Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Monday, February 25, 2013

Return from out West - 23 Feb 2013

After spending a lot of time way out west in the Buckeye/Arlington areas, I made a couple of stops on the way back to the east valley.  One of the stops was Encanto Park in Phoenix where a greater White-fronted Goose had been reported, (thank you Laurence!).  While it is not a rare bird, it is a bit uncommon; seems a few like to overwinter in some of the spots in Arizona.  What I was not prepared for was the popularity of Encanto Park.  This is a very popular park with a few rides and lots of picnic areas among the connected ponds, and on this day it was packed with people.  There was at least one wedding party and also a closed off area for a company picnic.  I wasn't expecting to see much, but then again, with the popularity of this park, there are plenty of people who feeds the ducks and pigeons and geese.  I think this Greater White-fronted Goose has found a place where it is not going to starve by any means and is probably going to stick around until it is time to head north to the Arctic Circle.  It appeared very content where is was.

 Greater White-fronted Goose

Greater White-fronted Goose

Since I found my target bird, I decided it was time to move on to another location, so I took a detour to visit the east end of Tempe Town Lake.  Almost always a great place to find Brown Pelicans in Arizona, and sure enough they were there, but a bit too far out of range for my lens.  Instead, I opted for photos of a Common Merganser and a Song Sparrow.  

 Song Sparrow

Common Merganser

It was a full day of birding with a lot of different habitats involved which led to a variety of different birds to be seen.  (For those that may have missed it, see my previous post and the thrasher quest.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A day west of Phoenix - 23 Feb 2013

Started out on Saturday way out west of Phoenix, even further west than Buckeye.  My first stop was a little known place to search for the elusive LeConte's Thrasher and found out that it is still elusive.  Have been to this spot a couple times before and have found it, but not this time, so I settled for some Sage Sparrows (which is always a nice find), some Lincoln's Sparrows and one of my favorite birds, a couple of Black-tailed Gnatcatchers.  

 Sage Sparrow

 Sage Sparrow

 Lincoln's Sparrow

 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

  Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Having failed to locate the thrasher, I then backtracked to the 'infamous' Buckeye Thrasher Spot only to find a lot of birders there with the same goal.  One group had traveled from Tucson and there was another group from Phoenix and there were a few others birding on their own.  One of them just happened to be fellow bird blogger extraordinaire Lawrence Butler.  Guess I should have came to this spot first as some others had sighted the Le Conte's Thrashers before I arrived.  I had to settle for Sage and Bendire's Thrashers, but even those are always nice to find.  On the road to the 'thrasher' spot, I did have to hit my brakes so I could capture of a photo of a nice Red-tailed Hawk regally perched on the top of a Saguaro Cactus on the side of the road.

Red-tailed Hawk

Although I did not get any photos at the thrasher spot, I also got the privilege of meeting a young and enthusiastic and very knowledgeable birder, Alex and his parents.  It is very refreshing to see young people show such an interest in ornithology and know the future generations will be here to carry on with the love of our avian world.  The 5 of us then joined forces and traveled up and down the roads in and around Arlington where Alex and family found their first ever Sandhill Cranes.  We all then parted our ways and I slowly drove the roads in the Buckeye/Arlington farm grounds where I snapped a couple of photos along the way.  Most notably, a couple of Loggerhead Shrikes and an American Kestrel.  I watched the Kestrel as it dove down from the electrical wire to the ground and when it flew back to a perch on the crossbar, I noticed one leg was hanging a bit low.  Guess the photo shows its small insect morsel that it had captured.

 Loggerhead Shrike

American Kestrel

And my final photo, to take us away from the avian theme, is one of a domesticated goat.  But looking at the photo, another critter is trying to get noticed on the left!


Might not have seen my target bird the Le Conte's Thrasher, but overall, it turned out to be a great day.  Had a couple more stops when I got back into Phoenix, but will do a separate blog post on those two stops.



