Mogollon Rim, June 2014

For our anniversary trip this year, Mary Ann and I spent a couple of days on the Mogollon Rim.

Mary Ann is still recovering from her broken distal fibula, so hiking was not possible. She is out of her ‘boot’, and can walk with an ankle brace, but must still take it easy. Instead of hiking, we made this more of a driving trip. We didn’t plan a lot and played it by ear. I was interested in seeing a Red-faced Warbler (since we missed it when it passed through RPWR), and found a report of one by the road in Pine. So we decided to stop there, and then head up to the Blue Ridge Reservoir on the rim, which we hadn’t been to before. That was as far as we planned, and the rest we played by ear.

We left on Thursday morning, 6/5/14 (our 15th wedding anniversary). The stop in Pine turned out to be a bust. The location was on private property where there was some kind of youth camp. Oh well, no birding this trip, I thought.

The trip to Blue Ridge Reservoir was interesting. The lake is beautiful and quite large. It isn’t very accessible, though, especially for Mary Ann with her bad ankle. The banks are very steep. There were a lot of kayakers on the lake, and a youth group in canoes. We drove to where the dam is and got out to look around. I saw a bird that I thought at first was a Vermillion Flycatcher. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a Red-faced Warbler! I was surprised that we saw the warbler after all – it was the birding highlight of the trip. I got quite a few pictures, and posted two.

Next we decided to drive along the rim road (forest road 300) to Knoll Lake. By the end of the day we wound up driving the entire rim road and stopping at both Knoll Lake and Bear Canyon Lake. Bear Canyon was our favorite. There was a trail around the lake, and camping spots close by. It has┬ápotential for a camping spot in the future. We stayed at the Days Inn in Payson, which was nice. We ate dinner at the Buffalo Bar and Grill. We both decided on steaks (which is very unusual for Mary Ann). Mary Ann’s was good, but mine was kind of tough.

The next day we tried a forest road I saw on the map to get to a more isolated spot on West Clear Creek. It was a bust though, because the road was very rough. We could pass on it with our Forester, but it wouldn’t be a good road for camping with others. Next we stopped by Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. I have driven by the turn-off dozens of times over the years and never stopped. It was much nicer than I expected, and a beautiful place. The bad part is that it was crowded, and Mary Ann couldn’t hike much. We decided to come back again when there would be fewer people (e.g. not during the summer, and earlier in the week).

I also included a couple of photos from an earlier trip to the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch (RPWR). The picture of the Great Egret uses High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, which I’ve described in another post. The egret was very close and in a nice pose. However, I couldn’t find an exposure that I liked. It either over-exposed the white egret or under-exposed the background. HDR of a bird is usually not possible because the birds move too much. But this egret was very still, so I set up the camera for it and took the pictures at different exposures using the high-speed mode (8.5 pictures per second), so the bird would move less between exposures. I think it worked like I had hoped, where the bird isn’t over exposed, and you can still see the background clearly.

Here are the pictures:

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