At 6,300 feet in the White Mountains, Fool Hollow Lake is a cool getaway from the sweltering summer heat of Arizona’s deserts, and the birding here is way cool, too.
The best bird of any visit is Pinyon Jay, a hit-and-miss target in other more remote parts of the White Mountains. The querulous, ringing call of the flocking corvid is perhaps the signature sound of Arizona’s high country. I have never missed the species on a morning walk at Fool Hollow Lake, where it’s a permanent resident. The park’s unexpected summer surprise is a colony of natural-cavity-nesting Purple Martins, never easy to find anywhere in the West.
Best birding is along the two miles of lakeshore trails. Other spots to explore are the adjacent meadows, marshes, and pine forest. Osprey nest in the park and patrol the lake, Grace’s is the park’s default warbler, and Acorn Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Western Wood-Pewee, and Cassin’s and Western Kingbirds abound. Don’t be surprised to encounter elk or to see beavers plying the lake waters from a dam near the marsh. Fool Hollow Lake is a wildlife haven. — Jim Burns
Man-made lake, meadows, and marshes surrounded by pinyon-juniper and ponderosa-pine forest.
Flat but rocky walking trails around the lake; hilly trails in forest.
Spring and summer: Black Tern, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Black-chinned and Anna’s Hummingbirds, Cassin’s Kingbird, Tree, Violet-green, Cliff, and Barn Swallows, Purple Martin, Bushtit, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, and Grace’s Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Hepatic and Western Tanagers, Blue and Black-headed Grosbeaks, Bullock’s Oriole. Winter: Common Loon, Bald Eagle. Year-round: Ruddy Duck, Wild Turkey, Eared, Pied-billed, and Western Grebes, Great Blue Heron, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Greater Roadrunner, Great Horned Owl, Acorn and Hairy Woodpeckers, Steller’s and Pinyon Jays, Western Scrub-Jay, House, Bewick’s, Rock, and Canyon Wrens, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, Yellow-headed Blackbird.
When to go
Late spring and early summer for breeding species, late summer for migrant hummingbirds, winter for loons and eagles.
Tent campsites and RV hookup sites, picnic ramadas, restrooms, hot showers, fishing, summer-only Saturday campfire program, canoe and kayak rentals.
State park. Open daily 5 a.m.-10 p.m. Entrance fees, payable at ranger station: $7 for day use, $3 for bicycle entrance, $17 for non-electric camping, $30 for hookup campsites. Annual passes allow access to all Arizona state parks.
On summer weekends, campgrounds typically fill up. Winter daytime highs may be below freezing.
Woodland Lake Park
12 miles east of Show Low on Woodland Lake Rd. in Pinetop. Nesting Lewis’s Woodpecker, grosbeaks, and flycatchers.
Becker Lake Wildlife Area
40 miles east of Show Low on Hwy. 60. Nesting Osprey and grassland species, migrating hummingbirds in surrounding fields in late summer, Sabine’s Gull and terns on the lake in fall.
Jim Burns is an outdoor writer and photographer and the author of four books illustrated with his photos: A Beginner’s Field Guide to Phoenix Birds (Maricopa Audubon Society, 2004), North American Owls: Journey Through a Shadowed World (Willow Creek Press, 2004), Jim Burns’ Arizona Birds (University of Arizona Press, 2008), and Owls Rock (e-book, 2012). In the October 2016 issue of BirdWatching, he described a close encounter with an Elegant Trogon, and in our April 2017 issue, he wrote about toucans and barbets in Costa Rica.
Jim Burns on social media
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