Monday, March 31, 2014


Montaña de Oro was spectactular yesterday morning; powerful waves pounded the rocky cliffs.  Along the Bluff Trail the abundant coyote bush sparkled from last night's brief rain.  I was traveling light, only a camera and my trusty iPod Touch.

The Pigeon Guillemots were calling to each other; they have a very high pitched whistle.  The water was so rough it was difficult to see them.  Soon they will be nesting in the cliffs.  Heard and saw several Calif. Quail.  Wrentit were singing about every quarter mile. 
 A flock of Pelagic Cormorant with a few of the larger Brandt's Cormorant were doing their morning preening.  I do believe I have never seen this rock without a flock of Pelagic Cormorants on it.  Not in the photo, lower down the rock, was a pair of Black Oystercatcher.  Both the Pelagic and Brandt's Cormorant nest on Morro Rock.  The Pelagic also nests on narrow ledges of Montaña de Oro's cliffs.  Counting the gulls and Cormorants, only observed 10 species of birds. 

From my observations along the trail, land birds were scarce; the on-going drought is taking its toil on our bird population.  Birds that were missing, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow (always singing this time of year), Bewick's Wren (no males singing from atop a bush), Say's and Black Phoebe (no insects for them to eat), Anna's Hummer (nothing blooming), and no Hawks.  Along the Bluff Trail spring was silent.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Goat Camp Trail - White Tank Mountains.  I walked the gently meandering trail about a mile and a half through the most beautiful Arizona landscape I have seen.  In the above photo notice the abundance of holes in the Giant Saguaro; only two species of birds excavate these cavities, Gila Woodpecker and Gilded Flicker.  The Flicker often digs several holes before finding just the right one for a nest; and each year excavates new nest holes.  Due to the abundance of holes several species of birds nest in the Saguaro cavities, for example: American Kestrel (saw one perched atop a Saguaro), Cactus Wren, Purple Marten, 3 species of owl.  I had the thrill of seeing both the Gila Woodpecker and the Gilded Flicker excavating nest holes in the Giant Saguaro.
Spring was showing its colors, Brittle Bush (Encelia farinosa) (above), many species of tiny flowers, creosote bush, poppies, and some cacti were blooming.  The abundance of Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus (below), known as the jumping cactus, tends to keep one on the trail.  Get anywhere near the Cholla and a clump of it will magically attach itself to your body.  To seed itself, the Cholla drops little spiny clumps.  If you take a misstep, one will grab on to your shoe or leg (ouch!).
My trip to Arizona was to visit family who live a bit west of Phoenix.  Nearby are two of my favorite birding areas,  the Tres Rios Wetland and Estrella Regional Park.

The Tres Rios Wetland  is located off 91st St. across from the Phoenix waste water treatment facility.  Birds of note were, Thousands of Yellow-headed and Red-winged Blackbirds nesting in the reeds; Cinnamon Teal, Ring-billed Duck, an Osprey perched in a Cottonwood, precious Verdin nesting in Palo Verde Trees, and the treat of the day, 2 soaring Black Vultures.

Estrella Park, 18 miles Southwest of Phoenix offers 33 miles of trails.  On a two mile hike observed Gambels Quail, Phanopepla, Gila Woodpecker excavating a hole in a Saguaro, and the bird of the day, a first time sighting of a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.  Birding was excellent in Arizona.