Sunday, June 9, 2013

Misery on Mt. Ord but Serenity in Sunflower

1. view Mt. Ord-kab On the slopes of Mt. Ord 5-4-13
May 4, 2013: I arouse in the dark of a Sunday morning rolling out of bed at 3 a.m. and questioning my sanity. Why, exactly, was I getting up at this ungodly hour? Because I was going birding with my friend, Chris Rohrer, and my new friend, Gordon K. in Maricopa county. Why, you might ask, was this such a Big Deal to me? Because I only had 75 species on my Maricopa County Life List and I wanted to bring it up over 100 species. In a discussion I had with my husband the day before he doubted I could see 25 new species in one day, but I had high hopes. Until now I had only birded at Gilbert Water ranch and Encanto Park. This would be a while new habitat and I would be birding with people who knew what to look for and what they were seeing. Since we were to meet Gordon and another birder, Mark Ochs, in Chandler, AZ at 6 a.m. I had to leave my house by 4 to pick Chris up by 4:30 so we could be there by 6. I did try my best and we were only 20 minutes late.
2. bushtit-kab Bushtit
We were on the slopes of Mt. Ord before 7:30. It still felt a bit chilly when we arrived and I was wishing I had a jacket. Little did I know I would soon long for that coolness. On the lower slopes we started our day with Black-chinned sparrows, Scott’s Orioles and a stray Virginia’s Warbler at low elevation, a Life Bird for both Chris and I. As we traveled up the mountain the day grew warmer and soon I was shedding my light sweater and seeking shade.
3. graces warbler-kab Grace’s Warbler on trail
We counted birds all along the dirt road as we travelled higher and higher up the slopes. Eventually we parked the car and walked along a trail that cut across the western face of Mount Ord. Here tall pines towered over us and cast a cooling shade. Warblers, vireos, and towees were all around us. Overhead a Zone-tailed hawk swooped by. It was getting hotter and I was getting hungry, yet we kept on.
4. Mt path-kab I liked the sound of wind in the trees and the smell of pine needles baking in the sun. I liked the look of the dirt path meandering through the trees. I liked this feeling of being outside in the wild far removed from the constructs of man.
4. redstart-kab We all stopped when we heard and then saw a Painted Redstart overhead.
5. plumbeous vireo-kab Plumbeous Vireos were everywhere!
6. lizard-kab While the lizards were basking in the sunshine I was melting. The building heat was quickly sapping my strength and my enthusiasm, but I kept on. It was afternoon time by now and I kept hoping we would take a break and eat the lunches we had all packed, but I was soon to learn, these three men did not stop birding for anything! We reached a point on the trail where it emerged onto a treeless slope and, though it went a bit farther into the scrub, our chances of seeing anything new were slim, so we hiked back to the car and opened the trunk where we all grabbed drinks and snacks, then climbed back into the car and headed farther up the mountain.
7. WETA-kab I remember stopping to view a few Tanangers and wrens along the way. We found a small flock of violet-green swallows swooping over our heads.
8. poison ivy-kab In one cool and shady little drainage I was surprised to discover poison ivy. I did not know there was poison ivy in Arizona. Finally we made it to the last parking lot and had to hike the final mile to the top. Before we headed up I grabbed a bag of cheese popcorn from the trunk. It was bloated like a baloon formt he elevation change. I popped it open and gobbled a few handfuls. Then, after a quick drink of juice I slid my camera onto my shoulder and fastened my bins on my chest. Under a blazing sun we headed up the mountain. The guys went off like they were fresh as the morning. I walked slowly moving from shade patch to shade patch. At one point I felt so miserable I leaned against the thick and bumpy truck of an alligator juniper. In the cool shade I felt my stomach bloating as if it would explode. It flet like that bag of popcorn looked! I was totally fatigued and was having trouble thinking clearly. I was also embarrassed. I never get bloated like this but I did not want the guys to know how I was feeling. How would I explain this? While I know Chris well enough to be comfortable with him, this was only my second time birding with Gordon and I didn’t know Mark at all. The guys were far ahead of me by now. I struggled out of the shade and headed farther up the mountain. soon I saw Chris coming back to check on me. together we walked the rest of the way to the top. I don’t remember much of what I saw at the top other than the other side of the mountain with a view of Roosevelt Lake. I did not take any pictures since everything was so hazy from dust blown up by the strong winds gusting over the valley. When we finally got back to the car I was so thankful to get inside and have the cool air conditioning blowing. We drove down the dusty dirt road and headed for a paved road in a nearby area called Sunflower.
9. summer tananger-kab Here we pulled off the road where a cool creek tumbles slowly along with towering sycamore trees overhead. In one white barked tree we found a summer tananger looking gloriously red against the turquoise blue sky.
