Monday, February 22, 2010

Birding the Salt River Along the Bush Highway

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

If you live in the East Valley, head North on Power Road for a great quick escape from town. Power Road becomes Bush Highway and follows the Salt River. There are two riparian areas with wheelchair access - Granite Reef, and Coon Bluff. Both are good areas for seeing warblers, migrating waterfowl, and shore birds. The mesquite bosque is loaded with mistletoe - so its a great spot to see Phainopepla. On my recent visit (Feb. 18, 2010) I saw my first Vermilion Flycatcher! It was great fun watching him repeatedly swoop down to catch a bug, then return to his perch. Other birds seen included Pied-billed Grebes, a Common Moorhen, Verdin, Gila Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinal, and Cormorants (seen flying by. It was mid-day when I was at both sights. I'm sure if I had been there at more optimal birding times - early morning or late afternoon - the list of birds seen would be longer. WARNING - Unless you have completely taken leave of your senses, you do NOT want to bird here during summer months - the area is extremely busy with tons of people tubing the Salt River. Of course, you may see a bird of a completely different sort - the DrunkAndNakedAsAJay Bird (Homo sapiens).

You will need to buy a Tonto Day Pass, check for a vendor here...

Double-Click photo below to see ENLARGED version of slide show.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And You Thought YOUR Feet Were Ugly...

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

On a cold day in January I got up close and personal with the coots at Fountain Lake, in Fountain Hills. They were walking all over the place, and I got a good look at their green, lobed, prehistoric looking, UNwebbed feet. Because their feet are not webbed, Coots are NOT DUCKS.

The lake at Fountain Hills is very accessible, with wide sidewalks meandering around the lake, and through a peculiar frisbee golf course. The birds found here vary with the seasons, you never know who might migrate through. On this day we saw lots of American Coots, a few Canada Geese, Red-winged Blackbirds galore, lots of American Wigeons, with a few Mallards and Ruddy Ducks mixed in. Up in the landscaped areas away from the shoreline were Gila Woodpeckers, Verdin, Cactus Wren, and Annas Hummingbirds. We dined at the wheelchair-friendly Euro Pizza Cafe, with great views of the lake, and an excellent menu. If you're an early morning birder, Euro Pizza Cafe is even open for breakfast, and has a lovely outdoor dining patio so you can bird while you eat. So bring your appetite AND your binoculars!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count is Feb. 12th - 15th!

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

Get involved, its easy, and its fun! Here's a reminder from Pat Leonard of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology - " Join the 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count by tallying the birds you see at any location during February 12-15. Watch for at least 15 minutes on one or more count days, record the highest number of each species you see at any one time, and enter your checklist at Put your sightings on the map and watch as counts pour in from around the United States and Canada! The count is led by the Cornell Lab, Audubon, and Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada, with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited. Learn more at Please join in!"

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Birding II Field Trip to Gilbert Water Ranch

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

Its Super Bowl Sunday and, appropriately so, we are at the Super Bowl of birding spots in Arizona - Gilbert Water Ranch (a.k.a. Gilbert Riparian Preserve). I'm taking More Birding with Cynthia Donald offered by Desert Botanical Gardens. Cynthia runs a great class and wonderful field trips!

I'll write more soon, I'm beat! Here's a slide show of our field trip. As you'll see, I coudn't get enough of the Green Heron spotted at the very end of the field trip, within a few feet of the sidewalk! Double-click on the image below to see an enlarged version.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

New Tour at Wings Over Willcox a Success!

Thanks to the efforts of Darlene Smyth, the new accessible tour at W.O.W. was a success. Darlene reports - "It was a small group, but the people seemed to really enjoy the experience. I did not have any birders using a wheelchair although the vehicle we used was accessible and had a lift. WOW wants to keep offering this type of trip and hopefully, word will get out, and birders with physical limitations will participate in the WOW Festival in the future. We had great looks at birds ranging from Sandhill Cranes, to Ferruginous Hawks, to Bendire's Thrashers, to Sage Thrashers, and many, many more. We even had scope looks at most of these birds!"

So mark your calendars for next year's Wings Over Willcox birding festival and be sure to sign up for the "Easy Birding Sampler" tour. Registration starts on Sept. 1, 2010 for the January 2011 W.O.W. festival.

Smyth is currently the field trip coordinator for Tucson Audubon, and has birded extensively over North America, as well as in several countries in Central and South America. Her wonderful website - Comfortable Birding For All - lists accessible birding locations all around the globe!
Do you have an event, bird walk, meeting, or nature walk that belongs on this calendar? Please send info to

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