The Best of 2011
My 2011 Arizona Year List: 339 species
My 2011 Maricopa County, Arizona, BIG YEAR List: 313 species (Final) Final 10: Grasshopper Sparrow, Red-necked Grebe, Eurasian Wigeon, Rusty Blackbird, Lewis's Woodpecker, Common Loon, Eastern Bluebird, Pacific Wren, Mountain Bluebird, Lapland Longspur
The last bird I really enjoyed in 2011 were close up looks at this Wilson's Snipe at Granite Reef along the Salt River...
The Rosy-faced Lovebird officially was added on the Arizona state list as an established exotic!
On December 26th, Troy Corman and Jay Miller found this rare Red-necked Grebe at Gillespie Dam. With my fingers crossed, it stuck around for me and was present when I tried for it on the 29th. It was the last North American grebe I needed for my life list! It also swam with a Clark's Grebe.
A Lark Bunting near Gila Bend!
Laurence Butler found this Eurasian Wigeon in Phoenix near 27th Street and Camelback. It was awesome to see, and after searching for this bird throughout the year, one finally showed up!
Pierre Deviche found this rare in Arizona Rusty Blackbird on the 14th, which was a lifer for me when my brother Tyler and I chased it. The location was Anthem Communtiy Park in Anthem, where birders (including Pierre) were in pursuit of a Rufous-backed Robin. Pierre added to the bonus big time, and I was thankful to see this species that is rapidly declining.
On December 12th, this Lewis's Woodpecker was found by Ken Bielek at Encanto Park. This bird was gathering acorns from a few oak trees and storing them in nearby palm trees, likely getting ready to spend the winter in Phoenix! I enjoyed this awesome woodpecker in the rain, which was my first sighting of this species in 2011.
On December 10th, my first Common Loon of the year highlighted Lake Pleasant..
On December 2nd, as I went to see if my Eastern Bluebird was a continuing bird, I found another rarity at Tres Rios...a Red Fox Sparrow!
On December 1st, I had one of my very best discoveries ever. As I was late in going to my original destination, the Hassayampa River Preserve, I decided to go to the more close and convenient Tres Rios Wetlands. As I was birding in an area just west of the main wetlands, I came across a very shocking surprise when I saw this nice male Eastern Bluebird. With the combination of the white belly and rufous neck-sides at a glance and listening to the bird vocalizing, I knew what I had in front of me. I also knew that there were never any previous records of Eastern Bluebird for Maricopa County. I was stoked to have a county record in front of me and being the first one to find it. It was also the first time I've really seen an Eastern Bluebird well. Last year, I saw one poorly in Southeastern Arizona, which is the southwestern race of EA BL, known as "Azurre". The Azurre race is nonmigrantory, so this bird appears to be the eastern North America race, which would be completely new for Arizona.
On November 21st, I had another really good birding day. I went to the Seven Springs Area, where birding was great. At the nearby Mount Humboldt, I got my first Mountain Bluebird for Maricopa County in 2011. As I closed my day out at Lower Camp Creek, I got my lifer visual of Pacific Wren, which was awesome. The photos below show the Pacific Wren, a Townsend's Solitaire from Seven Springs, and a Fox Sparrow from Rackensack Canyon.
On November 18th, I decided to head out to the Glendale Recharge Ponds again. I wanted to see the Mew and Glaucous-winged Gulls again, and a lot of birders came to the ponds in hopes of seeing them as well. Both gulls gave everyone awesome views. It was good to meet many awesome birders throughout the state. Steve Hosmer and I decided to explore one of the dry basins which had good birds of late (Chestnut-collared Longspur, Mountain Bluebird). We wanted to find a longspur in midst of the many American Pipits and Horned Larks. When we started scanning, Steve spied the bird of the day and said "Hey Tommy, what's this?!". I looked through his scope and saw..................a Lapland Longspur!! (the photo below was taken by Steve Hosmer)
On November 17th, I went to the Glendale Recharge Ponds to check out the action. I saw the continuing Glaucous-winged Gull right off the bat, with a smaller gull sitting next to it that I figured was a Ring-billed at first. To my surprise, this bird turned out to be a Mew Gull, another Arizona rarity and a great bird for Maricopa County. Two rarities, side by side. The Mew Gull was very easy to observe and didn't mind my presence. I still feel like I'm seeing things after finding two rare gulls in a week at the same location! Definetely one of the best finds I've ever had in my birding, especially to have these two rarities side by side!
