Mesa, Arizona and Area: Part 2

Mesa, Arizona and Area: Part 2

We had another ten days in Usery Mountain Regional Park since the last blog post. Here are some of the highlights from that stay.

We hiked the Pass Mountain trail that starts in the park and loops around the mountain. We did the trail clockwise, starting at the Wind Cave trailhead. At a viewpoint about an hour into the hike, we met some nice people from the Chicago area, and one of them took our photo. This view is of the mountain ranges northeast of Phoenix.



We continued around the mountain. You can just make out the built-up area around Fountain Hills in the background behind Wendy’s head in the photo below. The poppies were in full bloom here as well.



As we made our way to the pass, the Teddy bear cholla caught our attention.


This is the view looking back at the pass. The trail on the southern side was steeper amid loose rocks and some slabs. The 7.5 mile hike took us about four and a half hours.


One day we drove over to the closest other regional park: McDowell Mountain Park. We had heard that there was good mountain biking there, so another day we loaded up our bikes and checked it out. The Pemberton loop trail looked interesting, but we weren’t sure we wanted to tackle the whole 24.5 kilometres. After riding only a few minutes, we changed our mind. Most of the trail was quite smooth and the hills were not too steep, so we kept going. We did the loop clockwise which meant that the last ten km were fun: mostly downhill, on a well maintained trail with banked curves.


Here’s one of the rest stops along the trail with its funky decorations.


The Salt River was fairly close to Usery Mountain Park, so it was natural for us to go birding there. We stopped at the Granite Reef Rec. Site. The water was really high and there were lots of birds; mainly Ring-necked ducks. The ‘scope was necessary to do any identification, especially for the birds on the far shore. The mountain in the background is the aptly named, “Red Mountain.”


There were also some birds in the trees and bushes along the shore. Doug got a nice photo of a male Northern cardinal.


We returned to the trails that we had ridden the week before that we could access directly from our campsite. This time we met some locals who explained some of the new trails. ¬†Here’s a photo of Doug on the new trail called, “Stinger.”


Here’s Wendy on another portion of “Stinger.” You can see Red Mountain in the background.


You might believe that the weather was amazing while we were here, because that’s all the photos show. But it did rain for most of two days, and not just sprinkling. Wendy took the opportunity to get out her quilt project. Below you can see how she is enjoying the space for her sewing, pressing, cutting and organizing stations.


The clouds cleared late on the afternoon of our last day at Usery Mountain. We got out on the trails right in the park. The ocotillo, which usually look like dead sticks were sporting their new leaves. Apparently their leaves will come out just after a rainfall.


Most of the compass barrel cacti were solitary, so this clump of them was unusual.


If you look carefully between the two larger Saguaros, you can see the white lettering on the mountain that says, “Phoenix” with an arrow pointing west. A boy scout troop built the sign in the 1950s. Doug took this photo very strategically; in another few steps from this spot you would be able to see the RVs in the campsite.


We totally enjoyed our stay at Usery Mountain Regional Park. The location was close enough to the city for groceries (including Costco), and we were also in a natural setting. Here’s a view of our campsite (#23) looking east.


The sunsets were a bonus. This was the view from our campsite (looking west, obviously.)


We’ll also miss our feathered friends. We put out quail and dove mix and often had over twenty Mourning doves and a covey of Gambel’s quails under the feeder. This male quail wandered into the grass to allow for a nicer looking background.


This Gila woodpecker adapted well to all of the feeders, even the ones that were not intended for him. Here he is drinking from the hummingbird feeder. ¬†(You can see his tongue!) We moved the feeder into a bush that wouldn’t support him and the hummer was much happier!


There was always something to watch. Below you can see a Curve-billed thrasher go in for a peanut, while a Gila woodpecker hangs on from below and a Mourning dove returns to its favourite perch right in the dish.


Our two weeks in the Mesa area went quickly. We hope to return next year. Next blog post will document our time in the Sedona area.

Mesa, Arizona: Part One

Mesa, Arizona: Part One

We got set up at Usery Mountain Regional Park in a massive site, with lots of room between other campers.


We set up our bird feeders right away. Next post we’ll include photos with birds. We have lots of feathered visitors.


We rode right from our site to the trailhead for Pass Mountain trail. We rode the first section from the Wind Cave trailhead to the Bulldog trailhead and back home on the pavement, for an enjoyable ride.


Another day, we chose to go birding at The Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch. The ponds are created with reclaimed water and the birds love it! There are paved and gravelled pathways throughout the 110 acre area. Here Wendy is viewing a Green heron, a “life bird.” (Which means it’s the first time in our lives that we’ve seen one.)


 Here’s the Green heron. A Green herons is about a third of the size of our more commonly seen Great blue heron. They are hardly ever seen in Canada.


