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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Arizona and Utah

Fall Migration in the Canyonlands

2022 Narrative

IN BRIEF: An amazing 2,063 miles and 205 species of birds were logged on our latest Arizona and Utah adventure. This tour is designed to capture both the indescribable beauty of a vast region as well as it’s varied and abundant wildlife. With major destinations like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Bryce Canyon National Park we were exposed to over 2 billion years of geologic history. As luck would have it our group got to witness an adult California Condor slowly circling in front of the massive pink, purple, and white amphitheater of Cedar Breaks National Monument. A complete surprise came when two different White-winged Crossbills were picked out on the North Rim, providing Arizona’s third, and fourth, state record for this nomadic species. The world-famous Navajo Reservation’s wind whipped sand across our faces as we watched the sun set with a stunning rainbow arched over Canyon de Chelly’s Spider Rock. Not to be overshadowed by the famous parks were places like Arizona’s White Mountains where we were able to unwind, relax and enjoy a few days of blissful birding isolation before ending our tour in the saguaro-studded landscape of the Sonoran Desert thousands of feet below.

IN DETAIL: Our first morning we quickly consumed breakfast and loaded up the van to try and beat the heat of the steamy Sonoran Desert. As we headed east through the saguaro forests, we noticed something that wasn’t one of the numerous Common Ravens sitting on a transmission line. It turned out to be a large Harris’s Hawk keeping an eye out for any unassuming jackrabbits in the area. We quickly pulled over and noticed another pair of these hawks perched on a nearby tower. This isn’t unusual given the communal hunting tactics of this unique species. While we were enjoying these raptors, a wren called which turned out to be a Cactus Wren that came in for stunning views, soon followed by a just as curious Curve-billed Thrasher close enough to see its gleaming golden eye. A family of Gambel’s Quail was scurrying about through the thorny shrubs and a bold Black-throated Sparrow came close in revealed by its tinkly call notes. A particularly confiding young male Costa’s Hummingbird used the barbed wire fence to perch on while we were there, extremely fond of some flowering rabbit brush it was thoroughly exploring.

With our sights set on Boyce Thompson Arboretum we were ready for our next taste of bird life. Almost immediately after entering the lush grounds the constant song of the Bell’s Vireo was heard and a ravenous Western Tanager kept a vigil at a lycium bush replete with ample berries. Inca Doves eventually revealed their presence with their, to some, mournful hopeless songs perched up in a tree. On the ground an Abert’s Towhee shot from bush to bush, stopping to grab insects as it went. This riparian obligate species of the lower Colorado River drainages loves the dense habitats that the arboretum provides. A Rock Wren bounced around the rocky shoreline of Ayer Lake. Also here a male Common Yellowthroat coursed through the reeds just above waterline and was hopscotching with several southwestern Song Sparrows. We heard some familiar hooting from a Great Horned Owl and were perplexed as to why they were calling late morning in nearly 100F heat!? It turned out it was a pair together perched practically on top of each other in the only cottonwood tree in sight, trying their best to blend into the sparse vegetation. We took time to go over the difference between Turkey Vultures and Zone-tailed Hawks and it’s a good thing that we did. All of a sudden “Zone-tailed Hawk” was called out with identification precision and we all watched as this vulture mimic slowly circled overhead showing yellow legs and white banded tail superbly. Nearby we scored another desert denizen when we spotted a female Black-tailed Gnatcatcher foraging in some mesquite trees, soon to be followed by a male still retaining some of his black cap. We noticed her scurry back into the undergrowth in a hurry with some food, perhaps implying they are feeding young. The long breeding season in the desert is very protracted and was on clearly on display here. No wonder some birds can rear young at least three times in a breeding season! On the way out we caught a glimpse of a beautiful Black-throated Gray Warbler, and in the same drainage a perched Western Wood-pewee very close to an endangered southwestern Willow Flycatcher. We noted the differences in feeding habitat with the pewee preferring the more open branches for sallying, and the Willow in the dense central part of the tree staying well hidden.

We were then off to Roosevelt Lake, a 20-mile-long wet oasis flooding the giant Tonto Basin. This area hosted a bunch of water birds including very nice comparisons of Western and Clarks Grebes. When seen alone these birds can be tough to identify but seeing them close together in the scope made us all experts at this task. Other waders were utilizing the muddy shorelines including numerous Great Blue Herons and both Great and Snowy Egrets. Perched high on some dead snags were a couple of Osprey clearly at home in the water wonderland. We soon left the heat of the Sonoran Desert behind and made our way to Flagstaff perched at 7,000’ feet. On the way the views of Mormon Lake were wonderful as we watched over 100 elk of both sexes and various ages make their way through the grassy flats fattening up for the leaner times to come. Of the few birds we saw here was a sprite Virginia’s Warbler who eventually came in for good looks, and a dapper Lesser Goldfinch perched on one of the many flowering sunflowers littering the landscape.