My friend Dave showed me this Orchard Oriole who has been visiting his feeders at a private residence not open to visitors for 6 consecutive winters!! A life bird for me.
On November 12th, I spent my birding time at the Salt River at the Granite Reef Recreation Site. This spot has provided such good birding the entire year. On this awesome day, I got to see my lifer Pacific Loon that was found by Chris McCreedy, as well as my Maricopa County first White-throated Sparrow that was found by Melanie Herring. These two birds put me over the 300 mark for Maricopa County in 2011.
On November 9th, I had my very best find yet in 2011...........a first winter Glaucous-winged Gull!! This bird was at the Glendale Recharge Ponds. After my initial thought of the bird being a Herring Gull, I realized later that it fit a GW GU better. I sent my photos to experts who told me this was likely a pure GW GU or a hybrid gull that was strongly GW GU. After a day and a half of mixed emails, expert birders Kurt Radamaker, Dave Powell, Paul Lehman and Barbara Carlson confirmed the bird live in the field, and pronounced...Glaucous-winged Gull! 7th state record.
A Clay-colored Sparrow, also at the Granite Reef Recreation Site at the Lower Salt River..
A Red-breasted Merganser at the Granite Reef Recreation Area along the Lower Salt River..
Chestnut-collared Longspur at the Rousseau Sod Farms!
November began with an amazing bird, my lifer Common Tern, found by Michael Lester. November is a very late date for a Common Tern to be anywhere in Arizona.
I got year birds in wierd spurts in Maricopa County during October, but on a stretch of three consective days, I got some good rarites. Eastern Phoebe (found by Bill Grossi, forgot my camera), Herring Gull (photographed below, found my Melanie Herring) and my lifer Surf Scoter at Fountain Hills Lake that I found myself. The Surf Scoter was a special story. While I was in Fountain Hills I got a text from Melanie Herring about a Surf Scoter in Glendale. I started to rush to Glendale, and while I was heading out of Fountain Hills, I stopped by the lake there. Ironically, a Surf Scoter was out in the waters. There ended up being two of them, both very tame. Not often that you are chasing a lifer the exact lifer will show up along the way!
On October 10th, this Short-billed Dowitcher was at Glendale Recharge Ponds, capping off what was an excellent fall migration for this species.
I began October with two lifers in one day, both eastern warblers. Brian Ison found an Ovenbird in Scottsdale while John Arnett found two Magnolia Warblers at the Hassayampa River Preserve. I went for the Ovenbird first with immediate success. After a long trek from Scottsdale to Hassayampa, I began to search for the Magnolia where I was rewarded quickly with one of the individuals that John had found. Two eastern warblers in Arizona in one day, both as lifebirds was certainly one to remember!
Lincoln's Sparrows are starting to show up and will be present through spring of 2012...
Solitary Sandpiper at Glendale Recharge Ponds.
Warblers continue to be the show. On September 16th, I saw this Hermit Warbler, as well as both redstarts, Painted and American. It was my first two Redstart day, as American is rather rare to come across!
Warblers are starting to be the real show as we are getting well into the fall migration here in September. Birding the Salt River gave me this amazing and cooperative Northern Waterthrush..
A Great Horned Owl at Morgan City Wash..
A Bank Swallow surviving the heat at the Glendale Recharge Ponds, just like I have to do whenever I make a visit..
A Short-billed Dowitcher juvenile at the Glendale Recharge Ponds, who have made good showings at the Glendale Recharge Ponds come late August.
Nashville Warblers are starting to come through in good numbers..
On August 20th, I explored the Hassayampa River Preserve before the Glendale Recharge Ponds. I got extremely lucky and found my Maricopa County first Purple Martins heading south overhead, as well as getting to view this extremely cooperative Canyon Wren.
