We enjoyed a week of birding in beautiful Northern Arizona despite some very windy conditions on our first morning in the San Francisco Peaks that led to a large forest fire on the opposite side of the mountain. The Pipeline Fire forced us to rearrange our itinerary on a couple of subsequent days due to closed highways but we managed to squeeze in all the birds. The fire ended up burning over 26,000 acres and the scar left on the mountain is responsible for major flooding in parts of Flagstaff proper and several neighborhoods that will continue the rest of the summer.
After encountering Green-tailed Towhee, Dusky Flycatcher, Grace's Warbler, Mountain Bluebirds, Red-faced Warbler and a female Olive Warbler that day, we ventured south the next morning to a friend's property and the large sycamores and cottonwoods along gorgeous Oak Creek. Here we found perched Common Black Hawk, Vermilion Flycatcher, Bridled Titmice, Abert's Towhee, a few Yellow-breasted Chats, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Summer Tanagers, Phainopepla, and Blue Grosbeak. A stop at a water treatment facility yielded a rather close Zone-tailed Hawk. Heading into famed Oak Creek Canyon we stopped at a campground where one of the hosts has been feeding hummingbirds and we hoped to see a locally rare Rivoli's. We arrived to find the feeders abandoned and lying on the ground. We had brought a couple of bags of sugar as a donation to the host so we quickly poured some in the feeders, added water from the campground spigot and hung them up, and within 15 seconds a male Rivoli's appeared for a drink. Fantastic! Heading out from there, we found a nice Painted Redstart before driving back to Flagstaff, and a pair of Lewis's Woodpeckers just before one of the highway closures.
The following day found us heading northwest from Flagstaff to visit Grand Canyon National Park. About 20 minutes before reaching the park, a Pinyon Jay flew past and we spun around and headed back and were fortunate to find a good-sized flock of these gregarious birds that have been declining drastically in recent years. We took in the splendor of Grand Canyon from one of the most spectacular overlooks before heading to Grand Canyon Village. After finding a prime parking spot we walked to the canyon's rim and right below us was an adult California Condor also enjoying the view. This bird has become more difficult to find on the South Rim and with the highway to a more likely spot closed due to the fire it was fantastic to enjoy this magnificent species with the backdrop of Grand Canyon. As we worked our way east along the canyon, Ron spotted a Clark's Nutcracker and we saw a handful of Rock Wrens and Black-throated Gray Warbler. Just to the east of the park, in the pinyon and juniper woodland, we found Scott's Oriole, Gray Vireo, and Black-chinned Sparrow, three specialties of the area.
With an "extra" day thanks to our great condor sighting, we enjoyed a relaxing day of birding in the ponderosa pine forest closer to Flagstaff. We found Virginia's Warblers, a singing Olive-sided Flycatcher, and a much better male Olive Warbler which, after some recent taxonomic changes, is a species that is now the only member of its family. A pair of Hepatic Tanagers capped off the day. On our final day, we headed south to find some new species in the drier deserts. We were fortunate to get a scope view of the always tough Crissal Thrasher as well as a close Black-throated Sparrow, Cooper's Hawk, Abert's and Canyon towhees, Bullock's Orioles, and Gray Flycatcher.
The scenery throughout was great, and the company wonderful. I look forward to seeing all of you again soon.
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
There were many of these on the golf course near the motel and at a few other wetlands we visited.
CINNAMON TEAL (Spatula cyanoptera)
This handsome duck is pretty much only a western species.
GADWALL (Mareca strepera)
We saw a pair at the Kachina Wetlands and again at the Sedona Wetlands.
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Anas crecca)
We saw one at the Kachina Wetlands.
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
A late lingering bird was at the Sedona Wetlands.
BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)
A male that had been hanging around since the winter was at the Sedona Wetlands. It should have been gone several weeks ago.
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
A handful of males with bright blue bills were seen at the Kachina Wetlands.
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis)
A single bird in nice breeding plumage was at the Sedona Wetlands.
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
A rather uncommon species this far north in Arizona. We saw a single bird on our way to Oak Creek on our second morning.
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)
We saw a few amongst the canyon walls, but our best views were at the Sedona Wetlands.
RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)
We really scored this one at the campground in Oak Creek Canyon. We arrived to find the feeders neglected and lying on the ground. Having brought some sugar to donate to the campground host, we mixed up a batch of solution and filled a couple of the feeders and within 15 seconds a male Rivoli's appeared for a drink. This is as far north as this species normally reaches in the U.S.
BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)
We only saw a couple of these.
ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte anna)
A few were seen, with the best views at John and Becky's house.
BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus)
This was the most common hummingbird we encountered, with nice scope views at Hart Prairie on our first morning, then again here and there throughout the week.
VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola)
We heard about 3-4 at the Kachina Wetlands and many of us saw one run across a gap in the marsh vegetation.
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
We saw a handful here and there during the week.
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
We saw a couple of these well known birds at the Kachina Wetlands.
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
One was at the Kachina Wetlands on our first afternoon.
FRANKLIN'S GULL (Leucophaeus pipixcan)
Not many gulls are seen around Flagstaff in June, so it was unusual to find an adult at Ashurst Lake.
FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)
We saw one flying on the far side of Ashurst Lake but never got close to it.
NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)
There were two of these at the big pond at the Sedona Wetlands. This would have been a very rare bird here 15 years ago but they have really moved north in recent years.
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
Ones and twos were seen during the week and we saw some nests in Oak Creek Canyon.
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
A quite uncommon bird around Flagstaff; we saw one at the Kachina Wetlands on our first afternoon.
CALIFORNIA CONDOR (Gymnogyps californianus)
Arriving at Grand Canyon we scanned for a spell at Mather Point before going to the village. About two minutes after arriving, we walked to the Rim and right below us was a magnificent California Condor perched atop a rock. We enjoyed this close view for several minutes before it hopped to the edge, spread its wings and sailed off into the canyon and out of sight. It was a fantastic experience. The bird we saw, J1 on its wing tag, is a female hatched in foster care in April 2009 and released in September 2011 so it has been flying over Grand Canyon for eleven years! Yip! Yip! Yip!
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
We saw these everyday, including at Grand Canyon where we were searching for its larger cousin.
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
We saw two active nests and a handful of adults.
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)
A bird calling from the tall trees near Montezuma Well flew right over us.
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
We saw an adult from John and Becky's property along Oak Creek.
COMMON BLACK HAWK (Buteogallus anthracinus)
We had nice views of an individual perched in a large cottonwood at John and Becky's place along Oak Creek. Then we saw another flying above Beaver Creek.
ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)
A rather close individual came sailing in right over the larger pond at the Sedona Wetlands.
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
We saw a few of these familiar birds during the week.
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
It was a surprise to see this species in the trees surrounding Montezuma Well. There are only a few nesting season records for this species in the whole state.
WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus thyroideus)
A male made an appearance on our first morning in the field in the San Francisco Peaks.
LEWIS'S WOODPECKER (Melanerpes lewis)
Two of these great looking birds were hanging around a large snag that has been a nest tree in past years. This species is a quite unusual-looking woodpecker in both coloration and habits, and seems more like a small crow than a woodpecker when it flies.
ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)
We had a few of these colorful woodpeckers on a couple of the days.
GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis)
Nice views were obtained of a couple in the sycamores along lower Oak Creek.
LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER (Dryobates scalaris)
This is another species we saw in the riparian habitat at John and Becky's house.
HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)
We heard a few more than we saw, but had our best look near Picture Canyon.
NORTHERN FLICKER (RED-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus cafer)
We saw several during the week.
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
On our last evening, we made a stop at dusk at the pond near the motel and a Peregrine flew over heading home.
OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (Contopus cooperi)
We scoped a singing bird at the upper end of Oak Creek Canyon. This species never seems to be common anywhere.
WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus)
We heard a fair number and saw a few, with our first ones being seen at Hart Prairie.
GRAY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax wrightii)
We had a nice calling individual along the road in the mixed pine and juniper habitat.
DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax oberholseri)
This species was heard in fair numbers, and we saw two or three, but they must have been nesting and were trying to be inconspicuous in the willows at Hart Prairie. This was the site from which this species was first described to science.
CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis)
This is the rather common Empidonax flycatcher of the ponderosa pine forest.
BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)
A riparian species; we saw them along Oak Creek and Beaver Creek.
SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)
One of our first birds of the trip was this cooperating flycatcher at Kachina Wetlands, where it had a nest under the eave of a shed.
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)
Another uncommon species in Northern Arizona; we saw a male near John and Becky's property along Oak Creek.
ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)
Our first was at the I-17 rest area then, we had a couple more on our final day.
BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)
This large flycatcher ended up showing well in the larger trees along Oak Creek.
CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)
We saw our first at the Lewis's Woodpecker site NE of Flagstaff.
WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)
This species was surprisingly quiet, but we had a nice one at John and Becky's house.
