Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Birding Arizona Part 1

Posted by Kirk Mona
I've finally started to delve into the 377 photos I took while in Arizona last week. We were staying in Scottsdale and I immediately started to add birds to my yearly count just by walking from the car to the place we were staying. I spent some time unwinding in the warm air and took in some local avifauna. We were staying on a golf course and there is a little irrigation waterway that ran just behind our back door which draws in wildlife. Here's what I saw off the bat. There was the ubiquitous Rock Pigeon and Mallards, Mourning Doves and House Sparrows which I have already seen this year at home but also Great Tailed Grackles, Kildeer, Verdin, Green Herons and a Ring-necked Duck. This is a Verdin sticking his head into a fairy duster.

The next morning I awoke early to take care of my son and also sneak in a little outdoor time to look for birds. I saw Gambel's Quail, Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Anna's Hummingbirds and a Starling all from the porch. The hummingbirds were tough to photograph and they refused to use the feeder someone had put out by the pool so all of my shots ended up being in the wild. They look better that way anyhow.

This is an Anna's Hummingbird. Check out the gorgous color on the gorget! It was an almost perfect match to the flowers. Anyone know what kind of tree that is?

That's eight new species for the year in two days without going away from our condo so not to shabby.

On Tuesday we went to the Gilbert Riparian Preserve at the Water Ranch a.k.a. the Sewage Treatment Plant. It was actually a lot prettier than it sounds. What would a vacation be without a trip to the sewage treatment plant? This was a family vacation and incredibly everyone came with me this time. I think they are getting a little more interested in birds.

We met up with Jane Wicklund who is a great birder and in warmer months, a volunteer at the Lee & Rose Warner Nature Center where I work.

We saw forty-one species of birds in something like 2 hours. That's one birds species every three minutes! I've included some of the ones I got photos of that are worth showing. First off right as we started, two peach-faced love birds flew off and while I didn't get a great look it was clear what they were. Lifer number 1. We then came around the corner and saw a Northern Mockingbird. Bingo, Lifer number 2. Anna's hummingbirds were fairly numerous that day. They always seemed to know to perch between me and the sun so that the gorget is not lit up. There is actually a chance that is on purpose I suppose. I seem like a pretty big predator to a hummingbird and flashing that bright color at a predator is probably not a good idea. Here's a male Anna's Hummingbird when the sunlight is not hitting the gorget.

Here's the same bird at leat partially lit up in the next two photos. When we came to the first pond I was delighted to see Long-billed Dowitchers. Lifer number 3 for the day.

In the same pond as the dowitchers were my favorite bird of the trip and lifer number 4. The Black-necked Stilt. I could watch and photograph these guys all day. I'm showing incredible restraint and only showing four photos of them in this post.

Further out in the pond there was hiding lifer number 5 for the day, the American Avocet. They stuck to deeper water so it was harder to get good photos of them.
As we wandered onward we also saw lifer number 6 for me, the Neotropic Cormorant. You can tell it is a neotropic cormorant in the photo as there is a light patch just behind the yellow on the face.


In one of the ponds I counted something like 13 Great Herons. I'm not sure if they were all males but many were and they had beautiful breeding plumage. They were fairly aggressive toward each other. Here's a shot of one chasing a rival.


I got this great close up look at a Great Egret and I have to admit I never realized how beautiful their faces are. Check out that green around the eyes. Lifer number 7 for the day came in the form of a Green-winged Teal. We have these at home in Minnesota as well but for some reason I've just never come across them.


Lifer 8 for the day was a Snowy Egret. Look at those awesome yellow feet! This guy was hanging out with a bunch of cormorants.



Speaking of cormorants, at one point I could see a big bird in the distance but something didn't seem right. It looked too big. Must be two cormorants perched next to each other I thought. Toward the end of our hike I looked up in the tree and saw this.


That's what I was seeing from afar. That is a very dead cormorant. If you look closely up at the top of the wing you can clearly see a white and red fishing bobber. The bird was suspended from the tree by fishing line. It had gotten all tangled up. It must have been an awful way to go. There is one pond where the public can fish here and I'm guessing that's where the line came from.

My last lifer for the day was a Black-crowned Night Heron. I always seem to miss them at home so it was nice to finally see one. I have a photo but is isn't worth showing.

There were so many other birds we saw that day. We also saw, Pied-billed grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Canada Goose, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Ruddy Duck, American Coot, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Mourning Dove, Black Phoebe, Verdin, Curve-billed Thrasher, European starling, Yellow-rumped (Audubon) warbler, Abert's Towhee, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch and House Sparrows.

I'll end this first post about my trip to Arizona with a photo of a Northern Pintail from the trip to the Gilbert Riparian Preserve. They are simply gorgeous.


~Kirk

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