Tag Archives: Cowbird

Usery Mountain and Red Mountain

Red-tailed Hawk on Saguaro

We’ve been fortunate to have some cool days in Phoenix lately, before the true summer heat begins, so last week we took a local trip about 30 miles away to Usery Mountain Regional Park (a county park). It was very pretty. We made another stop first that I didn’t care for as much so I’ll put that at the end of this post…

I was glad to finally see this sign above. It has been around since the 1950s (although I’ve also heard it was already present during WWII) when a Boy Scout troop built it to help direct pilots to the Phoenix airport, 20 miles west. It’s made of rocks from Usery Mountain: each letter is about 100 feet high and 12 feet wide. The sign is 1,000 feet across and it took 5.5 years to assemble. More on this marker here.

Pass Mountain

Viewing Pond

This little pond and waterfall draws wildlife in for drinks and baths.

House Finches, male and female

Gambel’s Quail

Curve-billed Thrasher on Saguaro

Lesser Goldfinch

The Nature Center at the park had feeders set up behind it. I always appreciate feeders to draw birds in. No lifers but lifers aren’t everything…I guess.

This is the view looking south toward Apache Junction.

Our original destination that day was Red Mountain Park in east Mesa, where we went first. We had heard they have a wetlands area. Well, sort of, but not really. This park did not thrill me at all. I’m sure it’s nice for a city park if you live close by but it wasn’t worth the drive (to us).

The place was dominated by grackles and doves. We saw a few other birds but they’re the sort of birds we see at most of the ponds and lakes around town.

Canada Goose gosling

Cooper’s Hawk

Pied-billed Grebes, adult and immature

Western Wood-Pewee

Brown-headed Cowbird

Snow Goose

The highlight of that park was seeing this Snow Goose, which should really not be in the area and shows up on the rare bird alert regularly. It must either like it there or it can’t fly although it certainly looked fine. I’ve seen a migrating flock of these before but never one up close like this. It is a handsome bird.

Oh, the very first shot of the hawk on the saguaro? It cost me $24. I took it from the side of the road and laid my lens cap on my car. Hours later I remembered. It’s a big cap, 95mm. The replacement just arrived now.

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Potato Creek State Park

Forest Path 2

Cove

A variety of natural habitats await the visitor to Potato Creek State Park in northwest Indiana including the 327 acre Worster Lake, old fields, mature woodlands, restored prairies, and diverse wetlands. I know there were a ton of birds there but I was with my 95 year old mother so my opportunities for birding were limited (plus I didn’t take my birding lens back there).

I did get 3 lifers relatively easily so I can imagine what a few hours there would yield.

Chickadee

Chickadee 2Black-capped Chickadee

Chipping Sparrow_edited-1

Chipping 2Chipping Sparrow

CrowAmerican Crow

Cowbird 1Brown-headed Cowbird, young

Skiers Trail

Forest Path

Trail Erosion 2

Trail Erosion

It rained 8 inches the day I got to Indiana so there was much flooding in many places. The park suffered damage to some of the trails and the lake was closed.

SwallowtailTiger Swallowtail

Green DflyEastern Pondhawk

No Vehicles

Lush

It was very lush, very humid, and pretty buggy. I’d forgotten that feeling of something cold and slimy flying right into your eye that I used to experience in midwest summers in the woods.

Years ago, I wrote about this same place.

So This Happened…

Mulb 1

…It was a lonely early spring evening, maybe a year ago, maybe more. The delicious mulberries were slightly fermented…it was hard to stop eating them…

Thrash Perch 4.2.16Curve-billed Thrasher

Mock 7.22.15Northern Mockingbird

“Hey, we’re both in the Mimidae family, why would it be wrong?”

Mock x Thrasher 1Mockingbird x Thrasher Hybrid?

Here’s the facts:

  1. Mulberries do ferment and birds can get “drunk.”
  2. Mockingbirds and Thrashers are in the same family of birds and, if they live in close proximity, they can mate but it’s quite rare.
  3. We have mulberries, mockingbirds, and thrashers in our yard.

Did it happen?

Mock x Thrasher 2

Mock x Thrasher 3

Probably not. The expert birders in my Facebook group all agree that this is a Northern Mockingbird with a bill deformity. Sad, but it is busily building a nest with another mockingbird so it must have adapted. It certainly threw me for a loop when I first started seeing this bird, though.

In other less R-rated news in my yard…I hit yard bird species #26 with this bird:

WC Sparrow 3.27.16White-crowned Sparrow

WCSP 4.13.16

There were at least 4 of them here for 2-3 weeks but they don’t summer in Phoenix and I think they moved on a few days ago. I saw one lagging behind but it’s gone now, too.

WCSP Mulberry

Speaking of mulberries, they loved them. I don’t know if it led to any R or X-rated behavior, though.

WCSP

And then yard bird species #27 stopped by:

CowbirdBrown-headed Cowbird, female

Cowbirds are parasitic nesters. “Females forgo building nests and instead put all their energy into producing eggs, sometimes more than three dozen a summer. These they lay in the nests of other birds, abandoning their young to foster parents, usually at the expense of at least some of the host’s own chicks” (Cornell Lab of Ornithology). Looks like she’s looking for nests…

I’m almost sure I saw another bird in my yard that would have been a Lifer but I didn’t get a photo and I saw it for only a few seconds. It was a Plumbeous Vireo. I spent hours sitting in my yard waiting for it to reappear but it never did.

Oh, and the little Black-chinned Hummingbird that I mentioned a few posts back is still here. This tiny guy is speedy but I finally was able to capture a glimpse of his purple collar:

BCHU #.26.16

BCHU Purp Show

See? It’s barely visible, above.

Park Pals

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Gilded Flicker, male

I go to several urban parks on a regular basis. Weekly I head over to Granada Park, the closest to my house, but I also visit several others. Here are a few friends I met over the last month, mostly at Granada but also 4 other parks.

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Gambel’s Quail, female

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Green Heron

Killdeer

Killdeer

Lovebird

Rosy-Faced Lovebird, juvenile

Thrasher

Curve-Billed Thrasher

Verdin 2

Verdin

Verdin

Verdins

Sandpiper 3.31.15_edited-1

Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpipers

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Black Phoebe, chowing down

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Gila Woodpecker, female

Cowbird Girl

Brown-Headed Cowbird, female

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

Finch Yellow

House  Finch, yellow variety

Cormy

Neotropic Cormorant

Matching Ducks

I guess these guys, above, must be Mallard hybrids (or domestic ducks), but they’re funny, always swimming together and looking similar but different. Must be related.

And another little buddy that I see at the park often, Georgie, a water dog:

Georgie

Georgie Wet

Georgie

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Spring is in the Air

Hummer 4.8.15_edited-2

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

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Verdin

Sparrow 2_edited-1

House Sparrow, male

Trumpet Flower 4.8.15

Trumpet Flowers

Skipper Orange 4.8.15

Fiery Skipper

Towhee

Abert’s Towhee

Leafcutter Bee 4.8.15

Hummer 4.8.5 2

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Brown-Headed Cowbird, female

Did you know this about Cowbirds? Females forgo building nests and instead put all their energy into producing eggs, sometimes more than three dozen a summer. These they lay in the nests of other birds, abandoning their young to foster parents, usually at the expense of at least some of the host’s own chicks. Strange but true.

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Verdin (both genders look the same)

Checkered White 4.8.15

Checkered White Butterfly

Lovebird

Peach-Faced Lovebird

Phoebe 2

Black Phoebe

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House Finch, male

Turtle Yoga

Red-Eared Pond Slider, doing yoga

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