Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Uphill and Down in the Valley

Gambel's Quail 
My body must still be on Louisville time. I have been waking up around 5 am each day so far. We weren't sure when to meet our birding trip leader this morning, and went outside around 7 am. The condos have a few areas of native plant, and we found a covey of cute little Gambel's Quails enjoying the sun and chowing down on grass seeds. What a great way to start the day!
Huckaby Trail
Then we joined Dena Greenwood from Jay's Bird Barn, who leads a bird walk every week as a service for the store (which is a fantastic idea, by the way). After we finished, several people went into the store and spent $$, including yours truly. We started at one of the upland trails where Dena identified several birds by ear, but many of them were too far away to see. She became a grandmother again 2 days ago, and today was her birthday, so she's very dedicated. In addition, she plans all the field trips for the birding festival.
Western Scrub Jay
A Western Scrub Jay followed us around for a while, squawking like all jays...
Bewick's Wren
...while a Bewick's Wren serenaded us on the trail. The Bewick's Wren (pronounced like the Buick car) strongly resembles a House Wren, but has a striking white eyebrow. This little guy protected his territory from any other wrens in the neighborhood.
Cactus Blossom
This trail hosted many desert flowers in bloom. I took photos of many of them, of course, but it will take a while to identify them. This bright pink cactus blossom was the most dramatic.
Say's Phoebe
We next drove down to the Sedona Rancho RV Park, which is on private property right on Oak Creek - a very pleasant place to stay among the cottonwood trees. Carefully skirting the huge RV's, we followed a pair of Say's Phoebes as they gathered bugs and cottonwood fuzz for a nest.
House Wren
Many house wrens were singing in the park, but this little guy was the most determined to chase us away. When he sang, his whole body quivered! Notice the lack of a white eyebrow.
Summer Tanager
The Summer Tanagers have just arrived, and they are brighter red than just about anything, especially when perched in front of a white sycamore tree.
Great Blue Heron
But we went to this location to see the Great Blue Heron rookery. About 5 nests are found in the tall cottonwood trees next to Oak Creek. As you can imagine, the owners and residents at the RV Park are not happy with the situation. They hung shining metal streamers to scare the birds away, but no luck. They built platforms in other trees not in the middle of the park, to encourage them to move, and again no luck. The birds are protected by Federal law, so the people are at a disadvantage. The birds think the park is a great place too.
Great Blue Heron Nest
It was exciting to see these large birds swoop into the trees with sticks for the nest or food for the young. The nests are protected from the sun by the leaves, and the chicks have grown quickly.
Great Blue Heron Chick
My favorite was this chick with the Mohawk feather-do. The nests must be at least 70-80 feet up in the tree, trying to zoom in and focus a shot was a real challenge. Tomorrow the bird festival begins.

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