10. black hawk nest-kab Across the street a pair of Common Black-hawks were nesting in another sycamore tree. We observed them from a distance as one hawk flew in and the other flew out. Who knew I would ever see nesting Black Hawks! It was after 3 p.m. by now and being down here in this cool shade was making me feel better. I finally realized we were never going to have a “lunch break” so when we parked the car at a cement barrier where the road continued on I finally took out my tuna fish sandwich and ate half of it. Soon after this I started to feel better. The road continued along the flowing creek. Birds were all around us and overhead as well. Being with three men makes relieving myself a bit of a challenge. All day long I had to let them wander ahead and then duck into the trees. This time I let them go in search of a zone-tailed hawk nest Gordon knew of that was farther up the road while I slipped down the bank towards the creek. After taking care of what was necessary I walked into the cooling water of the creek with my Teva sandals and let the water flow over my feet. I stood there quiet and peaceful in the shade and let the forest renew my strength. I never did see the zone-tailed’s nest, though I did see them soaring overhead. I met the guys back up on the road and we all headed back to the car.
11. canyon wren-kab As we neared the place where our car was parked we heard the clear tumbling notes of a Canyon Wren. We soon spotted it singing from a rocky ledge overhead, then it flew down into a bush. We all snapped away but it was still quite a distance from us and little more than an white-breasted orange dot in the frame. Still, it was Chris’ best view ever of this species. 12. zonetailed hawk-kab 
We headed back to Chandler as the sun sank low in the sky. Once back in my car Chris and I went over the events of the day. It was then that Chris told me he had been so miserable and bloated at the top of Mt. Ord. He also had felt tired and sick and hot and exhausted. I remember the “bloated” bag of cheese popcorn and couldn’t help but think the events were related. I told Chris I had felt the same way as well and wondered what was going on. I told him I was so glad he told me that, because I would have been too embarrassed to tell him. The next day when I related these events to my oldest son who goes hiking in the mountains all the time, he told me we had altitude sickness! While I knew about altitude sickness I did not reco9gnize the symptoms in myself. I knew altitude sickness could make you tired and disoriented and have a headache, but I did not know it could cause that kind of bloating. Plus, it didn’t make sense to me since I have been up Mt. Lemmon, a 9000 foot mountain, numerous times without any problem. Mt. Ord is much lower in elevation. By my son told me that when he first started hiking Sabino Canyon that would happen to him until he adjusted. He theorized it was because we were exercising and not just driving up the mountain. And suddenly it all made sense. I called Chris and explained what happened to us! He was as surprised as I was.
13. dreaming-kab While I will always remember Mt. Ord as a hazy, hot blurry kind of day, I will also remember that it was beautiful and full of birds, and between Mt. Ord and Sunflower I saw so many new species of birds in Maricopa County that I went well over my goal of seeing 25 new species there. By the end of the day I ended up with 120 species for my Life List in Maricopa County having added 45 species for the day! I would definitely go back again, but this time I will make sure to go when its cooler and eat a lot sooner, guys or no guys! Lesson learned!
New species Seen in Maricopa County on 5-4-2013
  1. Black Vulture-these species seen along highway
  2. Red-tailed Hawk
  3. Common Raven
  4. Phainopepla
  5. Sharp-shinned Hawk-this and following species seen on Mount Ord
  6. Zone-tailed Hawk
  7. Broad-billed Hummingbird
  8. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  9. western Wood Pewee
  10. Cordilleran Flycatcher
  11. Ash-throated Flycatcher
  12. Cassin’s Kingbird
  13. Western Kingbird
  14. Plumbeous Vireo
  15. Hutton’s Vireo
  16. Western Scrub jay
  17. Bridled Titmouse
  18. Bushtit
  19. White-breasted Nuthatch
  20. Bewick’s wren
  21. Virginia's Warbler
  22. grace’s Warbler
  23. Black-throated gray warbler
  24. Painted Redstart
  25. Spotted Towhee
  26. Rufous-crowned Sparrow
  27. chipping Sparrow
  28. Black-chinned Sparrow
  29. Hepatic Tanager
  30. Western Tanager
  31. Scott’s oriole
  32. Acorn woodpecker
  33. Hammond’s Flycatcher
  34. Violet-green Swallow
  35. House Wren
  36. Western Bluebird
  37. Townsend’s Warbler
  38. Common Black-hawk- these species added in Sunflower
  39. Willow Flycatcher
  40. Bell’s Vireo
  41. Canyon Wren
  42. Lucy’s Warbler
  43. Summer Tanager
  44. Northern Cardinal
  45. Hooded Oriole
Note: While some of these species were seen in several locations I have listed them in the order they were first sighted throughout the day. Of course we saw other species as well but these are just the new species added to my Maricopa County List.