The next morning, we headed north from Flag with excellent views of the volcanic San Francisco Peaks and some of the over 600 cinder cones in the area. One quick stop harbored a good number of Lewis’s Woodpeckers in a ripe oak grove coming and going to their likely nesting tree. Soon after we visited a muddy tank in the middle of the seemingly endless barren landscape that was full of water and birds including extended views of Yellow Warblers, House Finches, and flocks of Horned Larks coming in to drink. We watched a weaving flock of ducks that were initially spooked by our arrival. The hoard mostly contained Northern Shovelers and Northern Pintails, but also had a single Green-winged Teal and a pair of American Wigeon mixed in. Sparrows showed nicely as we were constantly flushing Brewer’s and Chipping Sparrows around the soggy edge of the pond. Many Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were in constant motion feeding on flying insects, and a single House Wren and Green-tailed Towhee insisted on joining the party. A few fly-by swallows were nice to see with Violet-green showing their white rumps perfectly, as well as Banks sporting their brown chest bands in style.

Travelers have been stopping at Cameron Trading Post for over 100 years as they pass through the Painted Desert on the banks of the Little Colorado River. This is still popular with tourists and the courtyard of the hotel grounds usually harbors birds that allow very close inspection. Such was the case this year as we had the excellent views of a Warbling Vireo and a couple Black-chinned Hummingbirds feeding on the ornate flower display. A White-lined Sphynx moth was also devouring the abundant food source. We skirted the western edge of the Painted Desert and drove by the Echo Cliffs as we headed north towards the burnt Vermilion Cliffs and our next target bird. After crossing the impressive Marble Canyon and mighty Colorado River we were able to find a few California Condors. It was very special to see these birds that were on the brink of extinction in all their glory, but an added bonus was having a picnic lunch while doing it! The long drive into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was abound with coniferous forest and gorgeous wildflower-filled meadows showered in yellow and pink. At the entrance station of all places, I was alerted to some Red Crossbills calling so we pulled off to the side and set the scope up. We had exceptional views of this wanderer, with over 15 red males and yellow females adorned atop a dead snag. Joining them were Pine Siskins, smaller but just as eye-appealing. To end our day as the sun set at the Grand Canyon, we were treated to a sensational dinner overlooking this vast gorge.

Our sunrise at the Canyon was amazing to see as the shadows grew long and revealed the endless chasms that create the massive canyon. Our delicious buffet breakfast at the lodge afterwards was perfectly timed with the distracting scenery as company. A walk down Cape Royal introduced lots of Pinyon Jays frantically flying in a swirling flock, and one group of Clark’s Nutcrackers overhead wheeled by dropping swiftly from the sky to parts unknown. The winds were blowing strong and turned out to be good conditions for raptors. One of the several Red-tailed Hawks had a Cooper’s Hawk in hot pursuit. Shortly afterwards a scruffy-looking Northern Goshawk flew over low, and at the end of the point a Sharp-shinned Hawk shot by. Unbelievable to see all 3 accipiter species within a quarter mile of walking. After another scenic picnic lunch, we headed to Demotte Campground in the middle of the Kaibab Plateau. We started with some owl tooting that brought in scads of birds including swirling flocks of Red Crossbills and Pine Siskins, as well as Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hammond’s Flycatcher, and a Nashville Warbler. In with the flock of crossbills we had a quick look at what could only have been a female or young White-winged Crossbill. As we were looking for the bird, we eventually found a male White-winged Crossbill and were able to get photos of this stunning species. A complete surprise, especially given there are only a couple of accepted records of this species for the state of Arizona! The van headed north ascending the Grand Staircase and a strategically placed overlook showed millions of years of geologic history in layer cake fashion with the Gray, White, Pink, and Red levels on display through the distant rain squalls.

