoke in the morning to the songs of several HERMIT THRUSHES, one of
my favorites.  Who needs coffee when you have the song of the Hermit
Thrush to enjoy when you wake up?  Other than Painted Redstart, Warbler
wise I came up with GRACE'S, BLACK-THROATED GRAY, VIRGINIA'S and a rather
shocking LUCY'S WARBLER (heard and seen singing) while heading in the
southwest direction once I came to the fork and headed down the second
drainage.  It was in sycamore habitat were pines were more scarce, but
certainly the highest I've had Lucys (more than 5000'). WESTERN TANAGERS
were abundant and a few HEPATIC TANAGERS were present, including a nice
male in the open on an exposed branch.  BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS were common
too, and I thought I possibly heard the call-note of a Rose-breasted
Grosbeak, which is a little different, but noticable.  One male SCOTT'S
ORIOLE sang from a hillside.  Last but not least, a flock of RED
CROSSBILLS flew overhead.  I tallied 42 different species during the Slate
Creek visit. 

Last and regarding hiking the drainages, this can actually be done in a
loop.  If taking the "main" drainage down from the trailhead and then
meeting the "fork" where Main drainage meets the second drainage, heading
northeast up the second drainage will eventually take you close to the
main road (FR 201).  You'll have to bushwack a lot during the hike and a
little bit to get to the main road, but it does save an exhausting hike
back through the two drainages.  Taking the road back to the
trailhead/parking area is a quick, relaxing, and easy walk. back  The loop
is overall about three miles through rough terrain, prepare to be
exhausted.  But I do promise, the birding potential is well worth the
adventure!

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona) 

 

 

May 27th, 2011:  Hassayampa River Preserve

Hi everyone,

Today I birded the Hassayampa River Preserve for the four hours of length
that it is open during the preserve's summer hours that last 7-11 A.M. and
are open Friday through Sunday.  It was a rather birdy day today, as I was
surprised to observe 52 different species, when usually my maximum here is
around 45.  So in other words, it was a very birdy morning! 

The bird hero today for me was my first ever Maricopa County SWAINSON'S
THRUSH that I observed at the southwest end of the Palm Lake Loop, where
the thrush briefly worked it's way down the Mesquite Meader Trail, where
the two trailheads meet.  I've been looking for this one for awhile, and I
was rewarded at last.  It felt good to look at a thrush in the county for
once without a rufous-red tail!  

Another good highlight was a close and good observation of the returning
TROPICAL KINGBIRDS that are found here annually.  Whenever I have seen
them here at Hassayampa River Preseve, they have always been along the
Mesquite Meander, usually more at the southern stretch of the trail.  It's
easiest to locate them by voice, which I far more often hear them first. 
Today I had a pair together in a cottonwood which looked to me like a
nesting site.  Another good flycatcher highlight was a calling WILLOW
FLYCATCHER, my first of the year. 

Other highlights today during my four hours at Hassayampa included a GREEN
HERON at Palm Lake, COOPER'S HAWKS at a nest, a few calling GRAY HAWKS (no
visuals today), four WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES, singles of PLUMBEOUS, HUTTON'S,
and WARBLING VIREOS, one HERMIT THRUSH, around ten WILSON'S WARBLERS, a
few BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS, and one female LAZULI BUNTING.

This is a great place to bird in the summer by the way, the trees provide
shade that make the summer heat bearable.  There's always something good
here to be seen!

Good birding,
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)

 

May 29th, 2011:  Southeastern Arizona!!  Madera Canyon.

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, May 29th 2011, Brendon Grice and I left early to get to Madera
Canyon just before seven.  We didn't have high expectations of seeing the
Fan-tailed Warbler after it had gone unseen or heard on Saturday.  We
searched for the bird however without success both up and downstream good
distances of where it had been seen.  None of the other birders there had
any luck either.  However, it was a great day to be in southeastern
Arizona (first time this year) and there were plenty of birds to keep us
entertained.

Migration was evident yesterday as well.  Brendon and I came up upon at
least 5 SWAINSON'S THRUSHES in the general area of Madera Kubo.  The
Hummingbirds were entertaining as usual at the feeders, particularly
MAGNIFICENT and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS.  One ARIZONA WOODPECKER was in
the area that we were able to see.  It was nice to hear at least three
different SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS right by the Kubo, although we
weren't ever able to get a close and good look.  DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHERS
were everywhere from Proctor Road to the upper canyon area along the
Carrie Nation Trail.  One singing male SCOTT'S ORIOLE across from Santa
Rita Lodge was a nice treat.  The sycamores were filled with countless
BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS in certain areas near feeders, it was incredible.

Heading down to the area closer to Proctor Road, we had more good
highlights.  One of the day's best highlights was a fearless male HEPATIC
TANAGER who foraged seven to eight feet away from us for several minutes. 
It was too close for Brendon to even get a picture of it!  Highlights like
that is what can make a day.  Also in the area was a nice male HERMIT
WARBLER, something we didn't expect.  We also counted four NORTHERN
BEARDLESS-TYRANNULETS in the immediate Proctor Road area, we had views of
three of them at once, with a pair of them together.  Three Myiarchus
flycatchers in BROWN-CRESTED, ASH-THROATED, and DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHERS
were all viewable in the area, it was nice to see them all close
together.  We noted one SWAINSON'S THRUSH in this area.  SUMMER and
WESTERN TANAGERS added to the Hepatic Tanager sighting to give us three
tanagers for the day.  BLUE GROSBEAKS were also numerous here.

After a lunch break, we hiked up Carrie Nation for over a mile.  Birdlife
was quiet for the most part.  We did add a few birds for the day, BROWN
CREEPER and WARBLING VIREO.  An ARIZONA WOODPECKER appeared in front of us
to give us great views.  The songs of HERMIT THRUSHES filled the area,
which was great to hear as usual.  We even ran into Bryan Holliday and his
girlfriend on our way down, talk about a small world! 

Birders seemed to have stopped looking for the Fan-tailed Warbler after
noon, we didn't see anyone looking.  We had a total of 55 species for the
day.

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