  1. Kathie, what a great outing except for the sickness. Your photos and birds are beautiful. A nice list of sightings too. Great post.

    1. Eileen, when it was happening I wasn't so sure it was worth it, but now I am!

  2. When ever you go out to bird Always take salty snacks. I know you always carry water too. But altitude sickness can catch anyone. Glad you got to add so many beautiful birds to your list despite feeling sick. The other macho men probably felt it to but didn't say anything.

    1. Gaelyn, do they help? It's funny, but I do tend to crave them after hiking in the heat but I never thought about it helping with altitude!

  3. Elevation or not Kathie, you really need a good breakfast inside of you before a days birding like that. Its the best meal of the day.

    1. Roy, I actually had the guys stop for me at a fast food chain before we headed up to the mountains and I was the only one who wanted to eat!

  4. Wow! Thats an awfully impressive one day list.

    1. troutbirder, yes it was and it was worth it!

  5. Kathie, what an unfortunate experience! I was not allowed over 6000', even at that altitude I fall asleep. Now it is even less as my heart has deteriorated so much. I loce the mountains so much so it is a bit of a handicap.
    Love your birds and the best thing you could do was to stand in the flowing water and find peace.

    1. Arija, it would be hard not to go up to the mountains! I am so sorry! I hope you enjoy the view through my yes then! I will take you there whenever I can!

  6. While reading your post, I did not once consider your discomfort to altitude sickness. I live in northern CO and know about this illness. Glad to hear it was not anything more serious. Enjoyed your post and your photos.

    1. Sheila, I learned about altitude sickness when I was a volunteer for the Boulder county parks and open spaces when I lived in CO, but I did not recognize the symptoms in myself!

  7. I'm glad that both you and Chris are feeling better Kathie, I have seen the effects on people not used to altitude on tourists going up Mt Evans and Pikes Peak, they looked like they felt dreadful.

    Love the birds images you took and the story too.

    1. Mia, I clicked on your blog! Your photos are beautiful!!!
      Loveland, CO

    2. Mia, I have as well and I have had to drive my husband down the mountains when he had it, but I did not recognize the symptoms in myself and thought it was only because of the heat!

  8. Now I really feel bad about putting you through this. I do agree that a cooler day in the future will be a blessing. Great set of photos by the way!

    1. Gordon, thank you! I had a mostly good time but did feel quite miserable the last mile up at the top but I did not wan to hold anybody up so I didn't say anything. Silly me. Thank you for showing me this place.

  9. Oh, Kathie, sorry you got sick up there, better altitude sickness than 'attitude' sickness!! Again, your acccompanying photos were just delightful. Almost as good as being there in person. I was especially enamoured with the Painted Redstart!!

  10. Are you visiting New England right now? Hope the rain stays away!!


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.