Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Peaceful Birding at Pintail Lake

   If you're heading up north to the White Mountains this weekend to beat the heat, consider stopping by Pintail Lake to do some birding. It's not an all-day destination stop but it is a nice peaceful place to bird.  There are no loud boaters, no kids fishing, no jet skis roaring by, and no dreadful ATVs.   It is just outside of Show Low, so you will be out the pine trees and into the juniper-pinon grasslands where it is more open and much easier to see birds.

  There's a small cinder parking area and a paved trail that takes you towards the wetlands area.  You'll wind along through some ancient looking alligator juniper and eventually come to a fork in the trail.  Go to the right and it will take you to an open-air viewing platform.  Go to the left and it takes you to an enclosed bunker-like bird blind, a nice place to stay out of the elements. The water level is low and I would hardly call it a lake, it's more like a reedy marsh with two or three ponds. The trails and the blind and the viewing platform are all wheelchair accessible.  The viewing platform is a bit warped and bumpy, watch for nails popping up from the weathered wooden planks.

View of the wetlands from the somewhat weathered viewing platform.

While there in late April on a brisk and windy day we only saw a few Cinnamon Teal, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Pied-billed Grebes, and a Great Blue Heron. But there were plenty of Red-winged Blackbirds and Black Phoebes putting on a show for us. If we had a viewing scope with us we might have been able to see if there were any Sora, Virginia Rail, White-faced Ibis, or Black-crowned Night Herons lurking about in distant reeds.

There are several dead snags that make great perches for the little birds as well as the larger birds of prey that might stop by for a meal, like the Red-tailed Hawk. Northern Harrier, or Prairie Falcon. Looking out over the grasslands that surround the wetlands you might see off in the distance, depending on the time of year, some big-game species such as elk, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope.

View from the bird-blind looking at the second pond.

Red-winged Black Bird belting out his ever-so distinctive call.

The official name of this location is the Allen Severson Memorial Wildlife Area / Pintail Lake.  Read more about it at the White Mountain Audubon website.

Directions:  From the easternmost stoplight in Show Low, which is the junction of Highways 60 and 77 and Penrod Road, go north on Highway 77 for nearly four miles to the signed turnoff for Pintail Lake. Take the dirt road east from the highway for one-half mile to the cindered parking area.

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