Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Super Bird Sunday

1. Mt. Graham-kab Mt. Graham as seen from Roper Lake State Park 2-3-13

On Superbowl Sunday while everyone else was preparing for a day long marathon of football and parties Chris and I were up before dawn and headed east on I-10. Our destination was Greenlee County along the New Mexico border, where I had noticed on eBird that not one bird list had been submitted so far this year. Since Greenlee County is about 160 miles form Tucson we decided to bird our way there. Our first stop was in Willcox, AZ. 

2. Lake chochise-kab As we drove into town the streets were deserted except for the birds which were already on the move. We pulled over to the side of the road to count birds when we saw a long line of Sandhill cranes winging their way overhead. On the streets around us only pigeons, doves, and house sparrows fluttered about on their morning rounds. It was quite different as we pulled onto the road to Lake Cochise and Twin Lakes Golf course. We started counting sparrows, hawks and meadowlarks on our way to the lake. On the old golf course green a huge flock of American widgeons was grazing. Nearby a thrasher sang from a tree. Thick gray clouds hung low over Lake Cochise as we drove up onto the dirt road to see what we could see.

3. quiet-kab The glassy lake reflected the steel blue sky with just a few Ruddy Ducks and Northern Shovelers floating on the calm blue water.

4. dos cabezas-kab To the east the peaks of Dos Cabezas watched over the land.

4. geese-kab A small flock of 10 Ross’ Geese fed on the distant shore,

5. vesper sp-kab and in the brush along the road a flock of vesper sparrows whispered a prayer to the morning.

We left Lake Cochise around 9:00 and stopped at a truck stop in town for a quick breakfast. Then we were on the road again and headed north on route 191 for Safford. Of course we kept our eyes open as we drove to count birds along the way. we did pull off the road once to identify a hawk sitting on a utility pole. In the same area there were also some doves and ravens. Our first official stop was an eBird Hotspot called Dankworth Pond, which is also a State Park, but as we drove down the road counting birds we were surprised to find the entrance gated and the park closed. We would have gotten out to count birds along the roadway but on one side of the road a large yard was fenced with chain link and behind the fence a virtual herd of Rottweiler's barked and lunged at us, so we turned around and left.

6. Mt. Graham-kab If the Rotties scared us away at Dankworth Pond, it was all peace and calm as we drove into Roper Lake state Park. Here the snow covered slopes of Mount Graham towered benignly over us. A sky as soft and gray as a dove’s breast nestled over the landscape. We pulled into a parking lot and exited the car, excited to continue counting birds. We had already started counting as soon as we crossed the entrance and stopped to pay the small entrance fee.

7. cabins-kab When I saw these camping cabins I wanted to stay!


8. Chris-kab We found this little bridge across a small creek. In the trees beyond finches and kinglets fluttered about. We soon discovered why. One of the RVer’s had set out some bird feeders! This made me think of my friends Dawn Fine and Gaelyn, who both live in RV’s full time and also feed the birds! I couldn’t help but think that they would love it here!

9. roper lake-kab Our world today was one of gray and rust as the dry grasses and reeds bent in the wind. In these same reeds Black-crowned night herons hid. In some of the little coves we found Green-winged teal. We thought we saw a some sort of shore bird along one muddy inlet but we could not get close enough to ID it because of the mud! Chris started to sink in! So, we kept our distance and counted from the higher banks.

10. tree-kab I saw a hawk perched in this lone tree which looked like a Ferruginous Hawk. As we drove closer to get a better view it took off just as a flock of Common Mergansers flew in and settled on the lake beside us. We got distracted by the mergansers and totally missed the hawk shot, only to discover later that a Ferruginous Hawk has never been counted in this area! Too bad! Of course I have been kicking myself ever since!

11. n shovelers-kab I got such a kick out of watching these Northern Shovelers do their “shoveling” thing in the water as they sifted for food.

12. hawk-kab Then, as I was watching the shovelers this hawk flew by, returning from the same direction as the other hawk had flown off to, but…was it the same hawk? I believe this one is a Red-tailed.

