Sunday, July 19, 2015

High-elevation Hijinks

Last weekend, Caleb Strand, my younger brother Dalton, and I trekked (well, drove) up to Yavapai County for a weekend of birding.  Our targets were Mississippi Kite, Wood Duck (a very long overdue lifer), any owls, and Mexican Whip-poor-will.  The forecast showed heavy thunderstorms, so we figured our birding might be compromised.

When birding in Yavapai County, it is important to always be prepared for the best/worst.  Flash flooding and heavy rain definitely limited our birding.

First, we headed up to Chino Valley to look for an active Mississippi Kite nest.  I will not disclose the location, I don't want to jeopardize the birds.  Caleb managed to find the nest, and we photographed the female on her nest.

Caleb had a MIKI in St. David before the YB camp, but his looks were not good, and he didn't get any photos.  We were really happy with these looks.  As we were preparing to leave, to our surprise the Kite flew off the nest and landed in someone's front yard.


These looks were pretty face-melting, and I was hardly able to contain my excitement at such perfect looks and great shots at such a hard-to-get species.

We were having some crazy good luck.  We continued on to my uncle's house in the forest, unpacked, and prepared for owling, and my brother Dalton came along with us.

We drove out to Kendall Camp Trail to start our owling.  Owling was a bust, we only heard 4 Great Horned Owls.  We missed our main target, the Mexican Whip-poor-will.  Caleb and I sensed that this bird was becoming a bit of a nemesis, which it now officially is.

Caleb and I helped two intoxicated guys way out there in the boonies separate their quads, which somehow they had managed to smash and tangle together.  I can't imagine how. . .

Next day, we skipped over to Watson Woods Riparian Preserve to bird HARD!

Right away, we got Dalton his #400 lifer Indigo Bunting!  We always bird at a crazy pace, and we often end up exhausted.

Then, bunting activity exploded!  We had tons of Lazuli Buntings all around us.

Then, the Indigo Buntings came in even closer.  These buntings are a very snazzy species, and buntings are quickly climbing their way up the ladder of my favorite bird groups, especially given my recent PABU-INBU-LAZB trio of great looks and photos.

We kept birding, and had a bunch of the regular and expected species.

My main target was the Wood Duck, a bird that I have missed over and over.  Watson Lake is probably the best spot in Yavapai for this species.

Thanks to Caleb, I got looks as a young male scurried for cover!  Nemesis over!  We waited for the WODU to emerge from its reeds.

This nemesis was becoming sort of a joke, it was nice to tick it off my list.

We then went to Lynx Lake for a quick lunch at the Cafe.  We found some Acorn Woodpeckers (WOOHOO, not), and checked out out the hummingbird feeders.  Nothing good, no surprise.

We headed over to Granite Basin Lake to look for some Pygmy-Owls.  The heavens then opened a torrential downpour on us and we aborted our mission.

Back to surprisingly non-rainy Watson Lake.  The next highlight was a pair of Common Black-Hawks.  One was a young bird, which was very skittish and took off as we approached.  The other bird, an adult, was perched and screaming.

I was ecstatic to nab a photo lifer and get better looks than ever before!

Caleb knows his birds well, but I know how to photograph them.  I recommended we move to another vantage point, where we got even better looks.

It also divebombed us after we accidentally got too close to its nest!

After that, we walked back towards the car and picked up an early migrant Olive-sided Flycatcher, my second lifer of the day, and third of the trip including the Kite.

Next up was a second try at owling Kendall Camp Trail.  That was also aborted due to torrential rains and flash flood warnings.

Oh well, it was a fun trip, great photos, looks, and even three lifers!

Thanks to Caleb and Dalton for an awesome time!

Bird hard!



  1. Awesome post and photos (as usual) Walker!!! It was so much fun birding with you guys, we'll have to do it again soon. Thanks for the awesome time!

  2. Looks like a fantastic trip Walker with some great birds. The Kite for me was a nemesis. Hope they have a successful nesting period!