McNary Lucy's Warbler; White Mtn. Apache Rez
31 May 2018, 12:27 AM,
#1
McNary Lucy's Warbler; White Mtn. Apache Rez
Early yesterday afternoon (May 29, 2018) I found a male LUCY’S WARBLER singing in a patch of narrowleaf cottonwoods (Populus angustifolia) roughly near the eBird hotspot of the old mill in McNary (just east of the Navajo Co. line in Apache Co.). If paired and nesting, this would likely be the highest elevation breeding record in the state at 7300 ft (Birds of North America Online lists the highest elevation as 5,800 ft in Arizona and the Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas lists only 4,900 ft as the highest). eBird shows some higher elevation sightings from locations in the Pinaleno and Pinal Mountains, but unfortunately none of those checklists include any documentation, so it’s hard to know if all of those were correctly identified. Lucy’s Warblers are summer residents in riparian cottonwood habitat surrounded by ponderosa pine forest around Prescott and upstream of Whiteriver, but these locations are below 6,000 ft. The highest elevation locations I had previously found this species included one along Porter Creek downstream of Scott’s Reservoir in Lakeside at 6720 ft on May 13, 2006, and a singing bird (at the time presumed just a migrant) in narrowleaf cottonwoods at Wenima Wildlife Area near Springerville at ~6700 ft on April 4, 2008. I have encountered the species as a migrant multiple times at Holbrook in both spring and fall, presumably heading across the Colorado Plateau to known breeding locations at Canyon de Chelly and the San Juan River watershed in the Four Corners region. However, now I’m wondering if that Wenima bird truly was a migrant and not a male setting up territory there…


Other highlights included a few PURPLE MARTINS at the nearby lakes (both Apache and Navajo counties) and a LEWIS’S WOODPECKER. Here’s the checklist with photos of the Lucy’s Warbler:
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46139004 

Currently the White Mountain Apache Reservation is allowing access to many of the lakes off of Hwy. 260 (from Hawley Lake east to Sunrise Lake), Williams Creek Hatchery, Upper and Lower Log Rd. Campgrounds, and Alchesay Hatchery, but all other areas of the reservation are closed to recreation due to the dry conditions and fire risk. You can pick up the general outdoor permits (currently $9 per person) at the outdoors/ski shop just west of the Hon-Dah Casino, or at the convenience store/gas station at the casino. At least this allows some access for higher elevation birding while most of the National Forest land around the White Mountains and Mogollon Rim is closed!

After McNary we checked out Paradise Creek off of the road to Hawley Lake, which is beautiful but unfortunately overgrazed. Much of the willows and alders along the creek have been trashed by many cattle currently grazing the land. While checking out a couple miles of road we heard two singing OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHERS. Later on at Hawley Lake we saw a few OSPREYS and an immature BALD EAGLE chasing one of them, 38 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS, 26 CANADA GEESE, and small numbers of MALLARDS, GADWALLS, COMMON MERGANSERS, and RUDDY DUCKS. Birding from a pullout with montane riparian habitat on the way back down Hwy. 473 from Hawley Lake I had a territorial male MACGILLIVRAY’S WARBLER and a couple territorial RED-FACED WARBLERS. Several WARBLING VIREOS were singing throughout the area. 

In the late afternoon until moonrise we birded along Alchesay Hatchery Rd., unfortunately failing to hear any nightjars or owls (possibly due to the moon being partially obscured by cloudy skies). During daylight, highlights included a pair of COMMON BLACK HAWKS, nesting OSPREYS, hearing the chatter and squawks from a GREAT BLUE HERON rookery after dark, 2+ WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS, a BELTED KINGFISHER, family groups of BLACK PHOEBES and PAINTED REDSTARTS feeding fledglings, lots of YELLOW WARBLERS all along the North Fork of the White River, a couple of YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS, and at least one MEXICAN JAY and a singing RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW heard lower down the road. After dark our only sighting besides cattle and horses was one gray fox.

Good birding,

Eric Hough
Wickenburg, AZ
Reply
31 May 2018, 11:43 AM,
#2
RE: McNary Lucy's Warbler; White Mtn. Apache Rez
1. there are a fairly large number of sightings of LUCY'S WARBLERS on the mingus mountains (see ebird).
2. most of the reports are may and june and september because this is when field trips go there and when most folks go.
3. all of these sightings would be above 7200 feet.
4. i know of no evidence of nesting, and since i would guess most lucy's have nested before may, i have no comment on why lucy's are up there in may, june, and september.
5. i am just pointing this out since these are high elevation sightings.
rich armstrong
928-282-3675
Reply
31 May 2018, 11:58 AM,
#3
RE: McNary Lucy's Warbler; White Mtn. Apache Rez
Good to know, Rich! Perhaps just post-breeding dispersal, unless there are birds that had failed nests earlier or are taking advantage of the summer food resources in the mountains for a 2nd breeding season (a la Phainopeplas).
Reply


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