13. redwings-kab As Chris and I walked down the boat ramp counting birds a small flock of female red-wings popped up on the reeds.

 14. ducks-kabIn the lake before us the mergansers swam and then I noticed a pair of Canvasbacks with them. They are in the front of the mergansers on the right hand side in the photo above. If you click on the photo you can enlarge it for a better view.

15. common mergansers-kab Nap time for mergansers on Roper Lake!


16. brewer's black-kab Brewer’s Blackbirds on utility pole and wires.

Since it was long after noontime Chris and I decided we needed to get going for we still had Greenlee County to get to. On our way out of the park we spotted these Brewer’s Blackbirds up on the wires. Chris had picked up a list of common species seen at the lake from the visitor’s center on our way in. Brewer’s Blackbirds were not on that list, and of course, at first we considered grackles or Red-wings, but these birds did not have the long wedge-shaped tails of grackles or the shorter tail of red wings. Plus, if you look very closely at the photo you can just see a bit of the hint of their white eyes. Red-wings do not have white eye but Brewer’s do.

17. blackbirds-kab There were only six of them and they watched us as we drove away.

Before we left Graham county we drove around the streets of Safford counting birds. Thankfully there are a few eBirders in this county counting birds, but I found it fascinating that no one had recorded pigeons in this county yet and they were all over town. As a result, Chris and I have the first record of Rock Pigeons in Graham County for this year! I feel this is important, because you do not have a complete picture of the birds in an area unless you count them all! Most bird counts are done at eBird Hotspots. I like to count there, but I also submit counts from parking lots and town parks as well, or even just from driving the streets!

18. on the road-kab Soon we were on the road again and headed for Greenlee County, the county with no bird lists to date. We pulled off onto the side of the highway when we saw the Gila River below us,

19. gila river-kab and though this looked like a promising spot, it did not feel like a safe place to park or to try to scramble down those steep slopes! So, we got back in the car and continued on our way.

20. BT sparrow-kab We pulled off into the picnic area at a spot called Three-way where there is also a ranger station. I have been here before and counted birds and it proved to be a good spot today. We saw dozens of sparrows here, as well as a Northern Harrier and a Say’s Phoebe. These were out first species for the Greenlee County list!

We followed the road north into Clifton and counted birds along the way, stopping at a small park near a railroad track and a river where we actually found a Lincoln’s Sparrow and a Black Phoebe, among other birds!

21. morenci mine-kab On through Clifton we traveled until we reached Morenci and the Morenci mine. Up and up  we drove with numerous switchbacks and curves. soon the mine was all around us and still the road continued. I have only been here one other time with Gus right before we moved away in 2010. As we neared the top I could see where the mine has spread even since then, erasing the green forest with the copper and turquoise colored steps and slopes of open pit mining. These gorgeous colors are poison to the earth and we saw absolutely no birds up here where we stopped at the Public Viewing area.

22. trucks-kab We could see the large trucks hauling ore up the mountainside and I could feel the rumble beneath my feet as I stood gazing out over the steps of the mine. All I could think of was the proposed Rosemont Mine that is set to go in on the slopes of the Santa Rita Mountains just on the other side of Madera Canyon. Will this soon be our view there as well? Will the Rosemont Mine soon chase the birds and antelope from the Santa Rita Mountains and Las Cienegas National Conservation Area? Only time will tell. Rosemont only needs on more permit to start operations. With a heavy heart I turned the car around and Chris and I headed back through town.

23. morenci street-kab I thought we were all done counting birds but when I saw this sign in the town of Morenci I just had to stop and take a picture. It turns out the sign is at the end of a road into a baseball field and park and as I parked to snap a picture Chris heard a Ruby-crowned kinglet in a nearby tree. He bolted from the car to pursue the bird, so I backed down the hill and parked. We were counting birds again! We named this location “Wild Kitten Park” since it is officially called Wild Kitten Field on the park sign!

