This past Sunday I had the pleasure to go birding with Marceline VandeWater and she was kind enough to offer to drive which gave me an opportunity to do some birding as a passenger. The Phoenix area has been dealt a cold spell, with below freezing temperatures the past few nights and Sunday was no exception. When we left our meeting place in Tempe at 7:00 am it was about 27° F. Buckeye and Arlington on located in the west valley and by the time we arrived in the farm grounds outside of Buckeye the temperature had dropped to 21° F and by the time we found ourselves near the canals and flowing water it was 17° F. With temps like this, we did not spend much time outside of the vehicle! Of course when the sun made an appearance it did warm up by mid day into the upper 40's or maybe even 50°.
We spent the entire day birding and ended up with a total of 74 species of birds which was a very respectable count. One of the first birds we spotted was a Wilson's Snipe in a canal at dawn that had a lot of steam rising from it. That was a good omen to start the day. We observed more in different spots along roadsides and a couple of them were downright quite cooperative with us. But since much of our birding was done inside the car, many of the birds did not spook quite so easily and it makes the birds a bit more approachable. Such is the case with the photos of the Snipe below.
Raptors were in abundance throughout the entire area with Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels being the most common. However, we also found several Northern Harriers, 4 Ferruginous Hawks, a Prairie Falcon, a couple of Cooper's Hawks and a couple of Sharp-shinned Hawks. But the icing on the cake was a pair of White-tailed Kites, a bird I have only seen one other time and it was not far from where we observed these 2. Have to apologize for a bit of poor photography on this bird, but for me a bad photo is better than no photo of an uncommon bird such as this. In the long horizontal photo, notice on the far right a white blob. That was the 2nd kite off in the distance on a stick pile.
A couple of photos of 2 different Red-tailed Hawks; one is a stunning adult dark (or rufous) morph and the second one is a juvenile that must have captured a morsel to eat in some mud as there is mud on both feet and even on the beak. Have no idea if it was a failed attempt or if it was a kill and already eaten.
Red-tailed Hawk - Dark Morph
Red-tailed Hawk - Juvenile
We were not lacking in observing many of the smaller birds as well. Included are a couple of sparrows; a Vesper Sparrow and a Savannah Sparrow. We also found about 4 Loggerhead Shrikes and a few Least Sandpipers in various spots along the roadside.
Vesper Sparrow -- in the middle of a hop.
As far as the cartoon delimma, I think the Roadrunner is still surviving the battle with Wile E Coyote as we found about 4 Greater Roadrunners, but only 1 Coyote.
This is always a great place to find a great variety of birds. It is far enough away from the heart of Phoenix and provides an abundance of habitats for numerous species.