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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Extra-Ord-inary Highlights from Mt. Ord: Grey Vireo, Scott's Oriole and Painted Redstart

[Mt. Ord. April 2017]

Named after Maj Gen Edward Ord (who led a distinguished career as a soldier during the Civil War), Mt. Ord stands over 7,000 ft tall at the intersection of Maricopa and Gila counties in Arizona's Mazatzal mountain range within Tonto National Forest.

An ascent to the summit honors not just the mountain's namesake, but also affords the opportunity for the intrepid birder to get acquainted with the unique birdlife of the area -- featuring species such as:

  • Black-chinned Sparrow
  • Grey Vireo
  • Scott's Oriole
  • Grace's Warbler
  • Olive Warbler
  • Painted Redstart
  • Summer Tanager

We start with the distinctive sparrow of arid foothills of the Southwest -- Black-chinned Sparrow:

With its "spinning coin" song, grey body, rufous wings and black chin, this is indeed an unforgettable sparrow.

Much plainer is the Grey Vireo. A species whose maiden sighting was enjoyed by this blogger on this occasion. Vireos are perhaps relegated to "second class citizens" in juxtaposition to our much more colorful warblers, yet it is the interminably cheerful songs of our vireos that are a true harbinger of Spring.

And the Grey Vireo, although modest in looks, is a cheery songster:

Scott's Oriole: A dramatic lemon-yellow and black, Scott's Oriole looks like a giant goldfinch singing the sweet whistled notes that are typical of Orioles:

Grace's Warbler -- Unlike many of our flashy warblers, the subtle shades of grey, white and a yellow throat lend a graceful look to this Southwestern specialty:

Both the Grace's and the Olive Warbler were found in the upper reaches of the mountain where they regaled the observer with their swift movements and fine song:

One of the flashiest warblers of the Southwest, the Painted Redstart also brought a dash of color to the forest:

The ensuing chorus of warblers, orioles and vireos was enjoyed by all denizens of the forest; including this female Summer Tanager:

In the desert, mountains are an oasis not only of cooler weather and greenery but also of hidden avian gems such as the Grey Vireo, specialty Southwestern Warblers and Scott's Oriole. And, a perfect place to enjoy these delights is the stunning peak of the Mazatzals -- Mt. Ord.

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