Starting on August 19th and lasting through August 21nd at the Glendale Recharge Ponds, I hit a wonderful string of luck, where I added six birds to my Maricopa County Year list, in which one was my lifer Short-billed Dowitcher. In one basin at the Glendale Ponds (basin 5), 21 shorebird species were seen during these three days, with at least 20 species present in the basin daily. The 21 species seen during this amazing stretch in just ONE POND were: Snowy Plover (year bird), Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper (year bird), Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Long-billed Curlew, Sanderling (year bird), Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper (year bird), Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher (life bird), Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Phalarope, and Red-necked Phalarope (year bird). The amazing birds helped me get my county year list up to 280 species. Photos (from top to bottom) show a scene from Basin 5, a Sanderling, a Snowy Plover, and a Wilson's Phalarope. What an incredible place to be!
On August 15th, a Maricopa County Big Day gave me 105 species, as I visited Mesquite Wash, the Sunflower area, Mount Ord, and the Gilbert Area. I added four birds to my Maricopa County year list, Nashville Warbler, Stilt Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and I got extremely lucky with my first ever Maricopa Calliope Hummingbird (photographed below). This bird is a female, who I found first slightly in Gila County. She luckily worked her way into Maricopa County, giving me an awesome and rare find here in Maricopa County. Another find I really enjoyed was at Sunflower, in which I found a juvenile Common Black-Hawk (also photographed below).
On August 12th, it was back to birding with Jim again. We made a trek to southeastern Arizona to seek out a few Arizona rarites at Montosa and Madera Canyons: Five-striped Sparrow, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, and Aztec Thrush. It was a great birding day, despite the fact the Aztec Thrush came five minutes after we left the spot. The Black-cappeds didn't show for us either. The Five-striped Sparrows did show for us however, and provided amazing views for over two hours in Montosa Canyon. We enjoyed many other southeastern Arizona birds as well. Photographed below (top to bottom) are Five-striped Sparrow (Montosa Canyon), Violet-crowned Hummingbird (Madera Canyon), Berylline Hummingbird (Madera Canyon), and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Madera Canyon).
Back in Maricopa County! On August 10th, Jim Kopitzke and I headed for the backcountry wilderness in the high country of Maricopa County-Slate Ceek Divide. This amazing area has great habitat, a mix of sycamore, douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and oak. We both got very lucky, as our county first Red-faced Warbler made an appearance (poor shots below). Despite my poor camera shots, our Maricopa lifer gave us excellent views, as it preened for several minutes in front of us.
Our last morning in Greer before leaving for the dreaded heat in Phoenix. Clark's Nutcrakers in "downtown" Greer was a good way to close out our trip.
July 31st. Our last full day in the amazing White Mountains. I spent time in the Greer and Mount Baldy areas. Picture highlights below show American Robin, American Dipper, and male and female Rufous Hummingbirds.
July 30th was a day of exploring the Sunrise Area and Mount Baldy again. Singing Vesper Sparrows. Gray Jays at Sunrise Campground. More Dipper viewing at the Little Colorado in the Mount Baldy area.
July 29th was the first time I ever led a bird walk. My friend Mary Williams came with her birding group from Juniper Ridge Resort, which their birding club is called the Juniper Ridge Birders. In the photo below, is the group who joined me. (Left to right: Joe, Pat, Terry, Sid, Mary, Jewell, Fred, and Carol) We had many good highlights, including a Red-naped Sapsucker and male Calliope Hummingbird (photographed below).
Still on the 29th, I headed out for more birding at the Grasslands Wildlife Area and the South Fork of the Little Colorado River. At the Grasslands Area I was pleased to find a pair of Hepatic Tanagers as well as photographing this male Mountain Bluebird. At South Fork, I got lucky and found a black-eared Bushtit in midst of a huge Bushtit flock. Black-eared Bushtits are considered rare in North America.
