Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

October 18, 2009

Boyce Birdwalk Birdlist

Filed under: Birds, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, favorite places — richditch @ 3:35 pm
Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

In spite of the record heat (it reached 102 in Phoenix), there was a good turnout for the birdwalk at Boyce Thompson Arboretum on Saturday. And we saw more birds than I expected for the day with good views of many of them.

We followed the route I described here earlier in the week, going clockwise around the main trail so we’d get out of the hottest open areas above Ayer Lake as soon as possible. This area produced our first unexpected bird: an out-of-place Osprey flying east up the canyon over the bone dry creek, viewed against the mass of Picket Post Mountain. Very different from the first views I had of these fishing specialists along the New Jersey shore.

The group enjoyed watching Northern (red-shafted) Flickers eating in masse on the fruit of a Chinese Pistache tree in the main canyon just east of the Herb Garden. This large woodpecker was easy to compare with the somewhat smaller but noisier Gila Woodpeckers enjoying the same bounty of food.

We also enjoyed good views of a Brown Creeper in typical behavior on a tree trunk while a Canyon Wren fed in a tangle of roots just a few feet away – all while we watched from the cool vantage of the footbridge over bone dry Silver King Wash.

At the picnic area by the lower parking lot we spent time watching an unusual for Boyce Crissal Thrasher being chased by the resident Curve-billed Thrasher as it tried to feed low in the shrubs. This is a great opportunity to study the differences between these relatd birds.

In the Demonstration Garden we had another surprise – a meadowlark! Both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks occur in god numbers in many grasslands in Arizona, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen one in such an untypical habitat. I was unable to determine if it was an Eastern or Western before it departed with a large dragonfly in its beak.

One bird from the walk remains a bit of a mystery. As we approached the Chinese Pistache tree where all the feeding activity was we heard an unfamiliar musical song that I suspected was a thrasher. My friend Brendon was able to get a brief view of the bird from the other side of the thicket as he tried to get photos and was able to confirm it was a thrasher. We wrote it off at the time as a Crissal, but only later after independently listening to thrasher recordings did we decide that it was a LeConte’s Thrasher. Brendon also saw that the bird had a dark eye during his brief view which further supports this identification.

Here’s the complete list for the day, in the order encountered. Brendon and I started birding a half hour before the main gates opened as we waited by our cars outside the entrance:

Gila Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thrasher, House Finch, Pyrrhuloxia, Cedar Waxwing, Cactus Wren, Pine Siskin, House Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Mourning Dove, Black-throated Sparrow, Inca Dove, Phainopepla, Common Raven, Lesser Goldfinch, Hermit Thrush, Abert’s Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Northern (red-shafted) Flicker, Canyon Wren, Cooper’s Hawk, Dark-eyed Junco, Verdin, Red-naped Sapsucker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Tree Swallow, Osprey, European Starling, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Gambel’s Quail, Brown Creeper, Spotted Towhee, meadowlark species, Crissal Thrasher, Orange-crowned Warbler, Swainson’s Thrush, possible LeConte’s Thrasher.

I don’t carry my camera gear while leading these birdwalks – its just too much of a burden and my duties are to find birds for the participants instead of photograph them for myself. But after the walk had ended I got my gear for a few photos around the picnic area. This Hermit Thrush was taken with my Nikon D200, 300/2.8 lens with 2x converter, ISO 400, 1/400th second at f/5.6 just before noon in a shaded area.



  1. Rich

    I hope that one day I can join you on one of your bird walks. I am certain each person who walked with you yesterday came away with more knowledge about the species there than they started the morning with.

    Comment by Mia — October 18, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

  2. Wow! It sounds like you guys had a great walk-about. I, too, want to join you sometime on a bird walk at the BTA.

    I’m a little shy about going with anyone else, as one time several years ago at the BTA I was ridiculed for having a camera (My Canon 20D with a 400mm lens) instead of binoculars. After a couple of comments from the leader we decided to break from the group and continue on our own like we usually do. As an avid photographer, I am sure that you would never say anything demeaning to a struggling photographer!

    Comment by Robin McEntire — October 19, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

  3. Robin:

    You’d be welcome on any of my bird walks at Boyce, with or without your camera gear or binoculars. Many participants bring along some sort of camera, and on this walk they ranged from Brendon’s Canon 500/4 at the long end down through various “consumer” grade zooms on DSLRs, all the way to so-called Bridge cameras. I’m sure there was at least one participant who didn’t have binoculars.

    I try to make these walks as much about basic nature enjoyment as about the birds that are my primary interest. We stopped briefly to appreciate the view of the switchback trail I included in an earlier post, and I pointed out a very small Greater Earless Lizard that posed on a small trailside rock so a couple of the people with macro capability could get shots.

    I also keep my walks informal and unstructured as much as possible, so there’s no problem when anyone in the group wants to linger somewhere while the rest of us move on down the trail. Since we follow a closed loop I know they can catch up if they want, or just proceed to the Visitor Center exit if they prefer.

    Or, you can always do as I did on Saturday and just leave the camera gear in your car until the walk has ended, and then spend all the time you want taking photos of whatever interested you the most.

    Note: I’ll be leading my next birdwalk at BTA on Saturday, November 21.

    Comment by richditch — October 19, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

  4. Awww – wish I could make that one, but it’s our (only) grandson’s first birthday on that day! I’ll have a piece of cake in your honor – how’s that?

    Thanks Rich!

    Comment by Robin McEntire — October 26, 2009 @ 9:52 am

  5. Robin:

    If you can’t make a walk I lead then go out with another leader on a different date. Boyce has interesting birds in a beautiful setting, and the leaders of the walks are all experienced and worth spending time with.

    Comment by richditch — October 26, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

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