Costa's Hummingbird

Costa's Hummingbird

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

February: A Costa's Kind of Month

The month of February this year is not only a Leap Year month with 29 days, but it has proven to be a great month for me in observing one of the my favorite hummingbirds; the Costa's Hummingbird.  When the desert receives some proper rainfall, the Wolfberry (Lycium andersonii) bushes come to life and start blooming. This shrub in bloom is a favorite of hummingbirds with the small lavender blossoms and when they set fruit and it ripens, many other species of birds feed on the berries when they ripen.  This winter has been fairly decent in the rainfall department, so it has been fun observing the Anna's and Costa's Hummingbirds fight over feeding rights and defending their territories.  These mornings have allowed me to get some fun photos of the Costa's Hummingbirds and a few of the Anna's as well. Below are 3 photos of Costa's males and 3 photos of Costa's females, followed by 2 photos each of Anna's males and females.

Costa's Hummingbird - Male

Sipping nectar from Wolfberry blossoms.

Costa's Hummingbird - Female

Anna's Hummingbird - Male

Anna's Hummingbird - Female

Hummingbirds have kind of been the stars of the show for the month, but they are most definitely the only interesting and great birds that were observed.  The one regular Western Screech-Owl that I had been monitoring, turned into two after discovering a second one in a second cavity.  

Western Screech-Owl - Number 1

Number 2

One of the biggest highlights for me in February was getting a new yard bird.  Glanced up in my neighbor's tree to see a small falcon and at first glance, thought it was just an American Kestrel, which I see almost yearly in the neighborhood.  But its posture looked a little odd, so I hurried into the house to grab my binoculars and took a second look and WOW!  It was a Merlin!  This is a male and it is the 'Prairie' subspecies (richardsonii).  What a great bird to add to my yard list.

Merlin - Male

A trip out west of the Phoenix metro area with 3 birding friends allowed me to get some photos of some really good birds that presented themselves well enough to capture a few photos.  Bell's Sparrow can sometimes be a bit difficult to to find and identify in the winter due to the fact that we have many more Sagebrush Sparrows and the 2 are not always easy to distinguish one from the other.  Plus, I have never really gotten very good photos of Bell's Sparrow.  LeConte's Thrasher.  What can I say about this bird, except that it is one of the most sought after birds in Maricopa County?  And who doesn't like Long-billed Curlews?  When a flock flies over, you start clicking away. 

 Bell's Sparrow

 LeConte's Thrasher

 Long-billed Curlew

A trip to southeastern Arizona gave me a chance to photograph a Mexican Duck and this post is the first time that I have included it in one of of blog posts since it is now considered a separate species according to Clements list of birds of the world.  Hepatic Tanagers and two species of titmouse are nice additions for the month.

 Mexican Duck

Hepatic Tanager

 Bridled Titmouse 

Juniper Titmouse

And finally a few of the desert regulars that I have had the pleasure of seeing in February.

 Gambel's Quail - Female

 Cactus Wren


Black-tailed Gnatcatcher - Male in breeding plumage

Greater Roadrunner

With the milder weather in February a few butterflies are starting to make an appearance.  Got to see my first Painted Lady on the first of the month and some lovely Lupine Blues on the fifteenth.  

Painted lady

 Lupine Blue

 Lupine Blue

The month of February was a month of enjoying our fine feathered friends in the Sonoran Desert.  Spring migration is just around the corner.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

January Birding: Great Plains to Desert

For those that read my previous blog post, you are probably aware of the emergency trip that I made to Nebraska in the middle part of January for about 10 days.  My return to Arizona was very much anticipated.  The climate difference between these two states is very evident during winter.  Nebraska was very cold, while Arizona is pretty pleasant with probably a bit more sunshine.  Therefore, the birding was much kinder in Arizona with the milder temperatures.  This blog post will cover some of the highlights of my birding in the last half of January in Arizona.

A couple of trips to the Sunflower area northeast of Mesa, Arizona, provided some different habitat than the regular Sornoran Desert habitat that I usually visit.  One of the birds was a Juniper Titmouse which is a species often requested from out of town visitors.  It is usually seen in a habitat with Juniper trees and would be very rare in an urban area.  Most people will see it as just a boring gray little bird, but to a birder they are rather cute and far from boring  .  

 Juniper Titmouse

 Cedar Waxwing - I never get tired of seeing this bird!

 Phainopepla - Females

Western Bluebird - Male

I still made a few trips to my favorite hiking spot in South Mountain Park near Phoenix to enjoy some of the regular desert birds.  The following photos depict some of those birds.

 Curve-billed Thrasher

 Orange-crowned Warbler

 White-crowned Sparrow

Western Screech-Owl - Number 1

Western Screech-Owl - Number 2 (yes, this is a second WESO)

 Costa's Hummingbird - Male

 Costa's Hummingbird - Female

 Greater Roadrunner

Lesser Goldfinch - Male

A few trips to the Gilbert Riparian Preserve rounded out the rest of my outings an looking for birds.  This place is always amazing and can result in a fairly large list of species if a person really gets serious on trying to identify any and all birds that can be found there. 

 Abert's Towhee - Caught in the middle of stretching.

 American Avocet - Winter non-breeding plumage.

American White Pelican

 Gamble's Quail - Male

 Snowy Egret

Spotted Towhee

The biggest surprise for the month took place on January 21st.  I was outside in my front yard and glanced up to see a weirdly shaped bird fly from across the street to a tree in my neighbor's yard.  Ran into the house and grabbed my binoculars and camera and ran back out and found it high in a tree.  It was a Rose-ringed Parakeet, or Indian Ring-necked Parakeet as it is called in the pet trade.  And it was a blue color morph which is not the normal color of green found in the wild in Asia. This was obviously an escapee, or someone's pet that got loose.  Beautiful bird and one that I had thought many years ago that I wanted as a pet, but the prices back then for this new blue color mutation was beyond my budget.  

Rose-ringed Parakeet - (blue morph)

Now it is time to start focusing on a couple of future trips.  Have a 3 day trip panned to Sonora, Mexico in May and a fairly long trip planned for Panama in July with 3 of my birding friends.  And there is another international trip planned for later in the year.  However, all the details are not quite finalized.  This promises to be an exciting year for birding and naturalizing.