A Red Letter Day

gb-heron_edited-1Great Blue Heron

great-egretGreat Egret

stilt_edited-1Black-necked Stilt

Despite mentioning in my last post that the Glendale Recharge Ponds are not my favorite place, I was back there one day last week. My birding friend, Samantha, wanted to look for the Long-tailed Duck reported there (that I could not find a few days prior when I went). She’s really good at finding birds so I wanted to go, too. We actually had 2 other target birds that day, at other locations farther west of the ponds: White-tailed Kites (2 have been reported) and a Tundra Swan. I was also really hoping to find some Western Meadowlarks and Western Bluebirds as they have been seen in the places we were going. All would be Lifers for me. But…

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However, I had a 6 lifer day anyway! Samantha has more birds on her life list than I do so she was not so lucky. Here’s what I got at Glendale Recharge Ponds:

greater-yellowlegs-2Greater Yellowlegs

solitary-sandpiperSolitary Sandpiper

I was most excited about these two:

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savannah-sparrow-3Savannah Sparrow

pipit-1_edited-1American Pipit

I saw these cute guys before we left:

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ocwa-creosoteOrange-crowned Warbler

says-phoebeSay’s Phoebe

black-phoebeBlack Phoebe

sparrow-songSong Sparrow

We then drove several miles to our second location in search of Kites. No such luck but I did get one other lifer there and have a really bad shot to prove it:

vesper-sparrow_edited-1Vesper Sparrow

Then we drove several more miles to where we hoped to see the Tundra Swan. No such luck again but we did see these guys and there were lifers, for me, among them. I saw them slightly better with my binoculars than these photos show.

snow-geeseSnow Geese

Since we had already gone so far, we decided to make one other stop a few more miles away referred to as the “Thrasher Spot.” I had never been there but Samantha had with much success. It’s a nondescript little area known for a variety of thrashers, Horned Larks, and a few other less common birds but they all seemed to be taking afternoon naps by the time we got there. We saw hardly any birds and nothing unusual.

The most exciting thing I saw there was this mistletoe cluster in a mesquite tree with a tiny bird in the upper right corner. However, despite getting zero target birds, 6 lifers in one day was awesome!

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Glendale Recharge Ponds

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spotted-sandpiperLeast Sandpipers

Most of these photos will be pretty ugly…There is a place I’ve been to a few times just west of Phoenix called Glendale Recharge Ponds. These ponds belong to Salt River Project, one of our electric companies, and they attract a huge amount of waterbirds and shorebirds and quite a few rarities. They are next to New River, which is part of the attraction for the birds. The only problem is it’s a very unattractive area and the birds are usually way out on the ponds so it’s hard to sneak up on them and get good photos.

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I was out there a couple weeks ago, again, looking for a specific rare bird…that I never found but here are a few shots of birds I did find there.

spotted-sandpiper-grpSpotted Sandpiper

Western Sandpipers

shovelersNorthern Shovelers

ruddy-duckRuddy Duck

pintailsNorthern Pintails

mergansersCommon Mergansers

green-winged-tealGreen-winged Teal

gadwallsGadwalls

eared-grebeEared Grebe

Although I didn’t find the bird I was looking for (Long-tailed Duck), I did get one lifer there:

buffleheads-2Buffleheads

bufflehead-flyingBufflehead, female

rwbbSavannah Sparrow

These photos give an idea of how “industrial” looking the area is and how it also attracts people who enjoy graffiti and tagging. Even though there are houses nearby, the area is kind of creepy and remote, in my opinion. Almost every time I go there, I’m the only one around.

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Seriously not my favorite place to go but the variety and quantity of birds there is amazing. There are always several hundred birds in the water plus plenty of raptors flying overhead, including Bald Eagles.

Bald Eagle, immature

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This was my 700th post!

Road Trip South

cactus-wrenCactus Wren

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On our too infrequent road trips, we usually head north of Phoenix but one day last week we headed south. Of course, I was in search of birds, one particular bird, and Tony was willing to come along. We saw places we had never been before so that’s always interesting.