July 28th was a Mount Baldy Wilderness day. My family and I hiked this amazing trail, which is one of our favorite trails to hike. The birding was amazing too along the trail. The main highlight had to be getting to see my first American Dipper(s) in over two years. As we started hiking on the trail, I heard the Dipper's song and rushed down to the Little Colorado River to find the adult Dipper singer with a juvenile bird beside it. Further down the trail, I was treated to many Mountain Chickadees, singing Lincoln's Sparrows, and abundant Golden-crowned Kinglet. Pictures shown below from top to bottom represent the order of this text written describing the Mount Baldy birding.
July 27th was a very awesome day. I met my friend Mary Williams in Show Low where we birded at the amazing Fool Hollow Lake. Mary is one of Tiffany's (my sister) college professors, which Tiffany found out Mary was an avid birder too, and suggested she should meet me some time! I hadn't been to Fool Hollow Lake in years! We have stayed there several times where the birding has been excellent, with my last visit being back in 2008. Mary has an annual pass and we went to the lake for six hours of amazing birding, and 58 different species. The main highlight for me was seeing my first Purple Martins in several years. I never really got to observe much of this species prior to today, and these martins provided quite the show and gave me the chance to really study them. The birds were amazing among the 58 species-Grace's Warbler, three Hepatic Tanagers (juv, adult male, adult female), Cassin's Kingbirds, Pinyon Jays (everywhere), but other's photographed other than the stunning male Purple Martin below was a singing Canyon Wren on the rocky bluffs as well as a juvenile Western Wood-Pewee, which were everywhere around the state park.
After the Fool Hollow Lake trip, I got back to Greer during a rainstorm. After the rainstorm, I went out to look for birds around Greer, especially at the south end of Greer along Highway 373. Birding was good, as this story will explain the sequence and order the photographs are displayed. I found the Cordilleran Flycatcher family once again, and I managed to photograph the adult better than before. A Dark-eyed Junco sang nearby in the open. Their are many forms of Dark-eyed Junco, and this one is a "Red-backed" form, which is very common in the White Mountains. I then got very lucky and was able to photograph perfectly a cooperative Virginia's Warbler, a shot I'm very proud of. These warblers are usually skitish and are hard to photograph. Above the warbler's location was a beautiful pair of Mountain Bluebirds, one of the coolest birds of the West. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds sat on the nearby barb wire fences during their resting times, as I was able to get my camera on this male.
On July 26th, Tyler and I took an early morning drive to Green's Peak. Green's Peak is a well known hotspot for the elusive Dusky Grouse. However, if you find a grouse, they can be quite tame. We scared up an adult female (photographed below), who had two juveniles with her. Also in the area was my first Apache County Swainson's Hawk, which was awesome to see at high elevations. I birded in Greer the remainder of the day, which photographic highlights were House Wren and a family of Cordilleran Flycatchers, which four hungry fledglings waited to be fed by their mother.
July 25th, our first of seven full day's in Apache County. For me, the first of seven birding days. I chose to bird in Greer on this day, covering the area for four hours in the morning. Despite the devastating Wallow Fire which destroyed 500,000 acres of forest in this area (including much of the eastern side of Greer), the birding is still spectacular. I saw my first ever Bald Eagles in Greer at River Reservoir, as well as a Peregrine Falcon pair. I recorded 63 species in the Greer birding expedition, including this Red-faced Warbler photographed below along Osborne Road, one of my favorite birds in this area during summer.
On July 24th, my family and I left for our annual vacation to Greer, Arizona, in Apache County's amazing White Mountains. We are staying at Montgomery's Cabin, which we stayed at last year. It's a beautiful place. This Steller's Jay was the first bird I saw after we arrived at our spot.
On July 21st, I was very lucky to bird with the famous Richard Crossley, one of the best birders out there! Richard just published a new book, called The Crossley ID Guide-Eastern Birds. It is an incredible book, and he is working on his western edition to his guide as well as many other amazing projects. He asked for my help on getting Black-chinned Sparrows, Common Black-Hawk, as well as Lucy's, Olive, and Virginia's Warblers. We were only able to find BC SP and one first summer CB HA (not exactly what we were searching for, but still cool), as some of the birds completely avoided us. Lucy's have dispersed. Black-chinned were his main target, which we had great looks at several birds on Mount Ord's lower slopes. Besides Black-chinned Sparrows, we also had good looks at Zone-tailed Hawks, Indigo Bunting, Gray Vireo. I also had a very lucky find, a pair of Cassin's Sparrows at the turnoff to the Old Beeline Highway, which is very rare for Maricopa County and a new county bird for me.
