Sunday had a change in the weather with overcast skies and a few sprinkles from time to time. This time Jim and I visited the agricultural farm grounds in the west valley in and around the communities of Buckeye and Arlington in Arizona. A different habitat which leads to a different diversity of bird life. Much of the birding in this place is completed by driving around in a car. With an overcast sky, the photography was quite a bit more challenging but I was able to capture a few worthwhile photos. Jim will have a lot of photos to process when he returns to New Jersey!
The first bird we encountered once we pulled off the highway was a Ferruginous Hawk which was on Jim's side of the car and I know he got many photos, but that in itself was a very good omen to start off the day. It was not much further down the road and we discovered a Merlin. I know others have reported this species off and on in this location, but it was my first sighting of one in Maricopa County, so that was good omen number 2. Not a great photo by any means but I was happy to get what I could.
Driving down one of the dirt roads that was very rutted from previous rains, we came upon a small flock of American Pipits and with our windows down we were able to capture a few photos as we sat in the car.
A couple of other birds that we found and photographed from inside the car were Savannah Sparrows and Western Meadowlarks. Both birds were quite numerous along the roadsides and out in the fields.
One thing to look for when birding in this area is farmers flooding their fields with water. When that happens and you find such a spot, you will find a plethora of birds. We found one of these flooded alfalfa fields and although the birds were some distance from the road and of course, a long distance from our car, we got some good looks at them thanks to Jim's scope that he had brought along. This one field contained Great Egrets, a couple of Cattle Egrets, a huge flock of White-faced Ibis mixed in with a fairly large flock of Long-billed Curlew and some Greater Yellowlegs. Also perched on the earth berms that were on the edges of the field were Red-tailed Hawks and a juvenile Bald Eagle. Birds were a bit far away for my lens, but when one of the Long-billed Curlews took flight and flew our way, I did manage to get a photo that really shows off its long curved bill.
A bit further down the road and near our destination, we found one of our target birds, the Sandhill Crane. There is usually a small flock that over winters in this area every year. We counted a total of 27 of them in the field and one group of 9 tended to hang out together.
Also near this spot we drove up to the canal and found a female Belted Kingfisher observing us from a concrete perch.
One other avian find was a bit unexpected. We discovered a small flock of domestic turkeys. They were running free range and we really never did figure out which farm they might belong to. But they did create some different color patterns for us to observe.
Agricultural farm grounds can really bring in a lot of surprise birds and a great variety. We ended up with over 60 species of birds on this outing.