Camp Creek and Salt River Granite Reef Recreation Area. 5 and 6 Dec 2020.

This weekend I was invited to bird around Needle Rock, in specifically an area called “Camp Creek”, which is an absolutely fantastic riparian area that meanders through cottonwood and mesquite up to the Rio Verde river. The trailhead here is 19 miles {25 minutes} from Roundhouse. I arrived around 730AM and it was a chilly 42F. I was soon joined by three birders, two of which I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time. It’s really wonderful to bird in new areas with experienced birdwatchers, especially ones that have such a good ear and can help me learn the calls of species like Gray Flycatcher and Hutton’s Vireo.

Many people ask me if I’ll miss the green and if I get tired of all the “brown” in the desert. Above is another example of why I say “No”…there is a lot of green and yellow and other colors in the desert…you just have to look for it and get out of the urban concrete jungle of Phoenix. We birded our way through this riparian area and tallied several great species along the way, like Red-naped Sapsucker, Phainopepla, Harris’s Hawk, Lesser Goldfinch, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.

Above is just one view of the dry riverbed area leading to the Rio Verde. I would love to have truckloads of these rocks to beautify my yard. Below is one of two Hutton’s Vireos we had…these are uncommon enough to be flagged as Rare in eBird, presumably year-round. This is a really tricky species to pick out when you’re also surrounded by dozens Ruby-crowned Kinglets!

Below is a Brown Creeper. These are reported fairly regularly in Maricopa County, but I had not yet seen one in over ten years of intermittent birding here. Since moving here in August, I knew it was only a matter of time. This species is extremely rare in Jacksonville/Northeast Florida – I had only seen one there ever.

Some more views of the area around the Rio Verde. Along the river below, we saw Killdeer, Osprey, a Cassins/Plumbeous Vireo, two Spotted Sandpipers, an American Pipit, a Gray Flycatcher, Common Raven, Vermilion Flycatcher, Say’s Phoebe, Back Phoebe, and Bewick’s Wren

The Gray Flycatcher is below.

My birding friends gave me some direction to the goose spot in Scottsdale, so Marie and I dropped by in the afternoon after running some errands. In addition to hundreds of Canada Goose, we saw the Tundra Swan, two Greater White-fronted Goose (below), several Ross’s Goose, several Snow Goose, and a Burrowing Owl.

Tundra Swan head (below, middle)

Burrowing Owl

On Sunday, we decided to head to Granite Reef Recreation Area to see about ticking the Trumpeter Swans. Two wild swan species in twenty four hours? The closest you’d get to multiple swans in Florida is counting the “pets” at Lake Eola in Orlando. : ) Granite Reef Rec Area is 44 miles / 46 minutes from Roundhouse. I had birded here years ago one morning before heading to the airport on my way back to Jax, so had some general familiarity with the area. The “red mountain” pictured below is reminiscent of Sedona.

We hiked the area for three hours and tallied 50+ species, including Merlin, Sora, Wilson’s Snipe, Vermilion Flycatcher, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Blue-gray and Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Greater Roadrunner, Western Bluebird, Red-naped Sapsuckers, Gila Woodpeckers, and more. Marie and I stopped to build a cairn, which is something we always enjoy doing. It’s relaxing and sort of like rock jenga. Note there is a perched Bald Eagle in the image below, across the river and to the bottom-ish right.

The stars of the show below: Trumpeter Swans!

So a couple great days hiking and birding. I was shown the ropes on a new area, picked up several new county birds, and met some wonderful people. In three months living here, I’m still seeing gulls (Herring, Ring-billed, California), waders (Roseate Spoonbill included!), shorebirds, massive amounts of waterfowl with even greater diversity than NE Florida, and plenty of woodpeckers, flycatchers, and sparrows. I do miss Blue Jays and Pileated Woodpeckers already.

I’ll leave you with a coyote shot from the backyard. I saw this guy about two weeks ago and got a decent shot. We hear them all the time, and saw a pack of nine this morning casually wandering around the street and golf course on the way out this morning.

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