24. wild kitten park-kab We walked around the outside of the fenced ball field and counted birds in this hollow. A few grackles, doves and starlings flew overhead,

25. sparrows-kab while on the steep slopes we counted a flock of 50 white-crowned sparrows!


26. clifton church-kab As we drove back down through the town of Clifton we photographed some of the historic architecture along the way.

27. sunset-kab Every good birding day in Arizona ends with a gorgeous sunset, and today was no exception! This was our view along Highway 191 as we headed back toward Safford. We ate at a local restaurant in Safford, then Chris drove us the rest of the way home. I was exhausted but so happy we had come, even though it did start to feel a bit gloomy towards the end of the day up in the mining towns. And the gloom was not just because of the weather!

These are the bird we recorded in all of Greenlee County on February 3, 2013:

  1. Common Raven-along Highway 191
  2. Northern Harrier-Three Way
  3. Says Phoebe
  4. Brewer’s sparrow
  5. Black-throated Sparrow
  6. White-crowned sparrow
  7. Vesper Sparrow
  8. House Finch
  9. Loggerhead Shrike-Clifton (seen along side road by Chris only)
  10. Northern Cardinal
  11. Eurasian Collared dove
  12. Mallard
  13. Black Phoebe
  14. Lincoln Sparrow
  15. House sparrow
  16. Ruby-crowned Kinglet-Wild Kitten Park
  17. European Starling
  18. Great-tailed Grackle

Note: Bold lettering denotes each new location where a new species was recorded. Some species were seen at several locations.

Update! I just checked the eBird Top 100 and another person has started submitting checklists from Greenlee county. Some of her lists are backdated to January 27, so she now has the first bird count in this county, but until last week or so only Chris and my lists had been submitted. There are now 28 species listed for Greenlee County for this year. This is good. The more people submitting checklists, the better! Especially since Chris and I cannot drive over there every week!


  1. I love your photography as always Kathie

  2. More stunning scenic images Kathie and with quite an unusual basic colour.

    1. Roy, I am sure it seem quite foreign to your English "green" sensibilities! Believe me, it is quite different from New England as well, but it has its own beauty!

  3. Thank you for sharing your journeys, I enjoy them so much. I love to see the images as well as your thoughts along the way.

  4. Kathie, I really love the mountain scenes in your photos. Along with all the cute birds of course. It is wonderful that you and Chris are able to go out birding together. I enjoy reading about your outings. Have a great day!

    1. Eileen, thank you so much! The mountains are gorgeous!

  5. Hi Katie...My goodness quite different then Maine in winter isn't it !!
    Gorgeous country with a lovely color palette!!
    Katie can find bird just about anywhere she goes ; ) some familiar and a few not!! I would like to see a Shoveler shoveling LOL!!
    That last shot is just stunning!!
    Thanks so much for your kind comment on my osts!!

    1. Grammie G, thank YOU for your visit! and yes, much different than a New England winter but still some snow!

  6. I love these reports, they are always so interesting. Have a great weekend Kathie!

  7. This looks like a great day out although it makes my heart heavy to think about the black cloud of the Rosemont Mine looming over us.

  8. Hi Kathie

    I found this post quite interesting the shots of the mine were quite striking although as you mentioned they translate into a poisoned devastated landscape that will take generations to recover.

    All the best.

    1. Guy, I am glad you found it interesting! That is a great compliment! Thank you!

  9. Kathie, it was a pleasure to read about your birding adventure and view the stunning images. Great job of counting birds in areas not often listed on eBird.

    1. Julie, I love to bird where no one else is birding! I feel it does the most good!

  10. I like the idea of entering e-bird lists at locations where no one has submitted one yet.It's a nice way to share information about a spot that others may not know about.Beautiful scenery shots and I like that phto of the Shoveler. I only see those ducks once in a great while.

    1. Larry, thank you! I'm glad you liked the shoveler. We have hundreds at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson. You would love it here!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.