Ok, I'm a wimp. I just couldn't stand the heat, so I got out of the kitchen - so to speak. I cut loose and headed north with no set plan. When I reached Payson it still wasn't enough to cool my major meltdown state, so I kept going until I hit Show Low. Ahhh, cool air whistling through the pines, and dark monsoon clouds looming overhead!
My first birding trip was over to Big Springs Environmental Study Area. Its not totally wheelchair accessible, with rough lava rock gravel in the parking lot, you'll certainly need help if using a manual wheelchair, and possibly need a shove or two in a powered wheelchair.
But its just a short trail to get to a wheelchair-friendly viewing platform overlooking a beautiful meadow with a small spring-fed stream trickling nearby. From the viewing platform a small trail leads to a little hidden viewing bench, then on to a bridge with views of the small stream. Nearby snags are home to Acorn Woodpeckers and Stellar Jays. The trail beyond the bridge is not accessible, winds along the meadow, and hooks up with Woodland Lake Park (which has a great paved path all the way around the lake, and an accessible fishing pier!) See Accessing Arizona for a great review of the accessibility of Woodland Lake Park.
Birds commonly seen here, depending on the season, include Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Northern Oriole, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Western Tanager, Kestrel, Great Horned Owl, Evening Grosbeak, Mallard, Pintail, Red-winged Blackbird, Green-winged Teal, American Coot, American Goldfinch, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Canvasback, Gadwall, Dark-eyed Junco, Acorn Woodpecker, Lewis' Woodpecker, Western Bluebird, Hairy Woodpecker, Stellar's Jay, American Robin, Scrub Jay, Common Raven, Mountain Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Pygmy Nuthatch.
Big Springs is just off of HWY 260 in Pinetop/Lakeside on Woodland Road. Woodland Lake Park is also in Pinetop/Lakeside off of HWY 260 and Woodland Lake Road.
To see a slideshow of the Big Springs Environmental Study Area, CLICK on the image below.