GWR----If you are a birder and live the Phoenix vicinity you know that GWR is the short abbreviation for Gilbert Water Ranch. Technically the official name is Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ. This is a very unique place and it consists of 7 man made ponds of recycled water and 1 pond that is a designated fishing pond. The 7 ponds can vary with the amount of water in them from week to the next. What is amazing about this place is that it has a huge variety of bird life and in the past it has attracted some very rare birds. I think they have recorded about 270 species at this location over the years. On Friday there was a report of 3 species of sandpipers seen there that are not necessarily rare, but they are also not common; Solitary Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, and Baird's Sandpiper. So on a whim, Ellen and I decided to meet there early this morning to see if we could find any of these 3 species. We found 2 of the 3 species along with a lot of other very common birds and also ran into another birding friend, Bernie H. We missed out on the Baird's, but we had seem some before today at another location and I am sure we will run into them again sometime. Pond 6 was covered with 'peeps', probably well over 100 Least Sandpipers and they are a common site at this location during the winter months. Also had several Greater Yellowlegs and one of them walked right towards us really strutting and showing off. Not hard to see how they got the name Yellowlegs in these photos!
Another bird found in fairly large numbers and is also a winter resident were the Long-billed Dowitchers. These are birds that have returned from their breeding grounds far north from Arizona and some are still wearing their breeding colors such as the one in the photo below.
Finally found one of our target birds, the Solitary Sandpiper. As their name suggests, they are usually found alone, not in flocks. When scoping the waters in the ponds it can be difficult to pick out a single different bird, but size is one of the keys in trying to locate a single different bird such as this Solitary Sandpiper. And of course they always have to be far out in the mud flats making it more difficult to get a proper photo!
The other target bird we found was even further out in the mud and water. A Stilt Sandpiper which just happened to be a new life bird for me. Even though the photo is not great quality, at least I do have one recorded for my records.
Another very common bird found here year-round, is the Killdeer and today there were several. They are so common that it is sometimes easy to ignore them, but when they cooperate and get in close to allow photos, you have to shoot a couple of shots so try and capture that bright orange and black eye.
One more water bird to add to the photo list is a Green Heron, that was doing some very serious hunting for small fish along the waters edge.
The final photo is one of an Inca Dove. Not a water bird by any means, but a fairly common but small dove of the American Southwest. Note the red primary feathers on the wings, which is quite colorful and showy when they fly. This is one of my favorite doves.
Well, as you can see, not a lot of 'colorful' birds, but they are unique in their own way and are probably often overlooked by most people that are walking around these ponds. Since this place is fairly close to my home, it is one place I visit quite frequently all year long and I will always keep my eyes open for something new or rare to show up.