golden-crowned-sparrowI am in Wickenburg this week leading a bird watching trip for a Northern Arizona University Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) program. The program started on Sunday and at first, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to get here. The weekend snowstorm was truly amazing and has impacted my week even after arriving here.

On Monday, our first day out in the field, our destination was Date Creek Ranch in the Date Creek mountains. The morning dawned cold and stormy. Driving to our intended destination we encountered thick dark clouds and experienced periods of rain mixed with snow. Fortunately, we drove out of the storm (we were headed west and the storm was moving east), but the storm had just finished dumping a fresh blanket of snow on the mountains and rain on the road leading to the ranch.

Leaving Highway 93, we turned onto a dirt road that is not maintained by the county. We traveled perhaps a mile before we were stopped completely in our tracks. The surface of the road was saturated, and there was a lot of clay in the soil. As we drove, the mud from the road completely encased the tires so no tread was coming into contact with the surface of the dirt road. Basically, it was mud on mud, and we had no traction.

We were stuck. The vans would not go forward or backwards, and we had miles to go to get to our destination. We wisely abandoned our plans to go to Date Creek, and we focused our efforts on getting ourselves out of this horrible mess. All of the participants got out of the vans, and many of them helped push while I drove. Eventually we got the vans turned around, and we re-traced our way back to Highway 93. We made a quick decision to go to Burro Creek, since the road to get there was paved the whole way.

Originally we were going to go to Burro Creek on Tuesday, so we had to change our Tuesday plans as a result of changing Monday’s plans. On Tuesday, we birded in Yarnell, Peeples Valley and in Wagoner Canyon. In spite of the cold and snow, it was a very productive day bird-wise.

So far, after only two days of birding, we have already seen 71 different species, and I have added eleven species to my 2012 Centennial Challenge list. Some of the birds that I have added to my state list are; golden-crowned sparrow, Bell’s vireo, Lucy’s warbler, brown creeper, pine siskin and American goldfinch. Year-to-date I have now seen more than 150 species in the state of Arizona in 2012! When spring migration gets under way, I should be able to add a lot of new species to my state list.

On Wednesday of this week, we were to visit the Hassayampa River Preserve, and we have rescheduled our visit to Date Creek Ranch for today. On Friday, we will spend time in and around Congress looking for species that are found in a Sonoran Desert habitat such as pyrrhuloxia, gilded flicker, inca dove, and others.

It is great to be out birding, especially after the long, hard week we had last week when we moved our Sedona store location to a new suite in the same shopping center. What an undertaking that was, but it looks great!

On this trip we are seeing many spring arrivals at the lower elevations. It won’t be long before they start showing up in the Prescott area.