This morning we traveled along Kanab Creek through its sheer pink sandstone cliffs and stopped by the road to take some photos. We were rewarded when a Belted Kingfisher flew in and landed right in front of us, allowing close looks at the details of this fish slayer. On the edge of the pond a Black Phoebe called consistently while on the constant sally for insects over the placid water. Jackson Flats Reservoir in the town of Kanab was ripe with birds and as soon as we pulled up to the boat launch we spotted a group of Black-necked Stilts huddling together on the sand with a rare Common Tern tucked in with them. A distant bird was spotted with a very striking wing pattern that turned out to be an even rarer Sabine’s Gull. This time of year is when juvenile gulls like this one wander around the desert southwest far from their normal pelagic foraging grounds. While we were watching this scene a Peregrine Falcon came in low over the water and shot right into the group of birds on the beach much to everyone’s surprise. Just then, another Peregrine came to join the chase. They then focused on the tern and were close on its tail as it dodged these aerial jets successfully. Needless to say, we never saw the tern or gull again, and are hoping they just went elsewhere and didn’t succumb to the lighting speed of the fastest animal on earth.

Waterfowl were abundant here. Mostly hundreds of American Coots dabbled in the shallows, but were joined by a couple groups of both Pied-billed and Eared Grebes, and small numbers of Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, and Ruddy Ducks. We were able to track down a calling Juniper Titmouse foraging in the willows on the shoreline. Raucous calls of Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays were heard and a stream of these oak-lovers flapped from tree to tree. Great looks at Double Crested Cormorants perched on dead trees in the water were cherished, as well as a swallow show including flocks of Barn, Bank, Tree, and Violet-green.

We then headed over to Pipe Springs National Monument which still preserves a historical spring used by Ancient Puebloans for centuries, as well as early Mormon settlers who first came into the region. This rare water source still attracts birds much as I’m sure it always has and today was no exception. Flocks of both Brewer’s and Chipping Sparrows were constantly flushing from bushes and landing in trees allowing nice comparisons of these similar-looking spizellas. We tracked down the calls of a Crissal Thrasher and eventually got stunning views of this normally furtive species, even of the maroon crissum with which it gets its name. We sat quietly by the edge of the algae-covered pond and slowly birds started trickling in for a drink. Several female and young Lazuli Buntings took their time dropping to the water. A Yellow Warbler also joined the party, as did a couple of Western Tanagers. A complete surprise Gray Catbird snuck in via the dense shrubbery, but did eventually perch up nicely. Although this bird is very common in certain regions, its very rare this far west in this very arid land. We got to explore the inside of Windsor Castle which is built around the spring to protect the valuable water source. It was great to see how people used to live here hundreds of years ago with furniture, tools, and ‘appliances’ kept just as they were back then.

Cedar Breaks National Monument finally appeared as we gained elevation to over 10,000 feet and struck us all with its colorful beauty. As we crept up and over the lip of the magnificent amphitheater, we were shocked to see a California Condor slowly floating overhead. We stood in awe and watched as this gigantic ice-age relict circled lazily gaining altitude and eventually heading south out of sight. This bird’s wing tag was marked ‘VC’. The stud book for condors showed this is a female bird that was hatched on April 21, 2017 at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho and released on October 23, 2018. As we were basking in the experience bunches of White-throated Swift came pouring in and eventually came to eye-level and below. We also had a nice mammal showing here with a very hungry Yellow-bellied Marmot munching on asters, several Uinta Chipmunks darting between logs, and a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel utilizing a discarded old banana peel. The wildflowers were still in bloom and coniferous trees abound, with one particular 1,400-year-old Pine Tree still hanging on atop the gigantic amphitheater of red, orange, purple, and white endless cliffs on this western edge of the Markagungt Plateau. A quick stop at a pond on the way back to our hotel harbored several families of Gadwall replete with all sizes of fluffy young staying close to their parents.

Soon after we left the hotel this morning a large pied-colored bird crossed the road. We quickly pulled over and admired a Black-billed Magpie as it gracefully coursed over the sagebrush and off to the unknown. Bryce Canyon National Park protects some of the world’s most amazing rock structures. It’s easy to admire the 200-foot tall hoodoo arrangements resembling the world’s largest organ in opulent display. Several ponds dot the area and one was perfect for shorebirds. In it, several Least Sandpipers were foraging between their toes and amongst the larger Baird’s Sandpipers. Since they were literally 20 feet from the van we didn’t even need to get out to study the intricacies of their plumages and size and shape differences. In one of the agricultural fields a Northern Harrier hunted low and flew right by a huge dark bird sitting on a fence post. The scope revealed a Golden Eagle that was waiting to pounce on anything the harrier may scare up, and was soon joined by another adult Golden that came into the party. Soon they both took off together and kettled slowly into oblivion.

