Bring on the Buses

Orange-crowned Warbler

I love this bird, who I used to call “Yellow Bird,” but now call “Tink,” because of the sound she (might be a “he”) makes. As I’ve mentioned before, this is her third year to winter in our yard. I’m assuming it’s the same one because it’s always only one bird and they do often migrate to the same place.

A couple weeks ago, Tink became Lifer #390 for a local birder that I know, Karen. Karen’s life count is way ahead of mine but, after seeing Tink’s photo on Facebook, Karen told me she needed this bird for her life list and I told her it was pretty much guaranteed that Tink would show up if she came over. Whew, Tink did eventually show up! That was my first experience delivering a life bird to someone in my own backyard.

But, coincidentally, the day before Karen came over, there was a lot of bird action in my yard. That day I got yard bird species #34, 35, and 36! Sadly, some of the pics are lacking in quality but I’ll show you anyway:

What Am I?

I went out to put out the daily bird food quota and heard a very light drumming sound. This bird was in our pine tree and flew off just as I noticed it. I got my camera and came back out and a couple hours later, it showed up again, just briefly enough to fire off a few bad shots. I thought it was a Red-naped or Red-breasted Sapsucker and asked the ABA (American Birding Association) experts what they thought. Some thought Red-breasted and some thought a hybrid of the two and requested more photos. Well, the bird never showed up again while I was out there…until today but when I ran in to get my camera, it flew off again! At any rate, I know it’s still in the area so I still have hope that I get a good shot soon. Neither of those birds would be lifers for me but if it’s really a Red-breasted Sapsucker, they are uncommon for the area and it’s possible that some local birders might want to come to see it if it’s a regular visitor. Hence, the buses…I like to think of busloads and van loads of birders dropping over to catch a glimpse. 🙂

Species #35 was this guy circling overhead:

Red-tailed Hawk

And, of course, a few days ago, it landed right in a tree in our front yard! Once again, cameraless, I ran inside to grab my camera and off it flew. It would have been a great closeup.

The day was so fruitful for me in my yard that I stayed outside for a few hours, hoping the sapsucker would return again. Just as I was getting ready to go inside, 2 of these showed up, species #36:

Lesser Goldfinch

I’ve not seen them since but I was certainly surprised to have 3 new bird species in quick succession. I think I saw 17 different species in my yard that day. Here are a few more:

White-crowned Sparrow, male

He’s all alone and has been here for several weeks, just hanging out with the House Sparrows.

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male

Verdins

House Finches, male and female

Gila Woodpecker, male

And, I believe this particular bird is now spending its second winter in our yard:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Now I really have to hope that Sapsucker will show up again and let me get a good diagnostic shot so the buses can start rolling in…

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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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The Locals

eagle-young-2

eagle-young

eagle-young-3Bald Eagle, immature

This is either Hope or Joy, one of 2 Bald Eagles hatched in a nest in a Scottsdale golf course last spring (in a densely populated area). They were well-known locally then and each of them fell from their nest as nestlings and were placed back in by Arizona Game and Fish and Liberty Wildlife rehabbers. You can read their story and see them as babies here and here. I never saw them last year as their exact location was a secret, for their safety.

Anyway, I was at Lake Marguerite, which isn’t far from that golf course, a couple times recently looking for a Hairy Woodpecker and the second time I looked up and Hope or Joy was watching me! It’s always exciting to see a bald eagle, I think, and he/she took off right as I watched, zipped over the lake, swooped down, grabbed a fish, and flew off right by me. And I even saw the Hairy Woodpecker (which was my 12th lifer this year) but the photo is basically a black and white blur so I won’t show it here. However, I got a couple shots of this girl:

lbwp-4

lbwp-2Ladder-backed Woodpecker, female

ruddy-ducks-lmRuddy Ducks

I was also at Granada Park recently, my old standby park that I don’t visit much anymore, and I was surprised to see this beautiful guy watching me from the trees. While not a lifer, it was the best shots I’ve ever gotten of one.

coop-hawk-1

coop-hawk-2Cooper’s Hawk

cormy-1Neotropic Cormorant

ring-necked-duckRing-necked Duck

yrwa-1Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

And when I was recently volunteering at the Desert Botanical Garden, I walked around afterwards and saw a few more critters.

gila-wp-1-17-17Gila Woodpecker, male

costas-1-17-17Costa’s Hummingbird, male

costas-girl-1-17-17Costa’s hummingbird, female

squirrel

squirrel-2Rock Squirrel

thrasher

thrashers-1-17-17Curve-billed Thrashers

towheesAbert’s Towhees

Sonora, Chaco, and Pawnee

Sonora Front

Sonora Right

Sonora Full

Sonora x 3

Sonora 3

Sonora 1

Sonora 2Sonora, Bald Eagle

Sonora, Chaco, and Pawnee were at the annual get-together of my Facebook birding group (Birding–Arizona and the Southwest) at Gilbert Riparian Preserve last Sunday. These are all rescue birds from Liberty Wildlife that were either injured or imprinted on humans so are unable to live in the wild and are used for education purposes.

Sonora was permanently injured as a nestling when her nest was attacked by Africanized bees and her sibling was killed. Fortunately, she was rescued by Arizona Game and Fish and taken to Liberty Wildlife, where she now lives, and attends many educational events. She is a regular on the Verde Canyon Railroad’s Raptors on the Rails. It’s amazing to see how huge an eagle is up close.

Through donations and raffle ticket purchases, our group raised over $1200 for Liberty Wildlife this year. This is my post from last year’s event.

RT Hawk 1

RT Hawk Full

RT Hawk 2

RT Hawk 4

RT Hawk 5Chaco, Red-tailed Hawk

F Hawk 4

F Hawk Full

F Hawk 3

F Hawk 2

F Hawk 1Pawnee, Ferruginous Hawk

SXG

Hum Fly

Hum Fly 2Anna’s Hummingbird, female

Yesterday I went to Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden again. I’ve written about it before (1, 2, 3, 4). It’s only 5.5 acres but it’s really pretty and, this time of year, it’s very yellow. I didn’t have a wide-angle lens with me but here’s a sample:

Overview

And I got a Lifer! Isn’t he handsome?

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln's Sparrow 2Lincoln’s Sparrow

Finch 3.30.16

Finch OcotilloHouse Finches

CottontailDesert Cottontail

Starling on Sag

StarlingEuropean Starling

Anna'sAnna’s Hummingbird, male

Female HumCosta’s Hummingbird, female

Mock 3.30.16Northern Mockingbird

YRWA 3.30.16Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

VerdinVerdin

And a little someone to keep them all on their toes:

Hawk