Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 4 (Day 155) - The great Gray vireo hunt commences, Goodbye extreme hot and cold

In selecting my route, I bypassed several well-known and consistently-producing Gray vireo spots. I did this because of accessibility issues; Most of these spots would have required very long, very hard rides to reach them. I instead decided to try for the bird along Route 17 just north of Camp Verde where I stayed last night. There is a small cluster of sightings in eBird at this location, and after speaking with local birder and Field Guides guide John Coons, I decided to give this spot a thorough inspection. John said the habitat was perfect, and that he had seen the vireo in this area before. Armed with this information, I got up at 4:15am and hit the road at 5:00 to reach the vireo spot by 6:30 or so.

63 miles today
~3600 net feet gained in elevation
~4900 total feet climbed

I had to climb 1000 feet over 14 miles to reach the vireo area. As I climbed, I noticed more and more Junipers dotting the landscape. Gray vireos really like junipers, so this was a very encouraging sign. I saw a few birds flying around, so I decided to dismount and do a bit of listening. Listening properly while riding on a dirt road is quite difficult because of the noise of the road and rattling bike. Almost immediately, I heard a Gray vireo singing a few hundred feet away. After chasing it around for a bit as it patrolled its territory, I got a nice look at it and what I presume was its mate. I was not able to get a photo of either of these birds, but I found another cooperative pair down the road a bit that were a bit more obliging. Finding this bird today was very satisfying. I have seen this species only once before, so it was nice to see four of these birds today. Year bird #459 was on the books!

Gray vireo habitat

Gray vireo - No diggity, no doubt!

I was also hoping to find Juniper titmouse and Black-chinned sparrow in this habitat. I did not find either of these species at this first spot, but I did hear a Black-chin along the side of the highway. Abandoning the bike on the side of the freeway, I shot into the roadside chaparral to obtain a nice view of this bird for year bird #459! I hope to get a better pic of one of these at some point since they are one of our most beautiful and unique sparrows.

Black-chinned sparrow #460

This bird provided a nice distraction from the very challenging climbing I had to do during the first half of today's ride. Once I got up on top of the plateau, the ride leveled out quite a bit. The habitat also changed on the plateau top as Ponderosa (I think!) pines came to dominate the landscape. Temperatures are much milder at my current elevation. The best thing about this is that I can utilize the entire day to ride. For the last few weeks in TX, NM, and AZ, it seems as if I have been sprinting from place to place in the early part of the day to avoid the mid and late day heat that is so punishing. I am looking forward to more temperate rides the next few weeks. Baring catastrophe, I have now survived the highest (106F - June 2, Phoenix, AZ) and lowest (-10F, -20F with wind chill, January 4, Salisbury, MA) temperatures that I am going to see this year. I am sure I will experience additional atrocious weather at some point, but these extreme temperatures should now be behind me. Now that I am into some really hilly country, I will be making more videos of my rides to share with you - stay tuned!

Tall pines at higher elevations

I spent a bit of the afternoon kicking around Flagstaff, AZ. I am going to deal with some minor bike issues on what will be essentially a stationary day tomorrow. I was able to add 2 more birds to the year list in the neighborhood where I am staying on the east side of town: Pinyon jay (#461) and Mountain chickadee (#462). I am hoping to grab photos of these tomorrow when I can do a bit of feeder watching. I should be able to add Lewis's woodpecker tomorrow as there is a staked out nest right near the bike store where I will leave my bike for the tune-up (this was also planned!). 

Oh yeah.....Go Kings!!!
Rangers are a bunch of ponies!


  1. Congratulations on nailing down these two KEY species today, with photos no less! Enjoy Flag!

  2. And the Kings win in OT. Good day

  3. Several of us enjoy following your trek. As you approach Colorado, the Colorado Birding Society's website has rba, directions and maps to birds. It maybe useful:

    Let us know if we can help you.