During our recent trip to Arizona, Gail and I had a car and a few hours to ourselves on the morning after Kelly and Jason’s wedding. So we decided to drive at least a tiny portion of the scenic Apache Trail through the Superstition Mountains. We only made it as far as Tortilla Flat, so we were able to stay on paved road. Here are a few shots of the beautiful terrain.
At Tortilla Flat I noticed a few birds flying. At first I thought a black one with a long tail was a Great-tailed Grackle, which we see all the time in Scottsdale/Tempe/Phoenix. But this one had a prominent show of white in its underwing, a red eye, and a spiky head. It was a Phainopepla! A life bird for us! We had our binoculars with us so we could see details, but unfortunately we did not have our big camera and long lens. Our pix are from a point and shoot.
As we were oohing and aahing, we heard the familiar song and tapping of a woodpecker. But, what!? In the Sonoran Desert!? We looked to the sound and in a far away Saguaro cactus saw another life bird. The Gila Woodpecker! It was doing its thing, making its nest on the side of the cactus, where it will later forage for food. Sorry the pictures are so poor, but we know it’s the bird because it’s the only woodpecker that lives in this part of the country.
And finally, one our way back, we stopped on the side of the road to take a closer look at a large black bird sitting on a post. We figured it was a Common Raven until we saw the white ring around its neck. We took good enough pictures to later identify it as a Chihuahuan Raven, which happened to be in the northernmost part of its range, an unusual find. We may never see it again. Life bird number three in one day!
We did not intend to go birding during this trip, which was all about Kelly and Jason’s wedding. But funny how when you least expect it, you can be so wonderfully surprised!
It was a short but beautiful ride. I hope to drive more of it some day, with an off-road four-wheel drive for the unpaved part of the Apache Trail. And next time, we’ll bring our good camera and lens!