On July 20th, I made a trip out to the Box Bar Recreation Site along the Verde River. I got lucky and got to see and get this picture of my year's first Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
July 15th. Mount Ord was full of Bewick's Wrens, as I photographed this one below. I also saw for the first time in my life, this juvenile Hepatic Tanager, which is streaked.
July 10th, 2011-Hassayampa. Male Blue Grosbeaks. Yellow-breasted Chats. Vermilions everywhere.
For July 4th, on my birthday, I went birding. I got my first Elf Owl of the year in the Sunflower area, and at Mesquite Wash I was able to photograph and enjoy these two flycatchers, the Willow Flycatcher and the Brown-crested Flycatcher.
On June 30th, my friend Norman showed me this Western Screech-Owl at the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, which was the first time I got to see this species visually!!
On June 20th, I made a trip to Mesa. My friend Jay Miller was waiting for me to show up to his house. Jay has had an amazing assortment of incredible birds in his yard over the last few years, with this male Broad-billed Hummingbird being his latest addition.
June 17th. Sunflower. Hooded Orioles and young Cardinals. Mount Ord. Female Black-chinned Sparrow.
June 6th, a Black Tern still frequenting the Glendale Recharge Ponds..
Caspian Terns at the Glendale Recharge Ponds, which was a new GRP bird for me! It was also my 260th bird for my Maricopa County Big Year 2011, which were later joined by two Black Terns, giving me 261.
Madera Canyon: Swainson's Thrushes, a fearless male Hepatic Tanager, and a Mexican Jay hunting a lizard.
Hassayampa Area: Gray Hawk, Tropical Kingbird
Painted Restart on Mount Ord, gathering nest material.
On May 1st through 2nd, I actually stepped foot outside of Maricopa County, as Jim Kopitzke and I took a trip to Gila County's Pinal Mountains, which was an incredible place to bird. We were able to get many great birds, including year firsts such as Greater Pewee, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Mountain Chickadee, Red-faced Warblers and Yellow-eyed Juncos to name a few. One of the Yellow-eyed Juncos and the Greater Pewee are photographed below. The Greater Pewee was actually the favorite highlight of the entire trip, who perched below eye level for us for over ten minutes, anywhere from fifteen to thirty feet away.
In a Salt River birding trip on April 25th, the birding was great. One of the highlights were my first two Bronzed Cowbirds of the year. I actually like to observe the Bronzed Cowbirds, which I dispise the Brown-headed. There was a male and female together (below), where the male put on amazing courtship displays, which I wish I was able to photograph!
On April 22nd, I made a trip out to the southwest part of Maricopa County, where I was successful in a Glossy Ibis chase at Paloma Ranch. The bird was found by Paul Lehman, and I didn't get any successful photographs. However, when I visited the Arlington Wildlife Area, this Clapper Rail was extra cooperative!
A Sunflower and Mount Ord trip came on April 16th. The birding was exciting as I found many new year birds with the two locations combined. Photographic highlights included my first time ever of photographing the Black-chinned Sparrow on the lower slopes of Ord as well as a female Olive Warbler in the forests at the top of Ord. Once down at Sunflower, male Hooded Orioles were abundant, another year first.
On Aprill 11th, shorebird migration was really showing to be evident, as this Semipalmated Plover was foraging at the Glendale Recharge Ponds.
On April 4th, I made an attempt to see a Long-eared Owl in the Phoenix Mountains. In 2011, this was my eighth attempt for this species in 2011, my previous attempts weren't sucessful. My friend Norman came across a Long-eared earlier in the day before I came out. Once I got his text, I figured my odds were decent, as I didn't want to go 0 for 8. After walking down the wash a long ways, I finally came across my first Long-eared Owl of 2011, in the traditional spot I observed three birds consistently last year. Luckily, I got nice and perched views of this guy, who was very elusive most of time.
