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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Papago Winter

Snowy 1

Snowy 2Snowy Egret

These photos were from a recent late afternoon visit to Papago Park in Phoenix.

PhoebeBlack Phoebe

Ring-necked Duck Head

Ring-necked DuckRing-Necked Duck Drake

CormorantNeotropic Cormorant

Snowy 3Snowy and Cormy

Shoveler ReedsNorthern Shoveler

Papago has a lot of reeds which can make for interesting patterns on the water.

GallinuleCommon Gallinule, immature

GrebePied-Billed Grebe

I went there in search of these lifers, Northern Pintails, and I found them. There were 3 drakes and a popular hen.

Pintail 5

Pintail 1

Pintail Couple

Pintail 4

Pintail 3

Pintail 2

After posing nicely, they swam off into the sunset.

4 Pintails

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Fountain Hills

Fountain

Ftn Lake

Fountain Hills, AZ, is home to a world-famous fountain that operates daily and shoots water 562 feet high. I was there on December 15th and today, New Year’s Day, Tony and I went back. Fountain Park is a beautiful place with a 29 acre lake and the park is filled with sculptures and recreation areas. It has changed a lot since the last time I was there years ago. This is my favorite sculpture there:

Heron Sculp FH

But…the reason I initially went was because I wanted to see these guys, and I did…fun-loving Hooded Mergansers, a lifer. Both drakes and hens were there.

Hoodie Boy 4

Hoodies M and F

Hoodie Up

Hoodie Group

Hoodie Girl 2

Hoodie Couple 2

Hoodie Boy

2 Hoodies

The second lifer I saw there was this female Common Goldeneye:

Goldeneye 2

And the third lifer I saw, today, to start out 2016, was this Eared Grebe.

Eared Grebe 1

Love those red eyes. And I also saw these guys:

Ruddy BoyRuddy Duck, male

Ruddy GirlRuddy Duck, female

Pied-Billed GrebePied-billed Grebe

Shovelers ChurningNorthern Shovelers, churning up their food

Spotted Sandpiper FH

Spotted SandpiperSpotted Sandpiper

The first day I was there, which was cold and windy, I also saw these birds:

GrackleGreat-tailed Grackle, female

RWBB 2

RWBBRed-winged Blackbird, male

Say's Phoebe 2

Say's PhoebeSay’s Phoebe

SparrowHouse Sparrow, female

I hope the new year has started out fortuitously for you, too.

Happy 2016!

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Rarity #1

Mandarin Swim 2

Mandarin Swim 3

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.

Drink

Mandarin Head On_edited-1

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 Mug

“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)

Mandarin Stand

Swim Other

I have about 80 shots of him but I whittled them down to these few. He was extremely handsome, colorful, and small.

Herring Gull 11.22.15

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:

GrebePied-billed Grebe

Green Heron 11.15Green Heron

Stay tuned for the next rarity I saw last week…

Assorted Fall Birds

Muscovy

Muscovy HeadshotMuscovy Duck

WigeonAmerican Wigeon, female

Ring-Necked DuckRing-Necked Duck, drake

Lovebird 3

LovebirdRosy-Faced Lovebird

Mock Lantana 10.18.15Northern Mockingbird

H 10.14.15Anna’s Hummingbird, male

YRWAYellow-Rumped Warbler, female

Here are some baby birdies from late summer that I never posted. This is a Green Heron youngster, cartoonishly peeking out from the reeds:

GH 2

GH 1

GH Babe Peeking

And this is a Pied-Billed Grebe adolescent:

Grebe 1

Grebe

Fall’s in full swing here, finally!