Rez birding: Northern Waterthrush, Bendire's Thrasher
11 May 2009, 2:06 PM,
Rez birding: Northern Waterthrush, Bendire's Thrasher
Chuck LaRue and I met up this morning for what turned out to be a great morning of birding on the Navajo rez.

Our first target was Bendire's Thrasher, so we went to Chuck's spot for them, about 12 miles up the LCR from Cameron. No sooner than we parked and got out, one teed up briefly in a nearby tamarisk. We watched them run around the dunes and perch up in bad light for a while, and then enjoyed long scope-filling views of a pair in good light and at close range. Best view I've ever had of this bird! Out in the middle of this desolation there were, surprisingly, some other migrants: 2 Dusky Flycatchers, Yellow-rumped and MacGillivray's Warbler, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Lark Sparrow.

At the Cameron Seep, the best bird was a Northern Waterthrush. We also found a decent mix of migrants: Western Wood-Pewee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Plumbeous Vireo, Wilson's, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, and MacGillivray's Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat, Western Tanager, Lazuli Buntings, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Brewer's, Lincoln's, Song, Lark, and White-crowned Sparrows, Green-tailed and Spotted Towhees, Bullock's Oriole, etc etc.

We also stopped along the slopes of Gray Mountain in "the spot" for Gray Vireo and Black-chinned Sparrow. Didn't have them there but found them a mile or two further up. Most notable was a pair of Hepatic Tanagers. Other Gray Mtn birds included Gray Flycatchers, Cassin's Kingbird, Pinyon Jays, Virginia's, Orange-crowned, and Black-throated Gray Warblers, and Scott's Oriole.

Ended up with somewhere around 60 species on a great spring morning.

Brian Gatlin
Grand Canyon, AZ
15 Jun 2009, 10:48 AM,
I'm thinking of making a foray to the Gray Mt area later this week with gray vireo as a target (black-chinned sparrow would be lovely as well). When you say "a mile or two further up", do you mean in the next few miles up the road?

15 Jun 2009, 5:26 PM,
Hey Jason,

yes, just continue on up the road. You want to get on the old highway at Mile Marker 280 and start heading west. The "traditional" spot is about 1 mile up, and this is worth checking, but they've been tough to find right here lately. If you continue on up the road a few miles, we found them in a very large ravine where the road gains some noticeable elevation as it goes through/up it.

You should be able to find Gray Vireo and Black-chinned Sparrow somewhere along here. Just stop wherever there are steep drainages/hillsides with open pinyon juniper.

Knowing the songs will help. Black-chinned Sparrow has a very distinctive song--a couple quick descending whistles that accelerate into a trill, with an over all bouncing ball quality. Gray Vireo's song is much like Plumbeous but less emphatic, less burry, with shorter pauses between phrases and more of a run-on quality to it.

Send me a note (email in my profile) and if I have time, I'll come out and look with you.

Good luck,
19 Jun 2009, 12:47 PM,
Thanks all for the advice on the "vireo spot". I had a very successful morning along Old Route 64. Stopping at the "traditional spot", 1.1. miles up old 64 by my odometer, I heard a gray vireo up the wash. I ended up walking up the wash for 300 yards or so, finally getting very obliging looks at two gray vireos, along with four black-chinned sparrows (both lifers for me). The vireos were quite vocal, which certainly helped, but I found the call incredibly hard to localize given the terrain. Black-throated sparrow, black-throated gray warbler, canyon, and rock wrens were all also present.

I picked up an additional gray vireo and handful of black-chinned sparrows at mile 1.8 - this time just off the road.

I found old Route 64 really a spectacular place - great views across the Little Colorado River Gorge. It was also very satisfying to get good looks at the vireo, but I must say that drab little critter is something only a birder would love.


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