First stop was Picacho Peak State Park.

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While there, I got my first Lifer of the day, and there were several of these guys!

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black-throated-sparrow-1Black-throated Sparrow

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Unfortuately, I didn’t think to take a photo of Picacho Peak itself until we had already moved on to our next destination. It’s a rugged mountain but we didn’t climb it, of course. The “easy” trail we were on was hard enough and I’ve decided to not do any climbing again. I’ll stick to flatter areas especially when carrying a big camera and lens.

Our next destination was Red Rock where there is a large feedlot. There were a lot of cows, of course, and a lot of birds (mostly Red-winged Blackbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, House Sparrows, and Starlings). This was where I got my second Lifer of the day but I didn’t know what it was until we got home later that night and I could do some research (meaning people in my Facebook birding group ID’ed it).

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lark-bunting-2Lark Bunting

Next we were on to the location where I hoped to find my “Target Bird.” This region is called Santa Cruz Flats, a large area of farmlands, dusty fields, and dirt roads. There are a lot of birds but they can be pretty far off in the fields so it’s hard to get close views.

santa-cruz-flats-map

We drove around a lot of dirt roads since we didn’t have a specific location where the target bird might be as they are found all along that area. But, guess what? We spotted ONE of the birds pretty quickly which is a good thing because in all our continued driving in search of more, that was the only one we saw. They are bizarre-looking critters.

crested-caracaraCrested Caracara

“A tropical falcon version of a vulture, the Crested Caracara reaches the United States only in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. It is a bird of open country, where it often is seen at carrion with vultures” (from Cornell’s All About Birds, where you can see some better shots of them).

We did see quite a few flying raptors but I’m not good at identifying them high up in the sky.

rt-hawkRed-tailed Hawk

says-phoebeSay’s Phoebe

Already happy to have 3 Lifers in one day, as we were nearing the end of our dirt road trek, we spotted my 4th Lifer!

loggerhead-shrikeLoggerhead Shrike

These guys impale their kills of insects, birds, lizards, and small mammals on barbed wire or thorns. I was glad to not witness that part of their behavior.

Quite a successful day and a good start to my 2017 goal of 60 Lifers. We definitely will need to go on more road trips to accomplish that.

Tiny Cuties

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yrwa-3Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s, male

These cute guys show up in the Phoenix area in the winter but they’re so fast that it’s often hard to get a clear shot. However, this little guy was very cooperative the other day at the Desert Botanical Garden and almost seemed to enjoy my attention. So did this guy, who let me get about a foot away from him:

costasCosta’s Hummingbird, male

I never see Costa’s in my yard. We have many Anna’s year-round and a couple Black-chinned in the spring.

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annas-1-1-17Anna’s Hummingbirds, male

My little yellow yard bird has done many cute things lately.

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ocwa-suet-12-30-16Orange-crowned Warbler, male

And the tiny Verdins are always busy and love their fruit:

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verdin-pomVerdins

finch-chollaHouse Finch, female

finch-12-30-16House Finch, male

Did you know that House Finches were originally a southwestern bird but can now be found all over the US? I just found that out recently.

black-phoebe-sculpture_edited-1Black Phoebe

I’ve been to two places in the last week looking for specific Lifers and didn’t find either! I’m declaring two 2017 Goals here:

  1. Find at least 60 Lifers (this will require more day trips but as Tony is now retired, he is willing to come along to interesting places).
  2. Volunteer at the Desert Botanical Garden for at least 100 hours (which isn’t really much over a 52 week period).

Do you have any goals you want to put into writing this year?

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Looking Ahead to 2017

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cw-12-28-16Cactus Wrens (Arizona State Bird)

rmr(above graphic credit)

gilded-flickerGilded Flicker

queenQueen Butterfly

mock-12-28-16Northern Mockingbird (pondering what lies ahead)

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Wishing all of us peace, love, and understanding…as well as health and prosperity in 2017!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!