Sunday, December 30, 2012
On Wednesday, 26 Dec, I took part in the Superior CBC (Christmas Bird Count) and was assigned to area 4 which included the Oak Flats Campground. Thanks to our great team leader, Cynthia, along with Grant, Tyler, Ellen and Vic, we had a great day. Since the focus of this excursion was about 'counting' birds, I spent much less time photographing birds. (Also to add to that, I had a minor malfunction with my photography gear, teleconverter was out of commission, which really hindered the photography portion during this all day event.)
Probably the funnest and cutest bird that day was a Bridled Titmouse. These little birds make their appearance in the United States in Arizona and New Mexico. And like many very small birds, they are very active in gleaning insects from the foliage of trees. Had one spend some time in the sun for me and allowed me to capture some photos of it in various poses.
Another unique bird that is not as common as the Curve-billed Thrasher is the Crissal Thrasher, another bird of the American Southwest. It has a long, slender curved bill that almost appears like a lethal weapon. This bird is known for its rich chestnut colored undertail patch, which is unlike other thrashers. Most thrashers are great singers and this one was not an exception, singing from the top of a small shrub.
Other birds found at Oak Flats CG, were the Canyon Towhee, Northern Cardinal, and Dark-eyed Juncos.
Late in the afternoon, we all met at Boyce Thompson Arboretum for a wrap-up of our counts. I also used the bit of free time to capture a couple other photos. Had to capture an equally beautiful female Northern Cardinal as well since I already had the male from earlier in the day. After having counted endless numbers of White-crowned Sparrows, I figured a photo or two of them might be nice. And I found the lingering White-winged Dove at BTA that must have decided to spend its winter a bit further north than usual.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Decided to visit a new site today and that was a pond on the Continental Golf Course in Scottsdale, AZ. A Ross's Goose had been reported there and although it is not a new life bird for me, they are rather scare in Arizona and it would be something new to see instead of all the desert birds. The goose was easy to find as it was foraging on grass with a large flock of American Wigeons. All I had to do was park in the parking lot on the north side and walk across the street. But while checking it out and inventorying all the other birds on the pond, I also noticed that the end of the parking lot where my car was parked, a few small birds were flitting about, so I went to check that out and discovered a small stream of water running along the side with a few trees on the side and rocks in the water and a bonanza of birds coming and going. Many were getting their morning drink of water, but many were bathing as well and a few ducks were also in the midst where some of the water was pooling. All the photos in this post were taken by standing in one spot near this stream, except for the photo of the Ross's Goose at the end of the blog.
The most colorful birds to visit were some Rosy-faced Lovebirds. I heard them before I saw them with their noisy chatter. This species is one of the newest species accepted by the ABA (American Birding Association) as an established bird in the state of Arizona. For those birders that keep track of lists, it is another one they can add to their list. In the first photo with 3 birds, bird on the far right is a juvenile; notice the brown bill and less intense facial coloring.
A beautiful male Gadwall was foraging in a small pool of water and right behind it in the stream, there were visits by House Finches, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Red-winged Blackbirds.
Across the stream 3 Mourning Doves were attempting to blend in with the rocks and stones and a Curve-billed Thrasher was probing around for morsels of food. And a Killdeer was not the least upset by the golf balls in the water.
The post would not be complete without a photo of the objective of my trip, the Ross's Goose. The bird did not seem too skittish, but the American Wigeons were and when they would scatter, the goose would make its way to the water, but not nearly as fast as the wigeons.
When I first found this spot, I did not expect to find much other than the goose, but was quite surprised by the show that many of the other birds put on for me in front of my camera and all I had to do was stand there and swivel from one side to another to take photos. Birding hot spots can happen just about any place. A lot of times it has to do with being in the right place at the right time. Thanks to Walter Thurber for reporting the goose and to Jon Mann for validating it was still around.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Took a little trip east for a short visit to Boyce Thompson Arboretum and then a few more miles on to the Oak Flats Campground. Guess it was a short scouting trip for the upcoming Superior CBC (Christmas Bird Count). This time of the year CBC's are taking place all over the US and Canada as well as many other places in the world. This is an Audubon sponsored function and it compiles many statistics of our avian friends. I will be participating in 3 of them this year and really look forward to these day long adventures where we count not just species but also the number of birds of each species.