BELL'S VIREO (Vireo bellii) [*]
GRAY VIREO (Vireo vicinior)
We saw a couple and heard more near Gray Mountain, then a couple more on our last morning near Montezuma Well.
PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)
This species is a common voice of the forests around Flagstaff, and we had a few nice looks with our first one at the Kachina Wetlands.
WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus) [*]
PINYON JAY (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)
We saw one fly across the highway on our way to Grand Canyon, so we did a u-turn and went back. Jumping out of the van, we ended up seeing 30+ individuals flying in and calling. This species has declined greatly in Northern Arizona so it was a treat to see a good sized flock. Reasons for the decline are still unknown.
STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)
This is the common jay of the forests and they visited us during dinner at the house.
WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)
We saw a few, with our first at Gray Mountain then again on our last day, when we found a couple of Bewick's Wrens mobbing one near Montezuma Well.
CLARK'S NUTCRACKER (Nucifraga columbiana)
Ron spotted one of these Rocky Mountain birds flying up from the Grand Canyon at Grandview Point. This is a species that has declined in the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff for unknown reasons, so it was a surprise to find it here.
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
The Flagstaff area is the epicenter for American Crows in Arizona.
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
We saw these daily.
MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (Poecile gambeli)
A handful of these locally common birds were seen in the pine and mixed-conifer forests around Flagstaff.
BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi)
We saw a family group amongst the cottonwoods and sycamores at John and Becky's property along Oak Creek.
JUNIPER TITMOUSE (Baeolophus ridgwayi)
We saw this plain gray species on the way to the Grand Canyon and heard a few there as well.
VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)
We just get into low enough elevation desert to see this species that is very common further south, We had a nice view of a calling bird near Montezuma Well.
HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)
Most of our sightings were of birds flying off the road side on our drive to Grand Canyon.
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
We saw a few over the water at Oak Creek and again at Montezuma Well.
PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)
We had one at Mormon Lake and heard a couple on out first afternoon, flying over the forest at Kachina Wetlands.
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)
This is the common nesting swallow of the higher elevations, especially where there are dead pines to provide nesting holes.
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
This familiar swallow was nesting at the motel in Flagstaff.
BUSHTIT (Psaltriparus minimus)
We saw 6-7 individuals together at Grand Canyon.
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)
We had a few sightings and heard more in the coniferous forests around Flagstaff.
PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)
We had nice views of these a few times, including coming into the water bath during dinner at the house.
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)
Most of these were along the road at Gray Mountain.
ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)
We saw several at Grand Canyon where they were especially vocal.
CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus) [*]
We only heard one calling at Montezuma Well along the creek.
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)
BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)
We had nice views of one in a tree top near Valle on our way to Grand Canyon, then a couple more later in the trip at lower elevations.
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
CRISSAL THRASHER (Toxostoma crissale)
We had scope views of a calling bird in the pinyon/juniper habitat south of Flagstaff. This is a tough one to see in June in Northern Arizona.
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
This is an uncommon species around Flagstaff, but we saw a couple at the lower elevations on the way to Grand Canyon and again in the Verde Valley.
WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)
We had a fair number of this always popular species.
MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (Sialia currucoides)
A wonderful bird of the mountain west; we had a family around on our first morning NW of Flagstaff, then a couple more on the day we went to Grand Canyon.
HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)
We heard a couple of these beautiful songsters and saw them with a mixed flock on our first morning in the mixed-conifer forest near Hart Prairie.
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
We saw good numbers of these well-known birds.
PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)
There were a few in the hackberries at John and Becky's property along Oak Creek.
OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)
After getting not-so-great views of a female on our first try in the wind, we went back and saw a nice male. This species has become more common around Flagstaff in the past several years.
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)
We saw lots of these daily.
RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)
A couple of individuals flew over us in the Hart Prairie area but they kept on going.
LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)
CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)
These are fairly common in the pine forests around Flagstaff.
BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW (Spizella atrogularis)
We had nice views of a singing bird along the slopes of Gray Mountain.
BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)
Our best view was at Montezuma Well were we had one extremely close in a mesquite shrub.
LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)
While cruising the roads around Valle, we saw this very handsomely marked sparrow singing in the top of a dead tree.
DARK-EYED JUNCO (RED-BACKED) (Junco hyemalis dorsalis)
This is the junco form that is the common breeder in the pine forests around Flagstaff.
VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)
We saw a few on our first morning at Hart Prairie where they were perched up and singing in the morning.
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)
This widespread species was vocal and a few showed along the banks of Oak Creek then again near Beaver Creek on our final day.
CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)
These are not very common in the areas of our trip, so it was great to see one in the understory near Montezuma Well.