At Panguitch Lake in the afternoon hundreds of birds were gathered at the mudflats on the western edge. Many American White Pelicans were admired as they all flew in to corral an unaware school of fish. These huge white birds worked together and slowly dipped their yellow bills below the surface which is very different than their Brown Pelican cousins plunge diving method. Other waterfowl numbers were high including groups of Canada Geese, Gadwall, Ruddy Ducks, and hundreds of Eared Grebes in every plumage one could want. Other additions to the growing water fowl list included Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, and Cinnamon Teal. Gull numbers were good for this area including several Ring-billed and at least 20 California. Nice comparative views were had between these two species’ mantle colors, bill patterns, and overall size. During a brief rain shower a flock of neon blue Mountain Bluebirds came in close perching on numerous mullein stalks creating a truly memorable moment. Flocks of Brewer’s Blackbirds were constantly taking off from the roadsides. Rain-soaked Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks peppered the hillsides of burned trees and a Cooper’s Hawk came in low for a good view. A complete surprise was a pair of Sandhill Cranes foraging with the cows in a pasture. This was a new species for the tour and one of the locals said they had been there all summer. As we pulled into our last overlook a flock of Red-shafted Northern Flickers kept emerging from the sagebrush and landing in 1 of the few trees nearby. At least 18 of these terrestrial woodpeckers were feeding together on some unknown prey and kept constantly shifting positions as they leapfrogged around. Also feeding in the immediate area were some particularly handsome Vesper Sparrows.

Early the next morning we headed back east along the shore of the massive Lake Powell to Page. A quick stop at the wastewater treatment plant here added a large flock of American Avocets, all of which were swimming, with a couple of similarly-plumaged but smaller Wilson’s Phalaropes. A huge open-air truck whisked us away up a sandy wash and ultimately to the famed Antelope Canyon where water has etched perfectly smooth flowing walls of sandstone into an amazing array of geologic wonder. After a delicious Texas-style barbeque lunch we continued deeper into Navajo Country. Being in Kayenta put us in close proximity to enjoy the sunset at Monument Valley in the evening. The sun setting here provided all with fantastic pictures as the shadows of the mesas and spires became long as the sun was calling it a day.

There are several water spots peppered throughout the Navajo Reservation and one such place we normally stop is Many Farms Lake. As soon as we pulled up to the overlook a bird with upright posture flushed away from the van. We quickly got out and were able to see the Sage Thrasher perch up on some sagebrush. Many ducks were dabbling about including many Northern Shovelers, Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal and raft of Ruddy Ducks. A dark flock of long-billed long-legged birds reeled in and revealed themselves as White-faced Ibis. Many swallows were swirling about low over the lake including some new for the tour Northern Rough-winged Swallows. Just before departing this very scenic location, a quick two-noted call alerted us to the presence of a Rock Wren. We watched a pair bobbing around on some rocks across a small chasm and were successful in attracting them right next to us. Some were looking east, some looking west, and we soon realized we were surrounded by at least 4 of these rock hoppers. A spring on the eastern end of the lake produced 34 species of birds, some of which were new for the tour. As we jumped out of the van a screeching sound brought our attention to a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes perched up like sentinels on a metal gate. Soon after a ‘peek’ call of a Hairy Woodpecker had us looking at it just over our heads in a dead Russian olive tree. There was one special debris pile that for some reason attracted a nice assortment of sparrows including Lark, Vesper, and buffy-chested Lincoln’s Sparrows. The tamarisk clump nearby hosted at least 4 Green-tailed Towhees foraging on the ground together. Oddly, a small shrub in the middle of the field had our first of 2 Bullock’s Oriole’s barely able to hide itself. Nashville and Orange-crowned Warblers were added and Western Tanagers seemed to be in every tree. A flock of blackbirds came heading straight towards us at eye level and just missed our heads. They turned out to be of the beautiful Yellow-headed variety, clearly visible at close-range with glowing yellow tops and white wing patches.

Canyon de Chelly allowed us a look at ancient ruins long inhabited by the Anasazi, or ‘ancient ones’. Their descendants, the Navajo Indians, are still farming the canyon today. At one of the scenic overlooks a descending whistled song cascaded through the sheer walls. Perhaps it’s no surprise that in this particular habitat a Canyon Wren was singing its heart out, clearly establishing its territory where it spends the year. Much to our surprise it ended up coming within 20 feet of our ecstatic group calling and singing the whole way. At almost every point groups of White-throated Swifts were shooting by, at times close enough to our heads to hear the feathered bullets whoosh by. As we watched the sun setting on the incredible Spider Rock the scattered rain drops produced an incredible rainbow hanging right over the most famous feature of the canyon, creating a scene none of us will soon forget.

