Date: 11/17/17 8:19 pm From: Tommy DeBardeleben <debardelebentommy...> Subject: [AZNMbirds] AZ: Gila County-Gisela area (17 November 2017)
Gila County birding continues to be fun for me this year. Today on November 17th, I ventured to the town of Gisela, which has a very under-birded surrounding area. The main draw of Gisela is a stretch of Tonto Creek the runs north to south and parallels the east side of town.
Gisela is reached off of Highway 87, not far north of Highway 87's junction with Highway 188. I take Gisela road for about 4 miles to Tonto Creek Drive, and then Tonto Creek Drive (north part of this road is labeled Tonto Creek Shores on Google Maps) south until the road continues south and gets rough south of the Gisela neighborhoods. At this point, I walk south and then east to access the riparian habitat at Tonto Creek. The creek is deep in sections and I had to walk through water several times to get where I wanted to go. Habitat in the area is impressive, with stands of cottonwoods and willows lining the creek, mesquite and desert scrub habitat, dense thickets of hackberry, tall reeds along the creek in places, and juniper covered hillsides. A variety of birds can be found. The neighborhoods of Gisela also have impressive habitat throughout, and a community who has been friendly to me during my visits so far and welcoming of my birding.
The day started off on the fun side. After getting out of my truck, I walked a short distance north of the area I access the creek, and was in the neighborhood. I heard an interesting Phoebe call note, and it turned out to be an EASTERN PHOEBE. It was being chased by a Black Phoebe. Throughout the day I saw this Eastern Phoebe a few times, and it was adjacent to Buckboard Trail on both sides of Tonto Creek Drive. Minutes after I first saw the Eastern Phoebe, I walked shortly north where I heard an interesting warbler call up in a tall cottonwood north of Buckboard and on the east side of Tonto Creek Drive. It turned out to be a first winter CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. The cottonwood was behind and just south of a house that sells eggs. After the good start, I wondered what else was in Gisela, and I really took my time birding.
Working my route along the creek and it's adjacent habitats along the hillsides and banks, I had a a variety of other birds that included BALD EAGLE, 3 COMMON GALLINULE, BELTED KINGFISHER, a possible late Broad-tailed Hummingbird, 7 RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, abundant NORTHERN FLICKER, a three PHOEBE day, WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, BRIDLED and JUNIPER TITMOUSE, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, abundant WESTERN BLUEBIRD, 3 TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE, 4 CRISSAL THRASHER, 3 EVENING GROSBEAK, CASSIN'S FINCH, PINE SISKIN, and plenty more. Full eBird list at link here, with rarity pictures:
After the exploration Tonto Creek, I walked through the neighborhoods and community of Gisela. People are friendly here, and one man really welcomed me and encouraged me to bird. There are many different plantings in the yards here, as well plenty of native habitats. It's pretty easy to bird here without giving impressions of peering into yards. The only downfall are the many barking dogs present. Several roads in town easily take one east to Tonto Creek further north of where I spent the majority of my time birding.
Finally, when I first got to Gisela, I made a quick stop at a farm field by taking Gisela Road all the way north. At this point, the road enters private land and is adjacent to private property, including the field. The field can be looked at or scoped out from the road, and it was cool to see a MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD.
This place is one that is epic, trust me. A must visit. It's also one of the best places I've seen for Dragonflies and Damselflies in season, too!