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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Arizona Christmas

Day 1 - the drive down, part I

down Hwy 5 and over to Hwy 58 to Barstow where we stayed the night. On the way we saw lots of Red Tails and Kestrels; stopped by the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, been wanting to check it out for sometime. On the way in to the refuge on Corcoran Road we had a great Golden Eagle sighting, perched on the power pole right by the side of the road. Then we hit the auto tour route where we saw numerous red tails, some kestrels, about 1/2 a dozen coopers hawks (some were very close sightings), a White-tailed Kite, some coots and other water fowl (I expected to see alot more, but they are probably all up at sac?), then the best sighting of day was a Short-eared Owl, it came in behind the car, around the back of a tree, then worked it's way up to a water wheel, perched up for about a minute and then came directly back towards the car giving us great looks, lightning was great and everything, I probably would have tried to get some pics but my camera was giving me some 'Err 99' issue when taking pictures at 400mm (frustrating to say the least). On the way out Garces Hwy going towards Bakersfield we saw another Golden Eagle on a power pole right by the road (possible that it was the same bird as before? but did not look like it).

Day 2 - the drive down, part II

Barstow to Paulden with a side trip to the Grand Canyon. Saw some small herds of Prong Horn along the side of the highway 40 as well as 2 separate pairs of Golden Eagles on some large power poles, but the good raptor sightings were on the way to the Grand Canyon on Hwy 64 - a juvenile Ferruginous Hawk on a power pole just past the gas station and then a Merlin sitting on a snag about a mile past the entrance to the park.

The Grand Canyon is quite spectacular, surprising that I had never actually seen it in person before? One of these days I would like to do some hiking there, but definitely not in the winter. Beware - it cost $25.00 to get into the park!!! kinda steep if you ask me...

Day 3

Claire went out on a road ride, I went hiking around in the 'back yard', came across an huge canyon that was pretty cool, I think it is the headwaters of the Verde River, not sure? birds of note; road runner and 3 rock wrens

Day 4

Went MTB riding from the Williams Valley trailhead, fun stuff; see other post for more info. On the way saw a Merlin, Ferug and a sweet dark morph Ferug (got the pic of him on Christmas day). Chino Valley is the spot for Ferug in winter - for sure!

Day 5

It snowed this morning, about an inch I guess; Went to Prescott on the way there was a Prairie Falcon on a power pole at the corner of Hwy 89 and Old Hwy 89, this was the only one I saw on the trip.

Day 6

MTB ride in Thumb Butte area; see other post;
Excellent Cooper's Hawk sighting on the ride.

Day 7

Claire went out on a big road ride, can't remember what I did ?

Day 8, Christmas day

Took Katie and Pat out birding around Chino Valley; what can I say Ferruginous Hawks really like this area in the winter; we saw at least a 1/2 dozen in less then an hour. The highlight being this dark morph bird. I actually went back a few hours later that day to take some pictures, this bird was very cooperative and let me get really close to the power pole he was perched on before taking off. Got a few other shots of light morphs as well but nothing too spectacular.

Day 9

went on a MTB ride on the BLM land behind the Rim Rock area - up to Little Thumb Butte

Day 10

Claire went out on a long horse ride, I just sat around, drank beer and played cards.

Day 11 - the drive home part I

So we decided we had better check out Sedona and Flagstaff before we went home; when we woke up there was at least an inch of snow on the ground so our planned MTB ride in Sedona was quickly shot down.

We basically just spend the day driving and checking out the beautiful scenery around Sedona before going on a short birding excursion around Upper Mary, Lower Mary and Mormon Lakes.

Visibility was not good at all due to falling snow and road conditions were not so good either, we were able to get a great sighting of a juvenile Bald Eagle, he flew parallel and level to the car and then directly above for quite some time. Other then that just saw some Red Tails. Flagstaff has a pretty cool down town area, its kinda sad the hills around there have been logged so extensively.

Day 12 - the drive home part II

13 hours from Flagstaff to home, pretty uneventful, saw two Ferruginous Hawks between Kingman and Needles and lots of desert...

It's been a long time since I have taken this many days off work, I highly recommend it!