So Many Birds!

I haven’t posted many bird photos here, which is shameful given the nature of this class.  It’s not for lack of desire, but I would rather keep my eyes behind my binoculars all day than a camera lens.  Luckily there are a couple students with an actual camera with them (as opposed to my camera phone), so I have a couple of great shots that they gave me.  I’m sure I’ll get more and post those as I get them.

This is a female Summer Tanager that we saw at Patons’ feeders in Patagonia, back in southern Arizona.  Gorgeous bird!

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That same suet feeder had ladder-backed woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, and a northern cardinal, at least.  It was about 15 feet from where we were sitting.  You really can’t beat the feeder houses for getting great views of all kinds of birds.

Yesterday, we packed up and made our way to northern Arizona.  It’s a good thing we only have the 9 of us, because we really couldn’t fit anything (or anyone) more in the van.  There are coolers and bags by feet and on the spaces between people.  

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We’re so full, in fact, that tomorrow we’re off-loading some stuff from the van in Flagstaff at my old advisors’ house so that we can make room for the Grand Canyon part of the trip, specifically for the FOOD.  Which, one could argue, is kind of important.

Even though I made them leave at 7:30 am (which is really sleeping in for us at this point), and we had a 5 hour drive ahead of us, they were all smiles. 

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We timed the drive to miss traffic in both Tucson and Phoenix, and stopped at Rio Salado preserve in Phoenix for some lunch birding.  It wasn’t great weather, though – coldish and windy and we even got rained on a little bit – so we didn’t stay long.  Still, in only 45 minutes we saw 2 new birds (Inca Dove and Black Phoebe) and another 10 or so species.  It’s always great to walk around in the middle of a car ride, no matter what.

We were planning on eating lunch there, but there weren’t any picnic tables and it was raining, so the class was game to eat on the drive.  Which was great, and gave us an extra hour to do some sight-seeing when we got to Cottonwood too early to check in to the hotel.

Jerome is an old ghost town built into the side of a mountain.  There isn’t a ton to do there, but it is a really unique city, so we drove up for a bit.

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This morning, we headed out to Page Springs fish hatchery, which wasn’t quite open yet when we got there.  We found some other fish ponds and spent an hour there.  Being in the north now, the birds are almost completely different, so we are seeing tons of new birds again.  Not that we were getting sick of the birds in southern Arizona, but it is a nice way to get reinvigorated and excited.

At this first stop, we saw 28 different species!  The highlights were a big flock of Cedar Waxwings, Phainopepla, Northern Flicker, Lazuli Bunting, and some beautiful Western Tanagers.

When we got to the fish hatchery, the first bird we saw was a Common Black Hawk, which was probably nesting in the trees.  It was perched out in the open and just staring at us, hardly moving at all.   The students (not sure who exactly) spotted it and I knew something was up when I saw this:

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We did an hour or so of wandering and hiking, seeing a few new birds in the trees and above the stream behind the fish hatchery.  

Again, we saw about 25 species in a short amount of time.  Highlights were the Common Black Hawk and a very patient Blue-winged Teal that was obviously accustomed to humans, and enjoyed the 25 cent seed that we fed her.

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Next, we headed up towards Sedona, stopping at the Sedona Wetlands Preserve.  I’d never been there, but had heard a lot about what to expect, but still I wasn’t expecting to see so much!  The diversity was incredible, both birds and habitats.  The ponds had some great waterfowl, including Eared Grebes, Wilson’s Phalarope, Ruddy Ducks, Coots (with babies!), and a silent and sulking Sora!

The trees and the wetland shrubs were full of the typical riparian songbirds – Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Chats, Song Sparrows, and the ubiquitous Red-wing Blackbirds.  There were also four species of swallows flying overhead – Bank, Cliff, Northern Rough-winged, and Violet Green.

It was a little muddy from the rain last night, but I could not have asked for a better day.  

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That’s what the parking blocks are for, right?  Cleaning the mud from your boots?

Tomorrow we’re going to be up and at em early again; we’re leaving at 5:15 for Dead Horse Ranch State Park, then back to the hotel for (free) breakfast, packing up, and then heading to the Grand Canyon!

We’ll be camping for three nights there, and the goal bird (because there is always a goal bird!) is the California Condor, naturally.  We’re meeting up with another class that is on a geological tour of the southwest.  Our combined class is called Bird Rocks, because I love a good pun.

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Other than relaxing, birding, and hiking into the canyon, there isn’t much else on the agenda.  But those are going to keep us plenty busy, and plenty happy.

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