It’s Still Spring

“How many peanuts can I fit in my bill?”

Abert’s Towhees

It was an exciting day in the yard last week when yard bird #38 showed up, haven’t seen it since:

Cooper’s Hawk, immature

House Finches, male feeding female (or young one)

Gila Woodpecker, male

This was also exciting (to me). After 24 years of living in this house and having our aloe veras multiply exponentially so that there are now several beds of them, we had one that bloomed yellow. How that hasn’t happened until now and why it’s the only one that is a different species is a mystery. The hummingbirds love the orange ones but didn’t seem impressed by this yellow one so the bees took over.

Honey Bee on yellow Aloe blooms

Verdin

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

Anna’s Hummingbird, female

Prepare for cuteness. This little Anna’s fledgling wants her mom to keep feeding her but mom thinks she needs to be on her own, with a little supervision:

You can see she’s able to find food with all the pollen on her bill. She just wants her mom to do it.

Here is my NSFW (Not Safe for Work) image, pretend it’s Nat Geo:

Curve-billed Thrashers

A sure sign of spring in the desert is the return of these guys, who love to drink the nectar from saguaro blossoms. As far as I know, there are very few or no saguaros in our neighborhood but we always get a few of them who hang out here. The blue eye shadow is very noticeable.

White-winged Dove

My little Orange-crowned Warbler that stayed in our yard for the last 5 months has now migrated, too. Hope he or she returns in the fall.

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Brown’s Ranch Trail

Brown’s Ranch was founded in 1917 by E.O. Brown, a Scottsdale entrepreneur, and encompassed 44,000 acres at its peak, supporting 3,000 to 5,000 head of cattle. His descendants lived on the ranch until 1970. After changing hands several times, the remainder of the ranch was acquired by the City of Scottsdale in 1999 for inclusion in the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Preserve is a large, permanently protected, sustainable desert habitat that includes an interconnected network of non-motorized, multi-use trails (hike/bike/horse) accessed from multiple trailhead locations over 30,500 acres. It is the largest urban park in the U.S.

Brown’s Mountain

It was a sunny, windy day and the 3 mile Brown’s Ranch Trail just got prettier and birdier the farther we went. We’d never been to any part of the Preserve before and I had no idea it was so beautiful. The trails were great. We’ll be exploring more of it soon.

White-crowned Sparrow (on agave stalk)

Ocotillos

I imagine in the spring, when the desert is in bloom, that it is even more spectacular.

Cactus Wren (on agave stalk)

Cholla, glowing

Cone Mountain

Phainopepla, male (on agave stalk)

Saguaro skeleton

Harris’s Hawk

Gilded Flicker couple

Curve-billed Thrasher

Red-tailed Hawk

Yes, those are bullet holes even though shooting is not allowed in the Preserve. But this is Arizona, the Wild West.

Mount Humboldt with FAA Radar Facility

Northern Mockingbird (on agave stalk)

There were no lifers but it is definitely on the “return to” list, at some point. And I learned that birds love dried agave stalks so I am in search of one for my backyard photo props.

Look into My Crystal Ball

I got a new toy, a crystal ball for photography effects. So far, I haven’t really been to a location that is especially conducive to this little gadget but I’ve experimented with it a little. The above photo was taken at the Desert Botanical Garden. After I realized I wasn’t going to get anything I was pleased with, I walked around in the late afternoon sun and got some regular photos.

Currently the Garden has an exhibit by Jun Kaneko scattered around various areas. Some people love it, some not so much. I’m probably in the latter category but I do know that they need to bring exhibits in so that more people will come to the garden so they can support their mission of research, education, and conservation. The sculptures are mostly glazed ceramic forms although the one, below, is a bronzed form.

Below are the stars of the show, the Tanukis, based on Kaneko’s interpretation of the Japanese raccoon-dog which is a real animal and also a popular theme in Japanese art. See more on Tanukis here.

