Tuesday, September 30, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Thirty-Two 8/6-8/12

This week was highlighted by a long two-day trip to the White Mountains to search for Pine Grosbeaks.  In Arizona Pine Grosbeaks are rare and very local.  Pine Grosbeaks had been reported at the Sunrise Park Resort and along the West Baldy Trail.  These recent reports spurred Andrew and I to try.  We arrived at the Sunrise Park Resort at around noon on Sunday 10th.  The grosbeaks were reported in early July by a single observer and then again by 4 Phoenix birders in late July.  A couple of Tucson birders failed to find the grosbeaks last week and Andrew & I followed the latter example and didn’t find the grosbeaks in spite of three plus hours of searching.  We probably would have searched longer had not a rainstorm chased us off the mountain; we were dressed for the deserts of south Arizona and not the rain & high elevation coolness of the White Mountains.  We headed north of Springerville to look for California Quail. Though an introduced species, it is considered established in the area and we were checking a few spots that others had reported them in the past.  Even though we were unable to find any quail the birding was interesting, particularly at Wenima Wildlife Area. Andrew & I checked out Becker Lake as the sun was setting.  We ended the day with thirty-some Common Nighthawks hawking insects over Becker Lake and the Little Colorado River.
Early Monday 11th morning Andrew & I were back at Wenima WA hoping that the California Quail might be easier in the morning hours.  Again we were not successful though I am pretty sure I heard a couple of calls.  Andrew was only a few feet away and did not hear them so I am writing it off to an auditory-hallucination.  Our main plans for the day were to hike the West Baldy Trail.  We had decided to bypass Becker Lake until I saw something white flying over the lake from the highway.  Andrew makes a U-turn and we detour to the lake.  It took a few minutes but the white thing was a Common Tern, my first for the year.
The hike up the West Baldy Trail was one of the best hikes I’ve take without Louise.  Andrew is a great hiking & birding partner.  We had an American Dipper singing near the parking lot as well as an Olive-sided Flycatcher and a Virginia’s Warbler.  It was obvious from the beginning the Red Crossbills were to be plentiful.  Further along the trail we found a family of Sharp-shined Hawks, six American Three-toed Woodpeckers, and six Gray Jays.  In the vicinity of where the Pine Grosbeaks were supposed to be, Andrew spots a female Dusky Grouse perched on a log and below her on the other side of the log is at least one three-quarter grown chick poking its head up over the log.  Though we did not find any Pine Grosbeaks, this was a wonderful experience.  The drive home was highlighted by a stop at a trashed out recreation area along the Gila River.  We found an early Nashville’s Warbler, multiple singing Indigo Buntings, and a singing Varied Bunting, the latter two are rare in Gila County.  At the end of the week, the year list stands at 379 with the Common Tern the only new one.

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