   


Sunday, February 17, 2013

A couple of new rarities

Finally getting around to posting some photos of a couple rare birds and new life birds for me.  Both of these were seen and photographed a few weeks ago.  The first bird was discovered by a friend, Tom Lewis, during the Greater Phoenix Waterbird count that took place on January 19th.  And another friend, Muriel Neddermeyer, called me late on the same day that this bird was discovered in Maricopa County.  This bird is the Least Grebe whose range is usually far southern Texas, but there have been a few seen in extreme southern Arizona and breeding has been documented.  This sighting in Maricopa County was further north than they have been seen before, so it was an immediate hit with all the birders.  I was at the location early the next morning and there were already 5 other birders viewing it, and it became quite popular in the next week or two.  This completed my list of seeing all seven species of North American Grebes in Arizona (6 species in Maricopa County).  At just a little under 10", this is our smallest Grebe in the US.  

 Least Grebe

 Least Grebe

Least Grebe

The second bird for this post is one that I consider to be pretty awesome in the color department.  The Red-breasted Sapsucker is a bird from the Pacific northwest coast.  Their winter range extends to Southern California and every once in a while one ventures a bit further east an into Arizona.  This bird was reported in late December on the lower Salt River and has apparently found a tree to its liking as many birders have seen it and it seems to favor a certain tree.  It has tapped several holes in this tree from which the tree sap has been oozing and during one of my visits I also observed a Verdin and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet visiting these same holes to take advantage of the sap or possibly even feed on insects that might have been trapped in the sticky sap.  The photos will show the many holes.  This is one heck of a gorgeous bird and if the bright red isn't enough, then the black and white pattern on the back is just as stunning.

 Red-breasted Sapsucker

 Red-breasted Sapsucker

 Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Two totally different birds, and both were a joy to watch and observe.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Red Mountain Park - 12 Feb 2013

The day after returning from Rocky Point, I just could not sit home all day, so ventured out to Red Mountain Park in Mesa, AZ with one bird in particular that I was looking for.  This was the Bendire's Thrasher, which is not a new bird for me, but since it is not that common in Maricopa County, it is always nice to see one.  I found the target bird right where others had been seeing it, on the east side of the lake and near the restrooms.  This is a heavily used park, so this bird is used to seeing humans and did not flee.  This bird has a straighter and a bit shorter bill when compared to the similar Curve-billed Thrasher.  Also note the triangular spots on the chest, whereas the CBT has round spots.

Bendire's Thrasher

While walking the sidewalks, a Cooper's Hawk flew in from the right not more than 25' from me and made an attempt to capture a Mourning Dove.  This time the doves were lucky, and the hawk stood on the ground looking around wondering what went wrong before it took to the air again and headed to the island.  Another couple was nearby and witnessed this event and wondered what kind of hawk it was and it was enjoyable to share the experience with them and visit with them about it.

 Cooper's Hawk

 Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

And here is a photo of one of those Mourning Doves that were everywhere in this park.  Probably a great place for the Cooper's Hawk to hang out with a bountiful food supply at hand.

Mourning Dove

This park also has its regular human providing hand outs for the birds because right in this area the Mourning Doves and Gambel's Quail were congregating and sure enough, the seed was being scattered and the birds were flocking in.  This photo shows several doves and quail and a lone House Sparrow.

Feeding Frenzy-Gambel's Quail, Mourning Doves, and House Sparrow

Abert's Towhees are very common in Arizona, but very rare outside of this state, but oftentimes are difficult to photograph as they like to scurry into the shade and brush on the ground.  But this one preferred to perch in full sun on a branch for me.

Abert's Towhee

And then to add some mammals to the post, we have 2 different ground squirrels.  I think I have them identified correctly, but could be mistaken.  We have a pair of Rock Squirrels that was pretending that February 12th was actually February 14th.  (♥)  And we also have a couple of Round-tailed Ground Squirrels sticking close to their den.

 Rock Squirrels

Round-tailed Ground Squirrels

If someone reads this and can give me a better ID on the squirrels, please let me know.





Thursday, February 14, 2013

Puerto Penasco, (Rocky Point), Mexico - Part 2

Sunday morning we bundled up and headed to Pelican Point and Tucson Beach near Cholla Bay.  It was very early in the morning and it was very cold; in fact I had to borrow an extra jacket/wind breaker at least until the sun came up and the air quickly warmed up enough to make birding a bit more enjoyable.  One of the most impressive birds for me was the American Oystercatcher.  We had seen 4 of them on Saturday far out in Cholla Bay at low tide, but on Saturday, while standing on the rocks at Pelican Point a small flock of them came flying by in the early morning light.  A little bit later, we got to observe several of them up close on the sand and some were even engaging in courtship displays.

