We enjoyed a week of birding Northern Arizona in some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. We explored pine and mixed-conifer forests, mountain meadows, magnificent canyons, riparian zones, majestic Red Rock country, and even snow-covered slopes as we searched for the array of birds in Northern Arizona. It was a bit cooler than normal,so the chilly mornings gave way to warm afternoons, giving us very pleasant birding conditions throughout the week. A huge amount of snow had fallen this winter, and the lakes and some streams were at their highest levels in many years. There seemed to be a good food crop and birds were singing up a storm.
The highlight of this trip is to see California Condors where they were soaring 10,000 years ago. We had nice conditions at Grand Canyon National Park for viewing, but we could not locate any condors on our visit. We did find Zone-tailed Hawks circling below us in the Canyon, gradually climbing out of the gorge, as White-throated Swifts rocketed by us. Two days later we ventured to Marble Canyon, where we found two California Condors perched on the canyon walls under the bridge and another comfortably roosting in the shade on the bridge girders above the river. Most of the group saw the two young birds spread their huge wings and sail across the Colorado River to the opposite canyon wall.
Our visit to the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks found both Williamson's and Red-naped sapsuckers, a beautiful Red-faced Warbler, and Mountain Bluebirds, and a walk through a soggy meadow gave us nice views of Green-tailed Towhee, a few Dusky Flycatchers, a singing Orange-crowned Warbler, and an extremely cooperative MacGillivray's Warbler. In the forest here, Alex spotted the most unusual bird of our trip, a Broad-winged Hawk circling overhead, which is a rarity throughout the state.
On another of our days we dropped below the Mogollon Rim, the edge of the vast Colorado Plateau, to bird the lower deserts and riparian habitat of Oak Creek. Here we spotted a Common Black Hawk on its nest and later scoped it perched right over the creek. We also had nice views of Vermilion Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, and another cooperative skulker, Bell's Vireo.
Other highlights of our week included a multitude of Eared Grebes in breeding plumage on swollen Mormon Lake, a male Rivoli's Hummingbird at the extreme north end of its range, a Virginia Rail standing in the open, scope views of a close Lewis's Woodpecker, chasing down a Gray Flycatcher, good views of the local Gray Vireo, Pinyon Jays, a pair of Clark's Nutcrackers at the edge of a ski run, hearing a Canyon Wren's song echoing off the walls of Marble Canyon, finally tracking down the unique Olive Warbler, both Black-chinned and Black-throated sparrows, singing Lark Sparrow, Hooded, Bullock's and Scott's orioles, a Grace's Warbler perched for a scope view, Painted Redstart, and a pair of Hepatic Tanagers on our first afternoon, among others. Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, and some cute Gunnison's Prairie Dogs right next to us were highlights of the four-footed variety.
It was wonderful to bird with all of you in our "extended" backyard. Thanks to Lynn for preparing dinner at the house and rising early a couple of mornings to fix breakfast burritos for us to enjoy during our longer drives to Grand Canyon and Marble Canyon. And, a big shout-out to Alex for spotting so many birds, entertaining us, and keeping the eBird lists. Hope to see you all again for some more great birding.
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)
This was not a summer bird in the Flagstaff area until fairly recently. We saw them daily, and with goslings, especially on the golf course across from our motel.
CINNAMON TEAL (Spatula cyanoptera)
We saw a few at Mormon Lake but our best views of this nicely colored duck were at Kachina Wetlands.
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
There were a few at Mormon Lake.
GADWALL (Mareca strepera)
A pair were swimming about at Kachina Wetlands.
AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)
One was on the golf course pond near the motel one morning then we saw it again at another lake our final day.
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
We saw this widespread species a few times including one on the Colorado River in Marble Canyon way below us.
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta)
Alex spotted a small group from the overlook at Mormon Lake.
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Anas crecca)
Kathy spotted our only one at Kachina Wetlands.
REDHEAD (Aythya americana)
We saw a few with our first being a late female at the Sedona Wetlands.
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
The males at Kachina Wetlands were in display to females, pumping their heads and showing the bright blue bills.
GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii) [*]
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
There were a couple at Kachina Wetlands.
EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis)
We saw a good number, perhaps 50, at Mormon Lake where they were in breeding plumage.
WESTERN GREBE (Aechmophorus occidentalis)
About eight individuals were in a couple of groups on Mormon Lake.
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
We saw a handful here and there throughout the week.
WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)
We saw these a few days but the best looks were at Grand Canyon where they were rocketing past us both above and below the Rim. Grand Canyon would be a really cool place to be a swift.
RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)
A male put in two appearances at a feeder in Oak Creek Canyon over about 15 minutes. This is the furthest north this species typically gets in Northern Arizona.
BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)
We saw a couple of these in the lower elevations of the Sedona area.
ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte anna)
A male was seen perched and doing a display in Oak Creek Canyon.
BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus)
This is the common hummingbird of the higher elevations of Northern Arizona. We saw many with great looks at perched males in the Hart Prairie area during our first morning.
VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola)
We were treated to two individuals showing themselves very well at Kachina Wetlands.
SORA (Porzana carolina)
A bird we first heard calling walked into the open in the marsh at Kachina Wetlands.
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
There were a handful seen at the wetland areas we visited.
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)
We saw ten individuals at the water treatment pond at the I-17 rest area on our way to Oak Creek. These were migrants still headed north.
AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)
Alex scoped about ten individuals from the overlook at Mormon Lake. These are likely late migrants still headed north though a few have summered in the past.
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
We only saw a couple of these during the week.
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
There were a few seen at the Sedona Wetlands.
FRANKLIN'S GULL (Leucophaeus pipixcan)
At Mormon Lake, Alex had a flying individual in the scope way, way, off.
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)
Two were seen at the larger pond at the Sedona Wetlands.
NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)
This bird was first found in the county about 12 years ago and it is now the more common cormorant in the area. We saw two at Walnut Canyon Lakes.
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
We encountered these a few times including about four nests with adults tending to young in a tall pine in Oak Creek Canyon.
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
At Mormon Lake, Alex spotted four birds in the marsh below from the overlook.
WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)
One was seen with a group of American Coots on the shore at Mormon Lake.
CALIFORNIA CONDOR (Gymnogyps californianus)
After not finding this huge bird during our visit to Grand Canyon National Park we headed north to Marble Canyon where we ended up seeing three individuals at Navajo Bridge. Two of these were young birds that were born in the wild and had not yet been tagged and were not carrying location transmitters. We saw another young bird perched under the bridge that had a "?" wing tag. I did some investigating and learned this is a bird that had been captured and tagged in the wild but was of unknown origin. The researchers were going to need to do a DNA test from a blood sample to determine the parentage. These individuals were part of a reintroduction program that started in Northern Arizona in 1998. It was great to see these giant birds where they flew the skies over 9000 years ago.
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
We saw at least a few each day of the trip.
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
We saw our first flying over Oak Creek near the fish hatchery then we saw individuals on three different nests in the Flagstaff area.
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)
We had a couple of flybys.
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
An adult flew right over us at the fish hatchery south of Sedona.
COMMON BLACK HAWK (Buteogallus anthracinus)
We had great close views of one that perched on a wire over Oak Creek when we were visiting at John and Becky's house. We had originally seen it on a nest in a sycamore tree and later saw it flying with another individual.
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)
One of the rarer birds for Northern Arizona we encountered during the week, Alex spotted an immature bird circling above us through the trees as we birded the mixed-conifer forest near Hart Prairie.
ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)
We saw two at Grand Canyon where it was fantastic to watch them flying below eye level in the canyon then circling up and overhead.
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
We had ones or two most days of the trip.
WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus thyroideus)
A male showed very well for us in the mixed-conifer forest on the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks. This is a quite colorful woodpecker when seen well.
RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus nuchalis)
We had good views of a pair at Hart Prairie. This species has been harder to find in the area in recent years.
LEWIS'S WOODPECKER (Melanerpes lewis)
On our first afternoon we enjoyed nice views of one at a nest tree just outside of Flagstaff. A quite unusual woodpecker in both coloration and habits these are found around Flagstaff in mixed pine-oak habitat.
ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)
A few of these distinct woodpeckers were seen a few times during the week.
GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis)
A pair had a nest in a large sycamore at John and Becky's house along Oak Creek.
LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER (Dryobates scalaris)
We had a look at one at the Sedona Wetlands that didn't stay long.
HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)
We heard and saw a few in the conifer forests.
NORTHERN FLICKER (RED-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus cafer)
Seen or heard daily.
WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus)
We had a few good views of this widespread western species.
GRAY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax wrightii)
A calling individual led us on a chase in the pinyon-juniper habitat just outside of Grand Canyon NP before we got great views of this locally uncommon species.
DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax oberholseri)
We ended up getting very nice looks at calling birds in Hart Prairie, the site where this species was first collected and described to science. They are very local breeders in Northern Arizona favoring the Bebb's willows where we saw them.
CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis)
We had a nice view of a calling bird just before getting to Hart Prairie during our first morning.
BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)
A couple of these were found along ponds and streams.
SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)
It's plaintive whistle call was heard a few of the times we saw it.
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)
A male and female were in the pasture next door to John and Becky's property. These birds seemed to be going to a nest in a densely vegetated tree.
ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)
We saw this species at our house before dinner and again the next day at Grand Canyon.
BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)
A quite local species in Northern Arizona, we saw two individuals in the riparian trees along lower Oak Creek.
CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)
We watched a pair chasing about near Gray Mountain after we left Grand Canyon.
WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)
We saw a few during the week with a few perched on fences.
BELL'S VIREO (Vireo bellii)
We enjoyed great views of one at Page Springs fish hatchery where it perched up in the open which is unusual for this species.
GRAY VIREO (Vireo vicinior)
This inconspicuous species is generally uncommon through much of its range. We had nice looks at a couple of individuals just outside of Grand Canyon and on the slopes of Gray Mountain.
PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)
This species is a rather common voice of the pine forests around Flagstaff. We saw it a couple of times and heard them even more.
WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)
A few were singing and showing themselves in the aspens on the lower slopes of the San Francisco Peaks.
PINYON JAY (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)
This species has dropped in numbers throughout its range in the western US in recent years. We ended up seeing a pair of birds three different times with our first ones seen near the village of Valle on our way to Grand Canyon National Park.
STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)
This is a rather common bird of the pine forests of Northern Arizona.
WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)
We saw a handful on the day we went to Grand Canyon.
CLARK'S NUTCRACKER (Nucifraga columbiana)
Another species that has declined in the area in recent years, we first had a pair fly over at a rest stop on our first morning then we heard some distant birds vocalizing and we ended up scoping them in the tops of spruce trees up slope at the Snowbowl ski resort.
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Seen daily, this is one of a few spots where these familiar birds are seen in Arizona.
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
We saw more ravens than crows during the week.
MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (Poecile gambeli)
A few joined the mixed-species flocks in the mixed-conifer forest on our first morning.
BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi)
A quite local riparian species around here we had a quick encounter with a pair along lower Oak Creek.
JUNIPER TITMOUSE (Baeolophus ridgwayi)
We found a very cooperative individual in the Red Rock country near Sedona.
VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)
Our only real sighting was at the Sedona Wetlands.
HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)
We only had a few fly-bys from the roadside the day we drove up to Grand Canyon.
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
A couple or more were flying around at the Sedona Wetlands.
PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)
A rather uncommon species here we saw one flying about on our final afternoon at Kachina Wetlands.
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)
This is the most common swallow we encountered.
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
We saw several with a few pairs nesting under the eaves at out motel.
BUSHTIT (Psaltriparus minimus)
We saw a pair near the Lewis's Woodpecker site on our first afternoon in the field.
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)
At least one came in with one of the mobbing flocks near Hart Prairie. We heard a couple more in the Snowbowl area.
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)
We heard then saw one with a flock near Snowbowl.
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)
I believe our best view was during lunch near Grand Canyon NP.
PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)
We saw a handful of these tiny guys and a couple came to drink just before dinner at the house.
BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)
We saw a cooperative individual at our lunch spot near Grand Canyon NP.
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)
About three were seen along the slopes of Gray Mountain.
ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)
Our first were near Gray Mountain then we saw it again at Navajo Bridge and another at Mormon Lake on our final day.
CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus)
We first heard the wonderful song then saw one working in the rocks under Navajo Bridge and above the Colorado River.
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)
A few were heard and seen around Hart Prairie and the surrounding area.
BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)
We ended up seeing a couple of these in the lower elevation sites we birded.
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
A couple were singing around Valle and then just outside Grand Canyon to the east.
WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)
We saw a few and found two nests in the forest burn outside of Flagstaff where the adults were feeding young in the tree cavities.
MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (Sialia currucoides)
Always a great bird to see well, we scoped a pair on the roof of a house as we headed to the San Francisco Peaks, then we saw another the next day near Valle.
HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)
We had a few good views of close birds in the Hart Prairie area.
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
These were quite common in a few areas.
CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Our only sighting was a calling bird that flew in and landed in the top of a dead tree at Grandview Point at the Grand Canyon. It was unusual to see only one individual and it seemed an odd place.
PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)
We saw a couple or three along the riparian habitat of lower Oak Creek. These birds were likely feeding on the mulberry fruits.
OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)
It took quite a bit of looking but we finally found two calling birds in the forest just south of Flagstaff. This is a species that has been a taxonomic quandry for many years and was only recently placed in its own family.
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)
Lots of these were seen and heard.
PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)
We saw a few in the mixed-conifer forests.
LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)
Several were observed throughout the week.
CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)
Seen and heard daily with our first at Picture Canyon at the edge of Flagstaff.
BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW (Spizella atrogularis)
Just outside of Grand Canyon and again on the slope of Gray Mountain we had nice views of this rather local sparrow.
BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)
A nicely marked individual showed very well for us at the highway rest area off I-17.
LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)
One of the best looking sparrows anywhere we had a good view of one we first heard singing at Picture Canyon.
DARK-EYED JUNCO (RED-BACKED) (Junco hyemalis dorsalis)
This is a quite common bird around Flagstaff.
VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)
Several were singing in the open country around the San Francisco Peaks on our first morning.
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)
A local breeder we saw our only ones along lower Oak Creek where they are fairly common.
ABERT'S TOWHEE (Melozone aberti)
We saw a pair of these riparian specialists at John and Becky's house on lower Oak Creek.
GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (Pipilo chlorurus)
There were a fair number that were singing and perched up for good views in Hart Prairie.
SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)
Several were seen.
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (Icteria virens)
Another former warbler that is now in its own family we had nice looks along lower Oak Creek.
YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)
Several were showing quite well at Kachina Wetlands on our final day after we saw our first from the overlook at Mormon Lake.
WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta)
We saw and heard a few in the open meadows around Flagstaff.
HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)
Marta spotted a male across the pasture at John and Becky's house then we had a brief look at a female.
BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii)
We saw a few with our first seen at our house just before dinner and the rain drops.
SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)
A sharply marked male showed well and even got scoped on a drainage on the slope of Gray Mountain after we left Grand Canyon.
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
These were common in a couple of the wetlands.
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD (Molothrus ater)
Seen here and there.
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
These were quite common around Flagstaff.
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)
All of our sightings were near human habitation.
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)
We had pretty good views of a couple of singing birds in Hart Prairie where they breed in the willows.
LUCY'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis luciae)
A singing bird perched up for a scope view after we dropped off the Mogollon Rim to the lower desert.
VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)
A singing individual ended up showing well in the forest at the top of Oak Creek Canyon.
MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (Geothlypis tolmiei)
This bird is a later migrant that had just returned to its nesting area in the willows at Hart Prairie. Normally a real skulker we had great views of one that really wanted to show off.
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
Our first ones were along the channel at Picture Canyon then we saw few more with nice looks at Kachina Wetlands.
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
There were several singing in the riparian habitat along lower Oak Creek.
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)
These seemed especially common in the mixed-conifer forests along the road to Hart Prairie and a couple of other sites.
GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)
A true pine specialist we had a couple of nice looks at singing birds just to the south of Flagstaff.
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)
A bird of the upper Sonoran zone, juniper and pinyon pine habitat, we had nice looks and Siri got a nice photos of a singing individual.
WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)
We saw one amongst the Bebb's willows of Hart Prairie where it was presumably a migrant but the habitat looks great for breeding for this species.
RED-FACED WARBLER (Cardellina rubrifrons)
One of the special birds of the area, we had nice views of a pair at the back of the campground in Oak Creek Canyon. What a beauty!
PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)
A calling bird led us to this colorful species in Oak Creek Canyon. These are always found along streams or narrow wooded canyons.
HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava)
On our first afternoon we heard a calling bird that led us to a pair just on the outskirts of Flagstaff.
SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)
We saw a couple of males amongst the cottonwoods and sycamores along lower Oak Creek.
WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)
We saw a handful during the week in the coniferous forests.
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)
There was a pair at John and Becky's house along Oak Creek when we arrived.
BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)
During the week we saw a few and heard many more.
CLIFF CHIPMUNK (Tamias dorsalis)
We saw a few of these along the rim at Grand Canyon.
GRAY-COLLARED CHIPMUNK (Tamias cinereicollis)
A few were spotted in the pine forest in the Hart Prairie area. This species has a quite limited range in the US.
ROCK SQUIRREL (Spermophilus variegatus)
We saw several at Grand Canyon but not the big numbers of food begging individuals that had been around for decades.
GOLDEN-MANTLED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus lateralis)
This handsome ground squirrel popped up on a log for us to see on our way into Hart Prairie.
GUNNISON PRAIRIE DOG (Cynomys gunnisoni)
We saw about 20 of these entertaining rodents in a smallish town at the lake near the motel in Flagstaff.
ABERT'S SQUIRREL (Sciurus aberti)
We never got a great view of this beauty and local specialty but we saw a couple with our first seen in the forest near Hart Prairie.
RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) [*]
ELK (Cervus canadensis)
Marta spotted our first ones along I-17 as we drove south from Flagstaff then we had a couple more that were running towards us and crossed the road in the forest on our final day of birding.
MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)
Surprisingly, only a few were encountered with some in our neighbor's yard after dinner.
PRONGHORN (Antilocapra americana)
Heading to Marble Canyon we spotted a couple in the grassland northeast of Flagstaff
Totals for the tour: 143 bird taxa and 10 mammal taxa