A Colorful Yard

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Some people think the desert is brown and boring and our birds are brown and colorless. It’s just not true! Here are pics from our yard in the last few days…

Tiny Birds of Yellow

Above are a Pine Siskin, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Verdin, Lesser Goldfinch female, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Lesser Goldfinch male, and Orange-crowned Warbler. They are all only 4-4.5 inches long.

Rosy-faced Lovebirds (the young ones have black on their bills and less vivid coloring on their faces)

White-crowned Sparrow

Honeybee on Sage and Lavender

Mr. White, an unusually marked House Finch

My sweet little Orange-crowned Warbler, “Tink”

Yellow-rumped Warbler, female

Inca Doves (there were over 22 in the yard that day)

And guess what? We had snow in Phoenix on January 25! We’ve seen it in the mountains around town and a light dusting now and then but nothing like this storm!

So the desert is not all brown…and we haven’t even started spring yet when everything here bursts into color!

How’s 2021 Going?

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male

Well, 2021 has been both bad and good. Let’s hope Good prevails. If everyone was as happy as these Rosy-faced Lovebirds, I guess we would be in good shape. They are feral in the greater Phoenix, AZ area. Cheery and loud little critters.

I guess the quarantine has gotten to me. I can’t seem to stop putting my backyard birds into little tableaus. The ones I have done so far are all in an album on Flickr. But here are a few more since my last post. The Curve-billed Thrashers are the ones that are the most common stars of the show but the Abert’s Towhees and Northern Mockingbirds get brave sometimes, too.

The Congregation
Sharing and Caring in the Forest
Ahoy, Towhee
“How can we start a Rock ‘n Roll band if everyone plays guitar?”
“Okay, I’ll learn bass.”
“What in the actual Hell is this?”
The Curve-billed Thrasher is looking for an agent; peanuts are not enough pay anymore

I feel certain there will be more anthropomorphizing to come…but here are a few other of the yard birds who do not participate in this birdplay.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, wintering

“My” wintering Orange-crowned Warbler, “Tink”

Lesser Goldfinches, male and females

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskins recently became the 54th species of yardbirds I have. There is an irruption of them all over the country right now, which means there are a bunch of them in places you don’t normally see them. They love thistle (nyjer) and share the sock with my goldfinches. So you might see some, too, if you’re looking.

A New Year

Who isn’t ready for a brand new year, much better than the last? This Curve-billed Thrasher is ready for another year of peanuts.

One more of an Abert’s Towhee ending the holidays:

I read this in an Audubon email I got today: “A tradition among bird-lovers is taking note of the first bird we see on New Year’s Day. Whether it’s a charming Red-breasted Nuthatch or the ubiquitous American Robin, the first bird you see can symbolize the start of great things in the year to come.”

The first bird I see most days is a pigeon (or 20) so I’m going with the first bird I photographed on New Year’s Day, a female Anna’s Hummingbird doing a pole dance.

So this is what I’m taking as the symbolism of the hummingbird into 2021: “The hummingbird represents an ancient symbol of joy and happiness. Its colorful appearance brings good luck and positive energy to our lives.” I’ll take that…

The other day I went for a walk at a little pond close to where I live and was surprised to find several Pintail Ducks, so elegant-looking (click to enlarge):

I finished out the old year with one more new yard bird species, #54, a Pine Siskin. Now there are more and they are sharing the thistle sock with the Lesser Goldfinches.

The doves in my yard now: Inca Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and Mourning Dove:

Here is a male Anna’s Hummingbird on the last day of 2020, a dreary day in Phoenix. I almost never see one on their little swing so, of course, he did it on a cloudy day when I was far away.

I have a Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet also wintering in my yard. They are both so fast that good photos are hard to come by.

And, of course, my little Orange-crowned Warbler, Tink:

Would you like to see one of my cats, Ferguson? He’s become quite the Chess prodigy. Here he is, choosing white, strategizing, licking a rook, and making his first move of the Tuna Gambit.

Wishing a better year for us all.

Global Big Day

Desert Spiny Lizard (regrowing his tail after some incident or accident)

Phainopepla, male

On May 5, Global Big Day, 28,000 people ventured outside in 170 countries, finding 6899 species: 2/3rds of the world’s bird species in one day. This is a new world record for birding and more birds seen by the Global Big Day team than any one person has ever seen in an entire year. You can read more about the results here.

