There’s a small park in Tempe that I had never heard of with a little pond. The word got out among the local birders and bird photographers that a male Wood Duck and two females were hanging out there for the winter. Wood Ducks are not real common in the Phoenix area although a few are spotted here and there most winters. I hadn’t seen any in a couple years so I headed out last Sunday and got there shortly before sunset.
Of course, the male was the star of the show but the females are pretty, too.
It was getting dark but I was fortunate to catch a few golden patches of water.
Plus…to make things even better, there was a rare bird there, too, which was part of the draw. This tiny little guy is native to South America so everyone assumed he was an escapee from a zoo or private collection. Apparently, the latter is the case. He belongs to someone who lives a couple of blocks from the park and recently escaped. The owner knows where he is and comes to visit him but has decided he seems happy so is leaving him there. Hope he’ll be okay because he’s pretty tame and much smaller than one would think.
Ringed Teal, male
Both these boys were more than happy to pose for the cameras. I have so many photos that I had to try a couple special effects…
My last Wood Duck experience can be seen here.
Acorn Woodpecker, female
If you don’t live in the purple range below at an elevation over 4500 feet, maybe you’ve never seen one of these comical woodpeckers before. I hadn’t~at least not since I’ve been paying attention to birds. So I was excited to see a lot of them the other day when we went to Goldwater Lake in Prescott, AZ.
This is a granary tree, above, the main food storage “pantry” created and used by communal groups of these fascinating woodpeckers. They have a complex social system where family groups hold territories, and young woodpeckers stay with their parents for several years and help the parents raise more young. Several different individuals of each sex may breed within one family, with up to seven breeding males and three breeding females in one group (Cornell Lab). There can be up to 50,000 holes in one tree!
Acorn Woodpecker, male
This whole area was very birdy and beautiful! The dam separates the upper and lower lakes.
Western Bluebird, female
Western Bluebird, male
The Bluebirds were also lifers and the female was very accommodating. I have many shots of her. Also easy to photograph were the Juncos. I got a new subspecies, below. I also got another lifer, a Bridled Titmouse, but my photos are very blurry.
Dark-eyed Junco, Red-backed
This is actually a Prescott city park but it is part of Prescott National Forest. Nice trails.
Common Raven, snacking
Ruddy Duck, with blue bill in breeding plumage
Great Blue Heron
Marine Blue Butterfly
Last week I went in search of two rarities in town. Both are not only rare in AZ but rare in North America. This Mandarin Duck (drake) resides at Tempe Town Lake, just across the bridge in Tempe.
It’s a pretty big lake (for here) but he was the first duck I spotted in the water. No one quite knows his origins but I guess he has been there “awhile.”
“Mandarin Ducks are found in southeast Russia, China, Japan, and Korea. They were introduced into Britain and exported to many other countries. The largest populations are in Japan and Britain. Ducks found in North America are usually escapees from collections or feral ducks in small numbers. There is a small colony of Mandarin Ducks in northern California. Their habitat is marshes, streams, and pools in wooded areas. They are partial migrators, migrating in early September.” (Birding Information)
I have about 80 shots of him but I whittled them down to these few. He was extremely handsome, colorful, and small.
While there, I also spotted this immature Herring Gull, 1st winter, above. I stopped at another Tempe park after that, Evelyn Hallman Park, but spotted no more rarities or lifers, just these cute guys:
Stay tuned for the next rarity I saw last week…
Redhead drake (lifer)
Mallards (he’s crested)
Common Merganser hen (reminder: I need to get my hair cut)
Ring-Necked Duck drake
Ring-Necked Duck hens
Some of our ducky friends will be heading out soon, back up north. Safe travels, guys. It’s been fun spending time with you.
I just got back from northern Indiana and, disappointingly, the leaves were just beginning to change on most of the trees. It’s a very late fall. It was also cloudy and raining most of the time I was there…
It was even foggy one morning, something rarely seen in Phoenix.
Now that’s what I wanted to see more of, above.
Behind those marshy grasses, above, is a little pond where ducks hang out. This girl is the only one who came out to greet me this year wearing her leaf necklace.
She’s a Mallard hybrid which I confirmed with one of my knowledgeable birding buddies.
I was hoping to see some Cardinals, Robins, Blue Jays, something…I heard birds but never saw any close up.
This guy did not seem to want his photo taken as right after this shot, above, he started chasing me. So I left.
Just not as dramatic as I had hoped for… 😦