I started the day by revisiting a couple of areas around Greer. Highlights include both male and female Williamson's Sapsuckers and a proper “Tassel-eared” Abert's Squirrel. I also saw another apparent Abert's without ear tufts. Another interesting sight was some contention between the swallows and a House Wren, apparently over nest sites. The wren was singing an odd song, and looked a bit different. It has me wondering whether the Brown-throated form gets this far north.
My plan was to bird between Eagar and Alpine, and possibly hike the Escudilla Lookout Trail. I heard a Western Meadowlark along SR-260 near Eagar. My first stop was Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area. The turnoff is about 5 miles south of Eagar. I was too late to see any of the Elk, but managed to add a number of bird species to my list. The pond by the visitor's center quickly delivered Yellow-headed Blackbird and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. As I drove up to the visitor's center, I also noticed a pair of Cinnamon Teal in the pond. About 150 Pine Siskins were present, and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds were active around the feeders. A cooperative Desert Cottontail allowed me to note its field marks, unlike the one ID'd by location the other day.
The two-mile long Rudd Creek Trail is supposed to have good birding. Unfortunately, today was a windy day. I walked the trail, and found nice-looking habitat, but few birds. I did hear a Pinyon Jay, and caught a glimpse of it flying away. Things were more interesting at the lake. I spotted a Green-winged Teal and a couple of Gadwall. There was a Killdeer at the near end. Two smaller shorebirds had to remain unidentified. I heard a vaguely Eastern Meadowlark-like song from the end of the lake. Some searching turned up an Eastern (Lilian's) Meadowlark.
Before returning to the visiting center, I walked through some ancestral pueblo ruins. These are thought to have been abandoned sometime in the 14th century. Traditional accounts say that the occupants moved to Hopi and Zuni villages at that time.
Upon returning to the visitor's center, the volunteer (who's not a birder) pointed out a bird with a lot of white on the head just as I was looking for the White-breasted Nuthatch I heard calling. On the way out I stopped to take some photos and heard another Pinyon Jay. This one stayed put long enough for me to change lenses and take one photo. I saw a couple more a short way down the road, but they only stayed put long enough for a good look.
The next stop was Nelson Reservoir, which is right on US-191/180. This turned out to be a very productive stop. At first I thought there were only coots there, but a Ruddy Duck and Bufflehead encouraged me to get out the scope. I then turned up some Eared Grebes, a Redhead, and Ring-necked Duck. While I was doing this, I heard a Sora call. It called several times, but remained hidden. While I was looking for it, a Common Yellowthroat jumped out and demanded attention. It was a nice little stop.
Some of the same species were present at Nutrioso Lake. By now it was after noon. I figured that it will take 5 hours to do the Escudilla Lookout Trail (the guidebook says 4, but I haven't done any real hikes for over 7 months). I also think the wind in the open areas will be unpleasant, so my plan is to hike up the trail for an hour or so, then return. That also runs through a bunch of woodpecker habitat.
I drove up to the trailhead (at 9560', according to the guidebook), got my stuff together, and headed up the trail. I saw three Mule Deer on the way to the trailhead. There were two cars at the trailhead. I soon encountered the owner of one headed back down the trail.
I found it tough going up the trail, a combination of not being fully acclimated and too much time in an area where a 5-foot rise is a big hill. I slogged on upward for over an hour, gaining about 800 feet over the trailhead (to roughly 10,350') and traveling about 1.6 miles. There were few birds, mostly Townsend's Solitaires. Amazingly, I was actually ahead of the 4 hour pace, although I didn't realize it until later. I turned back when the trail became mostly snow-covered after entering the spruce-fir forest. I been walking over an hour, so it was a good time to head back.
I drove back to Greer. The restaurant in the lodge was open tonight (weekends only), so I ate there, and was quite satisfied.
So far, I have found 115 bird species and 10 mammal species during the trip.
Greer Lodge Resort, Greer, AZ