Petrified Forest

I birded a little in Greer before leaving. The big surprise was a Eurasian Collared-Dove! I made a quick stop for seven Mule Deer at Benny Creek, then headed off to Petrified Forest. I again heard Western Meadowlark on the outskirts of Eagar. This time I stopped to look, finding several. My first real birding stop was Wenima Wildlife Area, a little north of Eagar. This is another area where most of the summer resident birds have not arrived yet. I did find a MacGillivray's Warbler. I also found several White-crowned Sparrows, which must still be wintering. As I was about to return to the main highway, I noticed a bird on a post. It was a Horned Lark.

I drove on to St. John's, where I checked the sewage ponds. The only shorebirds were Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper. However, White-faced Ibis and Tree Swallow added to the trip list.

The main event today was a visit to Petrified Forest National Park. Birdwise, it didn't offer a lot. Ravens and Horned Larks were the most prevalent birds. Several Rock Wrens were on the Giant Logs Trail, and a Lark Bunting put in an appearance near the Painted Desert.

I started at the southern end of Petrified Forest National Park. The Giant Logs Trail is a 0.4 mile interpretive trail right behind the visitor's center. As with all of the front-country trails at Petrified Forest, it is paved. It winds through a landscape full of petrified wood.

Apparently you could once drive to the start of the Long Logs Trail. Now, the closest parking is a half-mile away from the defunct Long Logs parking lot. There are two trails here. The 0.6 mile Long Logs loop, and the 0.8 mile round-trip walk to Agate House. I did both. The Long Logs loop winds past a lot of petrified wood, the biggest concentration in the park. The Agate House is a reconstructed pueblo dwelling built of petrified wood. Larks were the main birds seen out on these trails. I also encountered a couple of Eastern Collared Lizards.

The next stop is Crystal Forest. Unfortunately, most of the garnet and quartz crystals that gave it its name have been stolen by previous park visitors. The 0.8 mile trail now features a variety of petrified logs.

After stops at the Jasper Forest lookout and the Agate Bridge, I headed up Blue Mesa. There are numerous lookouts and an interesting 1-mile trail down into some colorful bentonite formations (with petrified wood accents).

On the way north, I stopped for photos at the Teepees (bentonite hills similar to those at Capitol Reef or John Day Fossil Beds) and Newspaper Rock. The park service has cutoff access to Newspaper Rock, and has set up a couple of binoculars to view the petroglyphs. I was aware of this, and had the 100-400 lens ready for the petroglyphs.

The last stop south of I-40 is at Puerco Pueblo, a 100-room pueblo complex dating from the mid-13th century. It too has petroglyphs. The Painted Desert is north of I-40. There are numerous overlooks and a rim trail that show off this beautiful desert. There is also backcountry access from here. I skipped the backcountry trails, concentrating on photos from the overlooks. Then it was time to head to Chinle.

So far, I have found 121 bird species and 10 mammal species during the trip.

Best Western Canyon d'Chelly, Chinle, AZ