ABERT'S TOWHEE (Melozone aberti)
We saw a couple well along Oak Creek at John and Becky's place, then a bit later in the morning we found one hopping about on the lawn at Page Springs Fish Hatchery. We saw it again a few days later at Montezuma Well.
RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps) [*]
GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (Pipilo chlorurus)
We enjoyed nice views of another local specialty at Hart Prairie, where they breed in the Bebb's willows.
SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)
We saw or heard several of these just about every day.
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (Icteria virens)
We had great views in the riparian habitat along Oak Creek, where a few males were singing and we saw a young one following a female around.
YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)
Several of these showed well in the marsh at Kachina Wetlands on our first afternoon and Allison saw one at the motel in Flagstaff.
WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta)
A few were singing and we scoped one on a rooftop during our first morning while we were outside of Flagstaff.
HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)
A calling bird was at the highway rest stop when we made a pit stop on our way to Oak Creek.
BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii)
We saw a few, with our first in the trees around the house during dinner.
SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)
A male was on the slopes at Gray Mountain. This is a great looking bird and it has a wonderful song.
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD (Molothrus ater)
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
These were most commonly seen on the lawns and golf course in Flagstaff.
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)
We saw a few at the Sedona Wetlands.
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)
A very local breeder; we saw a couple of singing birds amongst the willows at Hart Prairie.
LUCY'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis luciae)
This desert warbler finally showed at the rest area pit stop we made along I-17.
VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)
This species is fairly common in the proper habitat around Flagstaff. We saw these in Hart Prairie and again at the upper end of Oak Creek Canyon.
MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (Geothlypis tolmiei)
The strong winds really hampered us getting a good look at this local breeder. We had a singing individual in the willows but it didn't show itself very well.
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
We saw these at Kachina Wetlands then another high in a tree along Oak Creek.
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
There was one singing each morning near the motel but we had our best views in the tall cottonwoods along Oak Creek.
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)
A few individuals were in a mixed-species flock in the mixed-conifer forest of the San Francisco Peaks.
GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)
This handsome treetop dweller of the ponderosa pine forest showed a few times.
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)
This species prefers the pinyon pine / juniper habitat and we saw a few at Grand Canyon and the nearby area.
RED-FACED WARBLER (Cardellina rubrifrons)
A very sharp looking bird; we had nice views in the mixed-conifer forest along the road in the San Francisco Peaks. On our final day we saw another near Stoneman Lake. This bird has become more common in the Flagstaff area in the last 25 years.
PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)
Another warbler that is usually identified with Arizona; we had a cooperative individual in Oak Creek Canyon. This is another beauty.
HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava)
After a lot of searching for this local species we ended up finding a pair at Picture Canyon.
SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)
We saw a few bright red males and yellow females along Oak Creek and again along Beaver Creek.
WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)
We encountered a few nicely colored males in the forests around Flagstaff.
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)
We saw a pair at John and Becky's house along Oak Creek.
BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)
A singing bird showed in Hart Prairie and we heard several more during the week.
BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)
We had pretty good views of a male at John and Becky's house along Oak Creek.
LAZULI X INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina amoena x cyanea)
This hybrid has been in this area In Oak Creek Canyon during the nesting season for four years. It has a pale belly and white wing bars like a Lazuli Bunting but a blue chest with no brown as in an Indigo.
EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)
We saw one in the forest on our way to Hart Prairie on our first morning.
CLIFF CHIPMUNK (Tamias dorsalis)
We saw a few at Grand Canyon then a few more in the dry country over the next couple of days.
GRAY-COLLARED CHIPMUNK (Tamias cinereicollis)
One was seen briefly in Hart Prairie.
ROCK SQUIRREL (Spermophilus variegatus)
These were seen in fair but seemingly reduced numbers at the Grand Canyon and then again later in the trip.
GUNNISON PRAIRIE DOG (Cynomys gunnisoni)
We saw, and heard, these entertaining guys at colonies near Flagstaff.
ARIZONA GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus arizonensis)
Ron spotted one along Oak Creek south of Sedona. This species is essentially endemic to Arizona.
ABERT'S SQUIRREL (Sciurus aberti)
We saw a couple of these nicely marked squirrels in the Hart Prairie area.
COYOTE (Canis latrans)
We saw one trotting along the old road near Gray Mountain.
ELK (Cervus canadensis)
We saw our first at Grand Canyon then hundreds more in the mostly dry Mormon Lake.
MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)
Totals for the tour: 137 bird taxa and 10 mammal taxa