We set our compass south to explore the birding hotspots around Ganado. The lake here was ripe with birds and the trees peppering the shoreline gave great looks at several species. One flock of ducks that flushed contained a trio of Blue-winged teal showing broad bright blue wing bar nicely in the morning light. A complete surprise female Williamson’s Sapsucker decided to freeze in place in a Russian Olive tree for a long period of time, acting like we didn’t see her. In one of the marshy areas it took some work, but eventually we coaxed into view a pair of Virginia Rails, a shy Sora, and sprite Marsh Wrens. Nearby some harsh scolds lead us to a very confiding Bewick’s Wren doing its best to ward off the unknown intruders. We checked out nearby Hubbell Trading post that’s been in constant business since the 1860s and added Hammond’s Flycatcher to our growing list in the wash running next to it.

En route to the White Mountains we drove through the Petrified Forest National Park. The Visitor’s Center here just off old route 66 was one of the most exciting birding spots on the entire tour. In just 1 hour of slowly walking the grounds we tallied 19 species. Highlights included unusually good views of Hammond’s Flycatcher, Juniper Titmouse, Cassin’s Vireo, and Sage thrasher. At the wetlands north of the town of St. John’s we were greeted by a large group of shorebirds sifting through the perfect habitat the main pond held. Lots of Western Sandpipers were preening next to Least allowing exceptional comparative views. Many Baird’s Sandpipers jockeyed for position on the mud with the 42 Killdeer we counted. A single Willet was very much a surprise here, as were a pair of Stilt Sandpipers sauntering through the emergent grass. The noise produced by so many shorebirds was amazing, as there wasn’t a second of silence with so many birds socializing together. The lighting was perfect for viewing as the sun was setting on this unique desert scene. Although seen briefly in flight, a pair of Mexican Ducks was nice to see proving once again why this was a good split from the much more common Mallard it had been lumped with previously.

Wenima Wildlife Management Area sits astride the lush Little Colorado River stuffed with trees and shrubs full of food and a nice assortment of birds. On the entrance road we had a close flock of Western Meadowlarks around the van, some of which were in full song. As soon as we got out of the car park bird sightings started pouring in. A family group of Canyon Towhees was giving their laughing call up on the hillside and Lincoln’s Sparrows popped up out of the bushes. A single Black-headed Grosbeak alit high in a snag, not far from a stunning Cedar Waxwing. The notoriously hard to get a look at MacGillivray’s Warbler, that we’d heard and some had caught a glimpse of up to this point, actually worked its way out on a branch in the open showing its dark hood, bright yellow body and distinctive eye arcs perfectly. The endangered subspecies of Willow Flycatcher was encountered here, as well as several bright male Blue Grosbeaks with brown mates in tow foraging in a sunflower field. At our turnaround spot an extremely confiding Townsend’s Solitaire sat about 20 feet away and preened for over 10 minutes. It even started to sing its soft whisper song endlessly for the audiophiles in the group.

Sipe Wildlife Area is a great place to sit down and relax while watching the hummingbird feeders. Great comparisons of Black-chinned, Broad-tailed, Rufous and even a single dainty Calliope Hummingbird were enjoyed amid the Juniper-studded grasslands surrounding this location. We relaxed at Luna Lake near the New Mexico border while we enjoyed our picnic lunch. Rafts of mostly Coots, Mallards, and Ruddy Ducks huddled at the west end and no less than 4 Great Blue Herons picked through the chest-high grasses surrounding the water body. Just before leaving a Bald Eagle suddenly appeared overhead and made a brief pass across the lake. While observing this a distant call note signaled the approach of a flock of Eastern Meadowlarks that made their way in to surround the group with many even singing their distinctive songs. It’s a rare occurrence on this tour to study flocks of both meadowlark species like we had the fortune of today. We then headed up the slopes of Escudilla Mountain and, aside from a rare for the county in September Zone-tailed Hawk fly-by, a pair of Olive Warblers was eventually found. This odd unique warbler-like bird hopped around its Pine Tree haunts showing the orange head of the male in detail, as well as the bold white wing bars. On the way back to Eagar a quick stop at Nelson Reservoir revealed two male Wood Ducks. This stunning fowl is a treat to see on any occasion, but also turned out to be a new bird for this tour’s extensive checklist that somehow grows every year. It’s amazing what happens during migration with a constant shuffling of birds coming and going from the route we’ve planned.

