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Arizona Trip

05/27/2013

Last Wednesday night we had a major water main burst just outside of our neighborhood.  We were without water for most of the day and our major streets were closed.  So we decided to get the heck out of Dodge.  My wife has an aunt and uncle that live in Phoenix, so we decided to go there.  We left early Friday in our most spontaneous trip ever.

We went South to catch Route 60 in Socorro and drive past the Very Large Array.  As a space and science geek from way back, this is one of the big spots that I’ve wanted to visit since moving to New Mexico 2 years ago.  The other was Meteor Crater, but we saw that amazing place on a previous trip.  Just before we got to the VLA I saw a haw sitting on a telephone pole and pulled over to take a closer look.

Red-Tailed Hawk, New Mexico

Red-Tailed Hawk, New Mexico

It ended up being a Red-Tailed Hawk that had something in it’s beak.  We watched it fly down behind some trees just behind the pole.  We continued on and soon enough we got our first look at the VLA.

VLA, New Mexico

VLA, New Mexico

VLA, New Mexico

VLA, New Mexico

VLA, New Mexico

VLA, New Mexico

VLA, New Mexico

VLA, New Mexico

Ah, it was so cool!  I couldn’t believe the scale of the place and all of the dishes.  And they were almost continuously moving around at different parts of the sky.  We didn’t spend too long there, but bought some souvenirs and continued on our way.  On the way out we saw a herd of Pronghorn grazing near the dishes.

VLA, New Mexico

VLA, New Mexico

And they have a Very Large Garage for dish maintenance!

Ah, it was so cool!  I couldn't believe the scale of the place and all of the dishes.  And they were almost continuously moving around at different parts of the sky.  We didn't spend too long there, but bought some souvenirs and continued on our way

Very Large Garage, VLA New Mexico

A few hours West brought us to White River Canyon.  It’s a really nice drive down into a canyon and then back out again. I’d like to spend more time there in the future.

White River Canyon, Arizona

White River Canyon, Arizona

White River Canyon, Arizona

White River Canyon, Arizona

And as we exited the Superstitious Mountains we started seeing lots of Saguaros, including these during one of our countless pit-stops.

Saguaro Cacti, Arizona

Saguaro Cacti, Arizona

While we were busy on the side of the road, a Turkey Vulture buzzed us.

TV, Roadside Arizona

TV, Roadside Arizona

Shortly after this we stopped in Mesa or Chandler for dinner for pizza and to watch the Penguins close out the series against the Sens.  I got to stream the beginning of the game in the fan via my phone using 4G and Bluetooth.  Technology is really something.

We made it to my wife’s family’s house after 12+ hours of driving.  My kids stayed awake almost the entire trip.  They both finally fell asleep about 20 minutes before arriving.  But I was up and out early the next day to see some birds.  I got a tip to check out the Gilbert Riparian Preserve, which was 45 minutes away from where we were staying.  But I managed to get 2 life birds before I got coffee.  There was a Gila Woodpecker nesting in a Saguaro in the front yard of the house where we were seeing.  And while driving I saw a Harris’ Hawk sitting on a telephone pole and I pulled over to get a look.

Harris' Hawk, Scottsdale AZ

Harris’ Hawk, Scottsdale AZ

I finally made it to the Preserve and I was very impressed.  It was really large and well-laid out, but not as birdy as I had hoped.  I only added Abert’s Towhee,  Inca Dove, Verdin and a Bonaparte’s Gull to my year list.  But I got to see some really good birds in action.  Lots of chicks were around and their parent’s were doing their best to keep me away.

Brown-Headed Cowbird, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Brown-Headed Cowbird, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Northern Mockingbird, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Northern Mockingbird, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Gila Woodpecker, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Gila Woodpecker, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Black-necked Stilt Chick, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Black-necked Stilt Chick, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Neotropic Cormorant, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Neotropic Cormorant, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

And this immature raptor, I think that it’s a Northern Harrier, flew over, but I didn’t get too good a look at it.

Northern Harrier, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Northern Harrier, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Great Blue Heron on nest, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Great Blue Heron on nest, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Great Egret and Great Blue Heron, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Great Egret and Great Blue Heron, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Snowy Egrets, American Avocets, Great Egret, Neotropic Cormorants, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Snowy Egrets, American Avocets, Great Egret,  Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

And I got this photo of a Snowy Egret looking funny while chasing around another Snowy.

Snowy Egret on Ice, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Snowy Egret on Ice, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Bonaparte's Gull, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Bonaparte’s Gull, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

American Avocet, winter plumage, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

American Avocet, winter plumage, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Inca Dove, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Inca Dove, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Black-Chinned Hummingbird, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Black-Chinned Hummingbird, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

American Avocet Chicks, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

American Avocet Chicks, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

I got to see a few Verdin (Verdins) building nests, including this one

Verdin, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Verdin, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Osprey carrying a fish, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Osprey carrying a fish, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Abert's Towhee, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Abert’s Towhee, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

And there were lots of rabbits and other non-birds at the Preserve

Queen Butterfly, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Queen Butterfly, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Dragonfly, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Dragonfly, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Dragonfly, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

Dragonfly, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, AZ

I’d like to visit the Preserve again when migration is going on, it looks like it would be amazing.
The next morning my wife and I got up and went for a walk around her Aunt and Uncle’s house.  They live next to Lookout Mountain north of the city.  My goal was to see a hummingbird that wasn’t a Black-Chinned HB!

Gila Woodpecker, Lookout Mountain AZ

Gila Woodpecker, Lookout Mountain AZ

Gilded Flicker,  Lookout Mountain AZ

Gilded Flicker, Lookout Mountain AZ

Black-Chinned Hummingbird,  Lookout Mountain AZ

Black-Chinned Hummingbird, Lookout Mountain AZ

Gambel's Quail,  Lookout Mountain AZ

Gambel’s Quail, Lookout Mountain AZ

Ash-Throated Flycatcher,  Lookout Mountain AZ

Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Lookout Mountain AZ

After my wife went back to join the kids poolside, I continued on in my search for different hummingbirds.  I noticed a Red-Tailed Hawk flying overhead, minding it’s own business.

Red-Tailed Hawk,  Lookout Mountain AZ

Red-Tailed Hawk, Lookout Mountain AZ

And then a smaller bird was flying towards it and began attacking it.  What I had originally thought was a Peregrine Falcon, ended up being an American Kestrel, but still fun to watch.

American Kestrel and Red-Tailed Hawk,  Lookout Mountain AZ

American Kestrel and Red-Tailed Hawk, Lookout Mountain AZ

I had given up and decided to walk back to the house for a dip in the pool.  I was a street away when I saw a Hummingbird doing display flights.  It finally sat on a branch and let me get pretty close to it.  It had a dark gorget, but it wasn’t black.  I had to check the book to ID it, and it was a Costa’s!  He had great color that I couldn’t translate to photos.  But another lifer and my 5th different HB.

Costa's Hummingbird,  Lookout Mountain AZ

Costa’s Hummingbird, Lookout Mountain AZ

Costa's Hummingbird,  Lookout Mountain AZ

Costa’s Hummingbird, Lookout Mountain AZ

We ended up having a nice trip.  I really like the flora and fauna of Phoenix and Arizona.  I can do without the heat or the sprawl though.  My wife’s family babysat for us and we got to get out and hit a place that I’ve been looking to try for a while, Chino Bandito, which was on Food Network.  And we also got to try a local brewery and found a great little neighborhood bar that I wish we could have in Albuquerque.  And I learned that if you want good light, that you need to be up very early.

Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From → birding

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