Mount Baldy, White Mts: usual White Mountain suspects & White-crowned Sparrows
23 Jun 2013, 4:08 PM,
Mount Baldy, White Mts: usual White Mountain suspects & White-crowned Sparrows
I took my kids on their first-ever backpacking trip this weekend (June 21-23) - we spent two nights in the White Mountains along the West Fork of the Little Colorado River, climbing Mount Baldy on the day in between. This was my first trip to the area. Despite the fact that Mount Baldy may have the least-impressive visual profile of any big mountain I've ever seen, I was really taken with the scenery and lush forest. Birds were outstanding too, although I didn't spend time doing dedicated birding.

From our start at Sheep Crossing we followed the "94" trail up the valley, camping about 3.5 miles upstream. We covered a total of 15 miles over three days. Cumulative birding highlights:

- MANY American 3-toed Woodpeckers - they were the most common woodpecker I saw on the trip at about 8-10 individuals (Hairy and Northern Flicker came in 2nd and 3rd place - I didn't see Downy), all seen between two and four miles from Sheep Crossing
- American Dipper - a total of 5 individuals, spaced regularly along the creek. With all due respect to Picture Canyon, it was great to see an AZ dipper NOT bathing in wastewater effluent!
- Golden-crowned Kinglets - innumerable! Either one loud bird followed me all weekend, or GCKIs are super-abundant and vocal on the slopes of Mount Baldy.
- Gray Jay - I thought these would be a slam dunk, but these birds made me wait until about 1/4 mile from the trailhead on the way OUT before I finally saw them - a pair of birds (state bird - woohoo!).
- Clark's Nutcracker - two birds flew over our camp
- Red Crossbill - several flyovers
- Townsend's Solitaire - singing high on Mount Baldy
- White-crowned Sparrow - I saw a pair of birds together very high on Mount Baldy of the dark-lored "oriantha" subspecies. The 1981 version of Monson & Phillips indicates uncertainty about the breeding status of WCSP in the White Mountains. Is there any more recent data (I don't have the AZ breeding atlas on me)?

Despite being on the lookout, I didn't see any Pine Grosbeaks (a rare breeder in the White Mountains), of which there were several reports a few years ago along this route. I guess I'll have to go back!


A few pics
3-toed Woodpecker:
American 3-toed Woodpecker

American Dipper:
American Dipper
24 Jun 2013, 8:31 AM,
RE: Mount Baldy, White Mts: usual White Mountain suspects & White-crowned Sparrows
Chuck points out to me that its good to be clear that the actual summit of Mount Baldy is on the White Mountain Apache lands, and is closed to hikers (and birders). The boundary of the National Forest is fairly well marked up there, and also on the USGS topo maps of the peak, and we stuck to the National Forest lands very carefully. I encourage anyone who heads up there to be respectful of the boundaries, and to err on the side of caution if in doubt.


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