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

As with most environments around water, the Osprey is almost always present.  The early morning sunrise with an Osprey 'kiting' was nice and it created a nice warm effect on the photos of the bird.  The photo of the perched Osprey was taken later in the morning without the effects of early morning sun.

 Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

One of the biggest surprises was a Merlin that flew in with its catch of the day and landed on a rock a short distance from where we were.  It appears to have captured a shore bird.

Merlin  

Of course another photo of a Brown Pelican is always worth it, especially when they are displaying their breeding attire.

Brown Pelican

And more gulls, they were everywhere.  This time we found an adult Heerman's Gull, which is one of the easiest species to identify.  But we also found a Herring as well.

 Heerman's Gull-adult

Herring Gull

And since we spent most of the day in Cholla Bay, we obviously had more shore birds.  Lighting was a bit better and the birds were a bit more approachable on this day.  Captured photos of Black-bellied Plover and Willet, along with a couple of new birds, the Short-billed Dowitcher and Wilson's Plover.  

 Willet

Black-bellied Plover

 Short-billed Dowitcher

 Wilson's Plover

Wilson's Plover

The last bird photos are of a Sparrow, that almost looks a little out of place with all the water bird photos.  However, this is a special sparrow; it is a sub-species of the Savannah Sparrow, known as the 'Large-billed' Savannah Sparrow.  This bird has a fairly limited range and has the possibility of some day being split from the Savannah Sparrow species and becoming a separate species of its own in the near future.  The photos quite clearly show how large of a bill it has when compared to other sparrow species.

 'Large-billed' Savannah Sparrow

'Large-billed' Savannah Sparrow

Monday dawned with rain in Rocky Point which did not bode well for much birding, but it was nice to see as this area gets very little rain every year.  Will like to return again in the future, but have no idea when that might happen, but I really enjoy travelling to this small seaside community.












Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Puerto Penasco, (Rocky Point), Mexico - Part 1

I was privileged to have the opportunity to travel to Puerto Penasco, Mexico this past weekend with some dedicated birders.  This small resort town of about 50,000 lies about 1 hour south of the Arizona border with Mexico on the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California.  The Sea of Cortez is a long extension of the Pacific Ocean that is enclosed by Baja California on the west and mainland Mexico on the east.  My traveling companions were Claudia, Susie, Pat, Jeanne, Sue, and Marilyn and together we got to see and observe many birds and ourselves dined on some great cuisine.  Personally, I came away with 7 new life birds and I know a couple others that scored more than that.

The first day we concentrated our search near downtown and the fishing docks.  For me one of the most exciting finds were the Brown and Blue-footed Boobies.  These birds are known for following the fishing boats into the harbor and the distance out in the water was a bit of a challenge for my camera, however I managed to at least capture photos of the 2 species for identification purposes.

Blue-footed Booby

Brown Booby

Brown Booby

One of the most numerous birds, other than gulls, were the Brown Pelicans and some were even showing their very colorful breeding plumage.  One of my photos captured a Brown Pelican, a Blue Footed Booby and an unknown gull taking part in a feeding frenzy.

Unknown gull, Blue-footed Booby, & Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican - adult

As mentioned earlier, the gulls out numbered all other birds and the most common gull was the Ring-billed Gull, which is shown below.  Also along the docks we were able to locate a Yellow-footed Gull, and a juvenile Heerman's Gull, most likely a 2nd year bird.  Gulls can be extremely difficult to identify for various reasons, which I don't have space for on this post.  But they sparked many a lively discussions among us.

Ring-billed Gull

 Yellow-footed Gull


Heerman's Gull

In the afternoon we found our rental house which was situated on Cholla Bay and immediately started seeing shore birds.  Some of those that we found before dusk were Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, Whimbrels, Black-bellied Plovers and a lot of Willets.  The tide schedule greatly influences where birds may gather.  Notice the extreme differences of the bill shape of the first 3 species below.

 Long-billed Curlew


Marbled Godwit

Whimbrel

Willet


Black-bellied Plover

Part 2 will consist of more incredible discoveries that were made on Sunday.