Cacophony and Color

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male

Our yard has been pretty active lately but it seems to have gotten even more so the last few days. Some new, colorful birds have been dropping by and sometimes it is so loud out there that it sounds like we’re deep in a busy, bird-filled forest.

Verdins

Orange-crowned Warbler

“Tink,” above, is no longer the yellowest bird in the yard! Since I hung a thistle sock a few days ago, a whole flock of these guys, below, have moved in. There must be at least 20 of them and they are very chatty. I only recently saw a couple in the yard and, once the thistle was out, the word apparently got out among their friends. I love watching them, they’re so bright and pretty.

Lesser Goldfinches, male and female

I was hoping the thistle would draw some other kinds of goldfinches or some Pine Siskins (which would be lifers) but, so far, the only new birds I’ve gotten are:

Rosy-faced Lovebird

The lovebirds were originally escapees from a pet store back in the 1980s but they were able to flourish here and now there is a large, feral population. I had seen them pass through our yard now and then but now they are dropping bu more regularly. They also like black oil sunflower seed and they like the swing, too, but I haven’t gotten a photo of that yet. You can always hear when they are around.

Gila Woodpeckers, male and female

The male is very loud and raucous but the female has just started showing up to eat oranges and she is very quiet.

Gilded Flicker, female

Yard bird #37:

Northern Flicker (Red-shafted), male

House Finches, male

Some of these male House Finches are soooo bright red that I keep thinking I’m seeing Cardinals. We have many, many more bird species in our yard as regulars but these are the most colorful of the bunch.

Hope your New Year is off to a great start and that you have all sorts of fun plans ahead. These were my 2017 Goals and the results:

  1. Volunteer 100 hours at Desert Botanical Garden. Volunteered 102.75 hours.
  2. Find 60 new Lifers (new birds). Found 58.
  3. Go on many AZ day trips with Tony. Went on 23.

2018 Goals are about the same: 100 hours, 50 Lifers, 25 day trips.

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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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The Halloween Ball

Curve-billed Thrasher with treat

The birds (and other critters) have been having a ball in our yard the last few days leading up to Halloween. In addition to their regular oranges, grape jelly, and suet, they’ve been enjoying bird seed packed with fruits and nuts that I recently won in the Pennington Wild Bird Photo Contest (with this photo). Plus they find extra goodies in the yard like insects, berries, and pomegranates.

Gilded Flicker, female, yard bird species #33

This girl, above, has started dropping by for a drink now and then. She’s so pretty.

Honey Bees enjoying pine sap

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Northern Mockingbird

House Finch, female

White-crowned Sparrow, first of season

Eurasian Collared-Dove

House Finches, male

Gila Woodpecker, male

Queen Butterfly in Mesquite

Orange-crowned Warbler

If this is the same warbler, this will be its third year to winter in our yard. He or she is also over a month early so I’m not positive it’s the same one yet. Time may tell…I hope it is or, if not, I hope the other one will show up later and I’ll have 2. There is grape jelly in this feeder and this bird loves it.

House Sparrow,male

Abert’s Towhee

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Bird Patio, Part 1

GilaGila Woodpecker, male

Gila Female 2

Gila FemaleGila Woodpecker, female

In my last post, I mentioned that I went to a birding friend’s house in Apache Junction after she, two other friends, and I met at Gilbert Riparian Preserve. Well, as fun as Gilbert was and as cool as getting 8 lifers there was, going to Samantha’s house was the icing on the cake and one of the best birding experiences I’ve had.

Samantha's Patio

I didn’t have a wide angle lens with me but this is a photo that Samantha took awhile ago (I have her permission to post it here). She has a phenomenal patio that looks out over a wash with the Superstition Mountains beyond. In the foreground, you can see her hummingbird and bird feeders but what you can’t see are all the beautiful perches she also has for the birds.

Flicker F

Flicker 3Gilded Flicker, female

She hides suet, seed, peanuts, etc. on them and the birds come flying in to search for the food thereby providing attractive and closeup photo opportunities.

Blackjack 1

Blackjack 2

Blackjack 3Curve-billed Thrasher, melanistic

This handsome guy above, Blackjack, is much darker than a typical Curve-billed Thrasher and is a topic of interest among local birding experts.

Cactus WrenCactus Wren, Arizona State Bird

Finch M

3 Finches

Finch CoupleHouse Finches, male and female

Abert's Towhee

Towhee 2Abert’s Towhee

I don’t count birds on my life list unless I’ve seen and photographed them since beginning birding so, although I grew up in Illinois and Indiana and used to see Northern Cardinals (the State Bird of both those states) all the time, I had yet to see them in Arizona. I knew Samantha had them in her yard frequently so I was hoping they would drop in. I got half my wish…and I was excited!

Cardinal 2

Cardinal 5_edited-1

Cardinal 3

Cardinal 1

Cardinal 4Northern Cardinal, female

The males are more timid, unfortunately, but she’s so beautiful anyway. Samantha said the boy showed up later that afternoon after we had left, of course.

Anna'sAnna’s Hummingbird, male

Anna's 2Anna’s Hummingbird, female

Her hummingbird feeders attract a ton of hummers but I was concentrating on the other birds more.

Next time, more birds from this awesome bird patio..

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