Jacked About Lifers

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Once you start getting into birding, it’s pretty hard to not keep a list of who you see and it’s pretty exciting to get a lifer (a bird when it is first seen and positively identified by a birder. To qualify as a lifer, birds must be observed in the wild and under appropriate conditions to be added to a life list).

So, I’ve had an exciting week where I’ve seen and photographed FOUR lifers! They’ve all been in Phoenix, in 3 different locations, and none are overly common.

Western Wood Peewee

Western Wood-Peewee Front

Western Wood-Peewee 2

Western Wood-Peewee, above

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Warbling Vireo

I only got one shot of that little guy but he’s (she’s?) awfully cute.

And I got 2 lifers today at the park I go to once every weekend, Granada Park, and where I see quite a few birds but haven’t seen any lifers lately.

Lesser Nighthawk 2

Lesser Nighthawk

Nighthawks are those birds you often see flying around at night at brightly lit stadiums or close to freeway lights, hunting insects. But, in the daytime, they lay low and are usually camouflaged. I was very surprised to see this guy just standing on the trail, posing for me. He did take off and fly into some brush after a few shots.

Swallow 2

Swallow 3

Swallow 1

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

There was a small flock of these in a tree I passed by. I had heard they were in this park but I had never come across them in my frequent visits there.

Swallow and Fledgling

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, fledgling with adult

I hope my luck continues and I keep cranking out these lifers so that I can have a Big Year!

Who?

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Burrowing Owls, that’s who. Burrowing owls are small (9 inch tall), day-active birds that live in the abandoned burrows of ground squirrels and other mammals. They are highly social and eat primarily insects and mice. Once common in the Phoenix valley, these birds are disappearing rapidly due to development. Oftentimes, developers are not even aware that there are burrows and they excavate over them. Fortunately, the birds can be trapped and successfully relocated to safe sites; however, these sites are becoming increasingly rare (Downtown Owls).

The City of Phoenix, along with Wild at Heart and Audubon Arizona (funded by Toyota TogetherGreen) have been relocating these displaced owls for the last couple of years in the Rio Salado Restoration Habitat Area. Volunteers build burrows out of PVC pipes and 5 gallon buckets for them, and they are gradually re-introduced into their new burrows.

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We went to see the owls this weekend with our friend, Lawrence Polk, Parks Special Operations Supervisor, for the City of Phoenix, and we got a guided tour of the burrows, which are on a bluff overlooking the Salt River. Each burrow is covered over with rocks to protect it and has a perching post outside.

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The birds are not very shy but you are not supposed to get within 15 feet of them. The burrowing owl is federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Burrowing Owls are listed as Endangered in Canada and Threatened in Mexico. In Arizona, they are considered a Species of Concern.

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Turkey Vulture

They are always on the lookout for any possible danger. I thought maybe the hawk, above, was scoping out the owls but, later, when I looked at my photos, I realized it was a Turkey Vulture, looking for carrion, so the owls weren’t in danger from him.

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We saw several of the owls and I took about 150 photos but they all kind of look about the same, I noticed, so I won’t show you all of them.

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There are a few other locations in the area where new habitats for the owls are being built, including Zanjero Park in Gilbert.

Just Ducky

Duck Head

Mallard 3

While it’s still duckling season, I’d better show you some of those I’ve seen the past few weeks. Our migratory waterfowl have split for the season and those that remain are year-round residents.

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You probably have baby ducks where you are, too, or will soon, but who doesn’t love a baby duck and watching them play?

Races

Duck Race!

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2 Dux

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Okay, that’s enough…

Saved Duck

I thought this little guy above was going to go under. He was all alone and paddling furiously against the current because he didn’t want to be swept under the bridge across the canal. But, in the end, we scared him so that he did go under the bridge and he was happily floating toward his family last time I saw him.

Mallard Close

Mallard 2

Duckling

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Teenager, above.

White Duck

This pretty girl, above, looks different than the other Mallard hens, glistening in the water.

Resident Water Bird Bonus Shots

Green Heron

Green Heron Snack

Green Heron, snacking

Cormy Splash

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This Neotropic Cormorant caught himself a big one and had a hard time controlling it. I left before the gory ending.

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Where Birds Go By…

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Northern Mockingbird

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Great-Tailed Grackle, female

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House Sparrow, male

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Verdin

Grackle

Great-Tailed Grackle, male

Starling

European Starling

Orchid Tree

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House Finch, male

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Rosy-Faced Lovebird

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

1
Sometimes in the open you look up
where birds go by, or just nothing,
and wait. A dim feeling comes
you were like this once, there was air,
and quiet; it was by a lake, or
maybe a river you were alert
as an otter and were suddenly born
like the evening star into wide
still worlds like this one you have found
again, for a moment, in the open.

2
Something is being told in the woods: aisles of
shadow lead away; a branch waves;
a pencil of sunlight slowly travels its
path. A withheld presence almost
speaks, but then retreats, rustles
a patch of brush. You can feel
the centuries ripple generations
of wandering, discovering, being lost
and found, eating, dying, being born.
A walk through the forest strokes your fur,
the fur you no longer have. And your gaze
down a forest aisle is a strange, long
plunge, dark eyes looking for home.
For delicious minutes you can feel your whiskers
wider than your mind, away out over everything.

Atavism, William Stafford

My current favorite poem.

Hummers and Flowers

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Desert Marigold 4.8.15

Hummer 2

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Flower

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Desert Marigold and Bee

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Pom with Bug 4.25.15

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Hib Open 4.25.15

H-bird with Oliver Poem

I tried to salvage this last shot by adding a little inspiration. Not sure it worked…