Visitors are encouraged to hug the Tanukis and everyone wants their photo taken with their favorite one. I was volunteering one night at a busy event and countless people handed me their phones and asked me to take their pictures.

A few days later, I went over to Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden to try my luck with the crystal ball again:

Still not thrilled with the results, I snapped a few other shots:

Red-naped Sapsucker

Gila Woodpecker

I have a glass stand and a wooden stand for the ball but the photos I’ve seen that I like the best are those where the stand doesn’t show, either by cropping it or by not using it. However, if you don’t use the stand, you have to be careful that the ball doesn’t get scratched by whatever you have it on and that it won’t roll away and break. Here’s a practice photo I took with the glass stand…not thrilled with seeing it.

Do you want one? This is the one I have.

Do you want to see some beautiful photos taken with them? Check here.

Want some tips?

CAUTION: It’s true that the ball can refract the sun’s rays and cause a fire. I set mine on a white table outside for about 3 minutes. When I touched the refraction on the table, it was burning hot!

P.S. It’s my 9 year blogiversary on 2/13!

 

I Got Lucky!

This is a male Pyrrhuloxia, sometimes called the “Desert Cardinal.” It is a cousin to the Northern Cardinal. He has been a nemesis bird for me. Their range is more in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southern Texas, and Mexico so they are not very common in the Phoenix area. However, this particular bird is now spending his 3rd (at least) winter at the Desert Botanical Garden and I’ve been chasing him that whole time but he was very elusive. I kept seeing photos of him in my Facebook birding group from many other people. He hangs out in a specific area quite a bit and, a few days ago, I sat there for 2 hours waiting for a glimpse. No show. I was getting discouraged but decided to go over one afternoon this past week and get disappointed again. I sat down and, within about a minute, he appeared! And he seemed to do a lot of posing just for me, probably recognizing me from all the times I’ve been looking for him:

Isn’t he beautiful/adorable/unusual? During breeding season, his bill is also bright yellow so he’s even more colorful then but he doesn’t breed up here so I’ll have to try to catch one in southern Arizona sometime.

Gilded Flicker, male

Northern Mockingbird

Queen

A couple days before finally seeing the Pyrrhuloxia, I went to Gilbert Riparian Preserve (Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch) in search of some rarities being seen there. I never have good luck there unless I’m with an experienced birder. Fortunately, one showed up and, when the bird finally appeared, helped me find it. It was a Prairie Warbler, very unusual for this part of the country, but my picture is not good at all. There are now several more rare (for Arizona) birds there so I should try to make it out there one day this coming week and hope someone can help me find them, too.

Desert Cottontail

And I saw a ton of these fast, little guys:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Say’s Phoebe

Western Meadowlark

And these little warblers were energetically flitting about right in the same area as the Prairie Warbler giving me false hope several times as they have the same coloring.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

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Fall in Page Springs

Oak Creek

We were in Page Springs the other day, which is technically in Cornville, close to Cottonwood. It’s known for having Page Springs Hatchery where they raise rainbow trout for sport fishing and for Bubbling Ponds Native Fish Research Facility. Both are owned by Arizona Game and Fish Department and are surrounded by a preserve where AZGFD and the Northern Arizona Audubon Society are engaged in conservation projects for the plants and animals. It is located on Oak Creek and has several miles of well-maintained trails which we were on.

For those of you who have real autumns, these shots won’t be that exciting to you but, in Phoenix, where fall doesn’t produce many changing leaves, we all get excited at fall colors. This area was not at peak yet, unfortunately, but it was still pretty. So here are too many fall shots of the area.

Rainbow Trout

Maybe that was too many…sorry. The Important Bird Area was not full of plentiful birds, of course. No lifers here.

White-crowned Sparrows, male and female

Red-winged Blackbirds

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Northern Cardinal, female

Nor did we see the River Otters which are sometimes spotted there.

This area is also known for its many vineyards and wineries.

We didn’t feel right not getting some souvenirs to make up for the lack of birds. It’s always nice to support the local economy…

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