Way out west, (or at least on the west fringes of Phoenix!), there is a fairly large agricultural area that encompasses parts of the communities of Buckeye and Arlington. Included are a few ponds and a wildlife area as well. This area is a magnet to many migrating birds and also many winter resident birds. Saturday this was my destination as I had not been there for a few months and it ended up being a very fruitful trip as I came home with another life bird, a White-tailed Kite! This bird is not a common bird in Arizona, but there are reports of them every year in various parts of the state, especially in the south and east. Their hunting technique is 'kiting', where they hover in the wind in one spot looking for prey down below. When I first saw this bird it was about 100 yards away and that is exactly what it was doing in the brisk northwest wind. As it moved further away from me, I eventually lost sight of it, but nonetheless, I kept moving in the general direction where I last saw it, and sure enough it had landed in a dead tree across a marshy area from me. Not the most ideal conditions for photos, but good enough to identify this marvelous avian wonder.
The kite was seen in the Arlington Wildlife area and not far from this spot I discovered a fairly large flock of Sandhill Cranes. Being from Nebraska, this is nothing special as this species creates quite the birding experience for about 6 weeks in the early spring in central Nebraska where they stop and lay over during their migration and their numbers are in the hundreds of thousands. But in Arizona, they are a bit smaller in numbers and many birders make special trips to find them.
Also in the area of the Arlington Ponds I found numerous sparrows including a Lincoln's Sparrow that gave me a very nice pose. The most numerous species by far was the White-crowned Sparrows, especially a lot of juveniles. The juvenile White-crowned can be easily mis-identified by new birders, but it is one that is learned quite early on.
White-crowned Sparrow - Juvenile
Raptors were in seen in good numbers throughout the area with the American Kestrel being the most numerous. There must have been 2 per mile on the power lines that lined the roads. Also a nice find was 2 Ferruginous Hawks. While they did not allow me to approach too close, I was able to capture a few photos of this large, magnificent raptor. And of course with all the small ponds and irrigation canals running through the area, one is bound to find an Osprey somewhere.
Western Meadowlarks were everywhere along the roadsides and out in the many alfalfa fields. Their bright yellow breasts really brightens up the morning.
Definitely a place to return to more often, especially in migration season.