My birding friend, Karen, and I went to Hassayampa Reserve Preserve, near Wickenburg, that day so that we could participate. By submitting our sightings to ebird.org, our results are included in all this data, too.

I have a slight disclaimer. While we did see many Desert Spiny Lizards and Phainopeplas that day, the above 2 photos are actually from another day when I was at Desert Botanical Garden because the shots I got on May 5 were not as good. That said, all the following shots were taken at Hassayampa on May 5. It is very dense and dark there, tree-wise, so I’m not pleased with many of these shots.

Yellow-breasted Chat (lifer)

This bird, above, was the bird both of us were most hoping to see as it was a lifer for both of us. They were very elusive but I finally got a couple mediocre shots. You can see, in the second photo, that this bird has a band around its left leg.

I got 2 more lifers that day (with no photos):

Common Yellowthroat
Lazuli Bunting~the male is gorgeous but we saw only the female, pretty but not nearly as colorful

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Myrtle subspecies

The above bird was a little unusual to see as we usually see the Audubon’s subspecies around here. The Audubon’s has a yellow throat and the Myrtle has a white throat and other subtle differences.

Vermilion Flycatchers, male and female

Wilson’s Warbler, male

Townsend’s Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Song Sparrow

Summer Tanager, male

Pine Siskin

Red-winged Blackbirds, male and female

Ornate Tree Lizard

A couple more excerpts from the article I mentioned earlier:

For the second year in a row, Colombia led the world in bird species on Global Big Day. The herculean efforts of the Colombian birding community found an unfathomable 1546 species in one country in one day.

The final US tally was 716, bolstered by great totals from Texas (408), California (361), and Arizona (310). US eBirders also documented 577 species with photographs in their eBird checklists, and 172 with audio—quite remarkable!

And there you have it—another birding world record in the books! Never before have so many birders gone out in this many countries, found so many birds, and noted them all down in eBird for their fellow birders, researchers, and conservationists.

Back to Madera Canyon

It’s a penguin!

Not really.

Acorn Woodpecker

Last week we were back at one of our favorite places, for the second time ever. We had been there almost exactly one year prior (last year’s post). Last year I got 5 lifers; this year I got 5 more. Many consider Madera Canyon the third hottest birding spot in the U.S. as it is a very diverse environment (part of the Madrean Sky Islands). This was my favorite and the target bird for the day:

Arizona Woodpecker, male (lifer)

He was accommodating and came right to the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge a couple of times while we sat there in their bird viewing area. This is the only brown woodpecker in the world and is only found in southeastern Arizona and part of Mexico.

Pine Siskins, Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches

The Pine Siskins were also lifers but I have a feeling they were there last year, too, and that I thought they were finches.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow (lifer)

We also saw a Red-faced Warbler (lifer) but my photo does not do it justice. They’re a fairly uncommon bird.

Then we also heard the bird that is almost everyone’s target when going to Madera Canyon, the Elegant Trogon. We hiked a little with another couple looking for him and, after not locating it where we heard it might be, we split up. We kept hearing it calling as it has a very loud and distinctive call. We found the other couple again and, of course, they had gotten views of it! The American Birding Association considers heard-only birds to be as countable as seen birds. I don’t really agree as I would have loved to have seen it but I’m still counting it as my fifth lifer. This is what they look like and, in the U.S., are only found in Arizona and occasionally southern Texas. They’re really a Mexican bird and look very exotic and tropical. Someday we’ll see one!!!!

I love these birds and they are plentiful there. They are also a Mexican bird found only in southern AZ and southern TX:

Mexican Jay

They’re loud and boisterous like other Jays.

View from Old Baldy Trail

Santa Rita Lodge also has hummingbird feeders. I think these are the most beautiful of the hummers I’ve seen:

Broad-billed Hummingbirds (last one is a female)

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Chipping Sparrow

Black-headed Grosbeak

Just like last year, as we were getting ready to leave, we saw a couple of these guys:

Coues White-tailed Deer

The weather was perfect and it was another great day in Madera Canyon!

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