With our sights set on another portion of the Little Colorado River we explored its South Fork. Upon descending into this lush oasis a bird was spotted sitting perfectly blended into a dead gnarly juniper tree. A much-wanted Greater Roadrunner was sunning itself with back feathers fluffed up exposing the dark bases, a great way to get warm on this chilly morning. As soon as I let off the break after watching this spectacle a pair of Bighorn Sheep were right next to the road bedded down in the grass. They didn’t seem to mind our presence and one of them never even moved. We parked on the banks of the river and hopped out of the van only to be surprised yet again by the calls of a Hepatic Tanager high overhead. Though it took off almost immediately, we managed to get excellent scope views of the yellow female tanager of pine forest habitats. Scores of American Robins were feeding alongside Townsend’s Solitaires on ripe berries, a huge flock of Pinyon Jays flew in formation overhead, and dozens of Turkey Vultures lifted off from their nighttime roost coming in to the thermal brewing upslope. A bit further down the road a flycatcher perched on the highest tree’s snag turned out to be an Olive-sided. Seeing this in quick succession with Western Wood-pewee was nice, and in the same tree a few bursts of song belonging to a Plumbeous Vireo was monitored, eventually revealing this spectacled beauty. Near the bridge a Red-naped Sapsucker refused to leave its preferred perch right next to the river. Who can blame it for soaking in the scenic slopes surrounding us and absorbing the first few rays of the day unbothered by our presence.

At Sunrise Lake the winds were strong. Perhaps it’s no surprise this turned out to be good for raptors including the elegant long-winged Swainson’s Hawk and distant but diagnostic view of an adult Golden Eagle sweeping by. At Sheep’s Crossing we strolled along the banks of the west fork of the Little Colorado River. Several beavers’ work was evident with flooded willows and small ponds throughout. Near the bridge an American Dipper did its best to hide into the riverside thickets. Judging by the amount of ‘dipper doo’ on the rocks this was a place this bird spent a lot of time over the last few months. It was interesting how gentle and calm the water was here and not the typical raging waterways dipper was normally detected. Before leaving the lake-studded high elevation grasslands we made one last stop at an overlook that proved to be quite fruitful. A male Hepatic Tanager flew in to within a few feet of our noses, singing the entire time. Hundreds of Violet-green Swallows were perching in the tall dead pine trees out of the gales coming from the south. Also perched in one of the snags was a single Band-tailed Pigeon allowing unusually good looks at this species normally seen flying by quickly through the woods.

We said goodbye to the high elevations of the White Mountains and made our way back to Phoenix where another suite of birds would be waiting. A quick stop in the Salt River Gorge had a male Gray Vireo spontaneously singing and came right into view. On the rocky slopes nearby we also got to see a Rufous-crowned Sparrow quite interested in us, peering down from its small but prominent dead branch. Another stop at Timber Camp added a family of interested Mexican Jays that weren’t scared away by the multitude of child campers and their loud imitations of wildlife. An Acorn Woodpecker family in the parking lot was also entertaining. A nice-sized foraging flock here added Hermit Warbler, Hutton’s Vireo and yet another Hepatic Tanager. At Oak Flat there was absolutely no water for the migrants, but it still managed to produce a few goodies. A female Phainopepla sat at length atop a giant oak tree, a foraging flock of Bridled Titmouse was very approachable, and a duo of Pacific-slope Flycatchers foraged in the depths of the dense willow thicket by the dry dam. A quick stop in the saguaro forest got us a Gilded Flicker as soon as we stepped out of the van, as well as extremely close views of a male Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and pair of inquisitive Black-throated Sparrows. Our final stop was at the Gilbert Water Ranch where we added shorebirds including Greater Yellowlegs and Long-billed Dowitchers. A roaming flock of warblers was highlighted by the presence of the mesquite-loving Lucy’s Warbler, which wore its plain colors quite nicely. A total of 47 species were found here. Not too bad considering the 104-degree temperatures we were experiencing, and such a wonderful way to wrap up our 2 weeks of birding bliss through northern Arizona and southern Utah’s most scenic spots.

                                                                                                                                                                            -   Jake Mohlmann

Created: 27 September 2022