On April 3rd, I made two trips, one out to Morgan City Wash, and the other southwest of Phoenix to bird along roads near M-C 85. At Morgan City Wash, I got very lucky as I came across a lifer in a Broad-winged Hawk!! The hawk wasn't as camera friendly as my first Pacific-slope Flycatcher of the year and resident Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. I ran into Troy Corman (who found a Winter Wren and Brown Thrasher), and we couldn't find the hawk again after I looked for over an hour. After Morgan City, I ventured out to the agricultural fields in the M-C 85 area, which mainly was along Perry, Lower Buckeye and Jackrabbit Roads. I came for the Swainson's Hawk migration show. Melanie Herring was out looking at the Swainson's too, and we both enjoyed them as they sat and flew around near us. The Swainson's Hawks were in all morphs too, light, intermediate, and dark. What a show it was, as I saw at least one hundred individuals.
On April 2nd, I made a trip up to the Hassayampa way, stopping at both the Hassayampa River Roadside Rest and of course the Hassayampa River Preserve. My favorite highlight was seeing two Gray Hawks at the Roadside Rest Area, which was a nice surprise and something I wouldn't expect. I also got my first Bullock's Oriole and Black-throated Gray Warbler of 2011 at the Roadside Rest.
On March 28th, I took a trip to the Highway 87 area and made stops at Mesquite Wash, Sunflower, and Mount Ord. It was a great day, and I added 13 year birds to my Maricopa County list, which now stands at 213 species in 2011. My standout highlight was by far a new Maricopa County bird, a few Cassin's Finches at Mount Ord. The other year birds I found were Common Black-Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle, Hammond's, Dusky, and Pacific-slope Flycatchers; Scott's Oriole, White-winged Dove, Black-chinned Sparrow, Painted Redstart, Grace's Warbler, and Cassin's Kingbird. Photographed below are the Cassin's Finches (male and female), Common Black-Hawk, and Northern Cardinal.
On March 25, I visited the Gilbert Area and the Salt River. I had a good day with 111 species total, including my first Barn Swallow, Black-chinned Hummingbirds, and Swainson's Hawks of the year. Photographic highlights included Bald Eagle and Cassin's Vireo (below).
On the weekend of March 19th and 20th, I stuck around the general area of southwest Phoenix, visiting the Tres Rios Wetlands both days of the weekend during the morning. Year birds included my first Warbling Vireo and Brewer's Blackbirds (sooner or later!). I also explored a new part of the Tres Rios Wetlands that I was giving access to, that isn't open to the public as of yet. It is an awesome place and will be a great birding destination in the future. I also enjoyed seeing (photographed below), a Myrtle Warbler, the earliest of many spring migrant Wilson's Warblers, a flock of American White Pelicans, Yellow-headed Blackbird flocks, and several Blue-winged Teal pairs.
On March 14th, I made another trip out to the Arlington and Buckeye Area. My primary goal was to see a Sage Thrasher at the Thrasher Spot. I did get to see a Sage Thrasher, but that turned into 15 of them as the Thrasher Spot held a good number of the migrating birds. Other thrashers made good showings as well, as I got great looks at Le Conte's, Crissal and Bendires Thrashers. A four thrasher day at one site, which is common here at the right time of year! Other highlights during the day included a Merlin, White-tailed Kite, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, and Burrowing Owl. I also got to see the continuing rarity in the Roseate Spoonbill.
On March 11th, I made a trip out to the Hassayampa River Preserve in high hopes of finding my Maricopa County first Pyrrhuloxia, as the preserve banded a nice male several days earlier. Just fifteen minutes into my birdwatch, I was looking at a female Pyrrhuloxia. A nice male then appeared and sat in the open for me on a telephone pole wire.
On March 10th, I made a trip out to the northeast part of Maricopa County to explore the higher elevations of Mount Ord and then the Sunflower area. Mount Ord did not dissapoint, as I enjoyed amazing ground feeding views of both Juniper Titmouse and Red Crossbills. The Red Crossbills were especially spectacular. Then, in the Sunflower area, I got extremely lucky with a lifer in a Fox Sparrow, the Slate-colored form. The Fox Sparrow can be a challenging bird to find in Arizona during certain years, and I was glad I finally found one!