First stop was at Boyce Thompson Arboretum where I spent just a little over an hour. It was a shorter than normal visit, but as usual, always worth while. The picnic area was the most prolific for bird life and recently it has been home to a few passing rarities. Nothing rare today, but did find a Cassin's Vireo foraging in one of the trees along with a Curve-billed Thrasher.
And of course, Mr. & Mrs. Northern Cardinal made their presence known as well. This location is one of the best places to see these handsome birds in Arizona.
A couple of other birds that presented themselves for me were the Cactus Wren which was very inquisitive near the main entrance and a single American Coot on Ayer Lake.
My next stop was Oak Flat Campgrounds a few miles east of Superior and when I arrived this place was full of birds. The area must have received some good rain there in the last week as the stream bed actually had water flowing in it and the pond on the west end contained more water than I have ever seen at this location. Only spent about hour at this location, but during that time, I was able to capture photos of a Chipping Sparrow, a Canyon Towhee and a Northern Flicker. Saw many other birds but did not get any photos due to my abbreviated visit.
It will be interesting to see what birds will still be around when we do our CBC there this coming week. Oak Flats CG will part of the the area that my group will be surveying, so I am looking forward to finding a lot of great birds.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Ellen and I were supposed to take part in a CBC (Christmas Bird Count) in Payson, AZ this past weekend and due to snow in the Payson area, it got postponed, so instead we opted to go out to Tres Rios Wetlands once again and walk the entire 2½ miles out and back for a 5 mile hike to see what we might find. This place is an amazing spot for birding with lots of birds everywhere you look. We had only been there about 10 minutes when some birding friends also arrived and joined us in our walk, Scott and Fonda Christopher.
On this trip, the Sora was probably our best showing bird. It is a bird of the marshes and spends most of its time in the reeds and rushes and are more often heard than seen. Of all the Rails, it is probably the one seen most often, but even then, they are usually quite secretive and do not often make themselves visible. On this day we had 2 of them put on quite a show for the 4 of us and we all observed their nervous habit of flicking its tail. It was fun to be able to capture some photos of these birds.
With such a diverse amount of bird life in this place, it was not hard to find more birds to photograph. Other birds that were quite plentiful were Song Sparrows, Marsh Wrens, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. We also found a couple of Loggerhead Shrikes, which are always an exciting bird to find and watch as they perch out in the open looking for their next meal, almost like a miniature raptor!
'Audubon's' Yellow-rumped Warbler
And just to add challenge to the photography, of course I had to try my hand at 'in-flight' shots of some of the birds that were constantly on the wing. These included 2 Osprey, (1 with its catch of the day and 1 in search of its catch of the day), a Northern Harrier, constantly soaring low over the area in search of a meal, and another American White Pelican. This is one of the best places to find this species in Arizona. We saw over 50 of these birds in the sky over Tres Rios that day. This pelican has a wing span of about 9 feet so they are very impressive when flying over.
American White Pelican
The water birds include the Common Gallinule (an adult and also two juveniles) and a male Cinnamon Teal, which is one of the best looking waterfowl in Arizona. Also had a Great Egret fly onto the road where we were walking, so it appears just a little out of its element, which of course is the water.
Common Gallinule- adult
And to keep things interesting, we did see a small herd of Javalina running on the other road and they were not stopping, so the best I got was a rear end fading into the foliage. Always nice to try to add a photo of something other than an avian species.
What a great day the 4 of us had. We did miss a couple of birds we were looking for, but the cooperative Soras made up for our misses. Thanks to Ellen, Fonda and Scott for making it a great outing!