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Jake Mohlmann on his recent tour, Arizona and Utah: Fall Migration in the Canyonlands

September 25: Jake Mohlmann on his recent tour, Arizona and Utah: Fall Migration in the Canyonlands

Our 2018 Arizona and Utah Canyonlands tour just wrapped up with 198 species of birds seen in 13 days. We meandered 2,000 miles through everything from the hot, cactus-studded desert to Utah’s highest Alpine Valleys in search of all things wild.

The vast Grand Canyon at sunset.

Beginning and ending in Phoenix allowed us to see a suite of Sonoran Desert specialties such as the colorful Broad-billed Hummingbird, quirky Gambel’s Quail, and riparian-obligate Abert’s Towhee. Several wren species were encountered including very close views of Canyon Wren in Zion National Park’s River Walk, ratcheting Cactus Wren at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and Rock Wrens perched on what else, rocks.

A confiding Rock Wren in Mt. Carmel

Endless Pine forests of Northern Arizona hosted such gems as 3 species of Nuthatch, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, and bright Green-tailed Towhees. Several deep canyons with walls towering thousands of feet overhead harbored Stellers Jays, Mountain Chickadees, and one particularly confiding American Dipper that ended up at arms length.

American Dipper as close as ever.

The vast Navajo Reservation had many memorable sites in the spire-filled Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly National Monument, seemingly chiseled perfectly out of ancient sand dunes. Antelope Canyon, a well-used historical migration route for Pronghorn wowed us with its skinny swirling path through solid rock.

Our group in the fabulous Antelope Canyon.

Spending two entire days in the White Mountains of central Arizona allowed us to relax after our long journey and soak in several excellent bird sightings. At Luna Lake several surprises included a male Vermilion Flycatcher and pair of ‘Cactus’ Purple Martins very far from their normal desert haunts. Most surprising was a cooperative Blackpoll Warbler that mistakenly took the wrong route south after breeding in the far north.

A complete surprise vagrant Blackpoll Warbler.

On our final day we traveled from the high coniferous forests down the Mogollon Rim, through Arizona’s ‘Little Grand Canyon’ the Salt River Gorge, and back into the hot desert in search of anything we missed. After picking through yet another flock of querulous Bushtits a major highlight was revealed when a male Painted Restart sang closely to us while defending its Sycamore-lined canyon.

A Bushtit in for a close inspection!

Posted: September 25, 2018