On March 4th, I made a trip out to the Seven Springs Recreation area for a nice day of birding and exploring the medium ranged elevations in Maricopa County at over 3000' feet. The Winter Wren streak continued, as I came up upon yet another Winter Wren.
On February 26th, I made another outing to the Lower Salt River Recreatin Area. I had discovered a Winter Wren at Granite Reef Recreation Site on December 30th, 2010, as a heard only. I heard it once more shortly after the original discovery date without hearing it for a long time, so I assumed the bird was gone. But today, it vocalized at the same spot, and I was able to get a good view of it, in which this is my original lifer Winter Wren. At the Salt River I also enjoyed exploring the Phon D. Sutton Recreation Site for the first time. Other birds I enjoyed on this day included Black-throated Sparrows at Phon D. Sutton and a Myrtle Warbler at the Granie Reef Picnic Area.
On February 21st, I made a trip out to the Arlington Area once again, where I got amazing looks at Long-billed Curlews in numbers as well as Sandhill Cranes and a variety of raptors including a light-morph Harlan's Hawk. My main target was the continuing Roseate Spoonbill found last year that was refound by Melanie Herring along the Old US 80, which showed itself well for me at the last second. The Curlews stole the show completely however over the rarities, as seventy of them landed in close to where I was parked in a field, as I had incredible and up close views of these awesome birds!
On February 11th, I made a trip out to the Hassayampa River Preserve in hopes of a Rufous-backed Robin that had been found in December 2010, and refound again on Sunday the 6th. I stayed the entire day at the preserve that lasted from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. The robin was giving me a tough time everytime I tried for it around the picnic area throughout the day. I did hit luck however as I found and photographed a Winter Wren on the Lion Trail! This was the first time I actually was lucky enough to see a Winter Wren after a number of times of hearing them only. Ironically, down the path from the first Winter Wren, was a second Winter Wren! After I watched the Winter Wren for over an hour, I spent the final four hours searching for the Rufous-backed Robin. At 4:30 and thirty minutes away from close time at the preserve, the Robin finally showed itself perfectly for me, a great new county bird.
On February 5th, at Gilbert Water Ranch, I got to see three Greater White-fronted Geese alongside with a Ross's Goose that were found by Brendon Grice, as well as two Ruddy Ground-Doves.
On January 31st, I took a trip to the Arlington and Salome Highway Area southwest of Phoenix. I was rewarded with great looks at Crissal and Le Conte's Thrashers, as well as White-tailed Kites, Long-billed Curlews, and an impressive flock of 121 Sandhill Cranes.
On January 26th, Jim Kopitzke and I took a trip to Sunflower and Mount Ord. At Sunflower we found a juvenille Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a hybrid Red-naped x Red-breasted Sapsucker (below), and at Mount Ord we found abundant Red Crossbills (also below) that are likely breeding, as well as an adult male Olive Warbler.
On January 22nd, I got my first two lifers of 2011 in the Salt River Area. The first was a first winter Black-legged Kittiwake which was discovered by Troy Corman while he was doing waterbird surveys at Saguaro Lake. The young Kittiwake gave me a show after I hiked two miles to the east end of the lake. Then at Granite Reef Recreation Site, I got to see a continuing Tundra Swan that was found by Marcus Watson and Jay Miller earlier in the month, my first swan in the wild!
On January 10th, a Cackling Goose that I chased in West Phoenix that was found by Stig Tjotta at Crystal Gardens Parkway gave me a good showing.
On January 8th, I got to see the continuing Brown Thrasher found by Frank Insana at the Desert Botanical Gardens which was found in November 2010. Later on in the morning, I also got to see a Eurasian/Common Green-winged Teal found by Marcus Watson at Tempe Town Lake. The teal is likely to be a separate species someday from the American Green-winged Teal.
After a very tiring Big Year I did in Maricopa County in 2010, I went out at it again as I wanted to start the year off strong with a rarity, as I got to see the Chestnut-sided Warbler on January 2nd at Rio Salado that I originally found on December 13th, 2010.