Get ready for some bird photos! A snowy egret.


Another Snowy egret that reminded us of the Cattle egret we saw in New Mexico, because it didn’t look very happy.


This is a flock of Long-billed dowitchers.


There were hundreds on Black-necked stilts.


Another Pied-billed grebe photo. (Check the Big Bend Part 2 blog for a photo of a male. This one is a female.)


A Neotropic cormorant. The white V behind its bill is the distinguishing feature.


A Great egret.


Here’s one American avocet of hundreds.


This is a Gila woodpecker poking its head out of its nest in a Saguaro cactus.


After our day birding, our legs were rested enough to try another bike ride. This time we also rode right from our RV. We joined trails we had ridden last year, then took a different turn and ended up on a trail that wasn’t on our app. It all worked out though, since the trail connected to one we knew. The flowers were spectacular.


Here’s a closer view of the Mexican golden poppies.


Here’s Doug on another section of the trail. Our total ride was about 24 km, that included about 5 km on pavement on a dedicated bike lane along the highway.

We’ve still got quite a bit of time to spend in the Mesa area, but with all these bird photos, we figured this was enough for one post.

Southeast Arizona

Southeast Arizona

We wanted to spend some time birding in the Sierra Vista area of Arizona, so Doug booked us three nights at Tombstone Territories RV Resort. The sites were spacious and almost everyone of them had afternoon shade. This is a view of our site in the morning.


The park was situated on flat land that was a little bit higher than the surroundings, and because there weren’t any tall trees, we had a view in every direction. This was one of the sunsets we experienced.


We drove an hour west to Patagonia State Park, an important bird area. There were lots of other birders, but we were able to space out enough to have our own experience. We saw almost all of the birds on this board, except the “specialty birds.” We might go back again to try to see the Elegant trogan, or maybe just travel to Mexico where it would be easier to see. We were able to confirm that we saw the Mexican variety of Mallard. The males look very similar to the northern Mallard female except they have a yellow bill.


We had lunch by the shore. Patagonia Lake is a natural lake, something that is less common in the Southwest than a lake formed by a dam.


After lunch, we drove about 20 minutes to the town of Patagonia.


We visited the Paton Center for Hummingbirds. The centre is actually in the yard of Mr. and Mrs. Paton and is world famous, especially for attracting the Violet-crowned hummingbird, that’s on the sign. The front and back yards have plenty of feeders. There are benches set up, so it’s pretty easy birding.


The Violet-crowned hummingbird was one of the first birds we saw.


There were lots of other interesting birds, including this Blue grosbeak. It’s either a female or first year male. Our identification was made easier by the fact that we were sitting right in front of a birding guide and his two clients, so we heard everything he was telling them. Apparently it is rare to have a Blue grosbeak around at this time of year. And it was a new bird for us.


The Broad-billed hummingbird was hanging out in the backyard. We think he is the most beautiful hummingbird that we’ve ever seen.


The next day, we had a couple of birding spots to check out, so we planned a circle tour. We headed east on Highway 82, and went for a short walk on the San Pedro Riparian Preserve on the trails around Fairbank Historic Town. (That’s code for birding but not seeing anything.)

We went south through Tombstone, and chose not to stop at this tourist attraction. Our plan was to turn west towards Sierra Vista, but as we were approaching the turn, we realized that the town of Bisbee was only 8 miles away. Doug has read all the J.A. Jance books about Sheriff Joanna Brady, who is the fictional sheriff of Bisbee.

So that’s how we ended up in Bisbee, which is mining town that now has a focus on tourism. You can stay in the historic Copper Queen Hotel.


It wasn’t hard to find Old Bisbee Brewing Company in historic brewery gulch. The brew house was across the street from the tap room.


The tap room was very modern which was quite a contrast to the rest of the historic looking town. We enjoyed the beer. Wendy had a Russian Imperial stout and Doug had their Copper City Ale.


After a quick lunch in the truck, we continued on our original plan. We stopped at another part of the San Pedro Riparian Preserve at San Pedro House. We birdied along the trails, seeing 27 species including this Green kingfisher. Green kingfishers have a very limited range in the USA but are often seen at this site. We watched this female catch tiny fish from a low branch. Green kingfishers are much smaller than the Belted kingfishers that we see more commonly and have very long bills. Another new one for us!


Before we left our RV park and its reliable wi-fi, we got some work done on our blog and made sure our bird lists were submitted to eBird. The blog is a joint effort. Doug takes most of the photos and formats all the photos so that they load easily to our WordPress site. Wendy then writes the commentary.


This blog was posted with the use of a personal hotspot, from Usery Mountain Regional Park, as I sit in the shade with the iPad in my lap and birds all around. Isn’t technology wonderful! We’ll be here in the Mesa area for another couple of weeks.