Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Had a day of birding that was wedged between 2 CBC's, and could not think of a better name than a 'Wedgie'. On my previous posts I covered the CBC in Carefree on January 2nd and also the CBC in Payson on January 4th, and that day in the middle, January 3rd, just happened to be another day of birding on my own. I started the day out early at the Gilbert Riparian Water Preserve and finished the day in Payson, Arizona.
I had not been to the Gilbert 'Water Ranch' for sometime and I got there early and as the sun rose in the southeast, it enhanced the photography opportunities much more than I could have hoped for. This is a magical place for photographers and the birds. I arrived just a few minutes before the 200+ Canada Geese took flight and they took off in small flocks, some before the sun arrived, and some after the sunlight washed everything in a warm gold tone. Obviously, my photo came later instead of earlier!
A stop at Pond 5 was where I ran into another Facebook birder friend, Pam Barnhart and some birds that really did not care that we were standing on the side of the pond and they practically attempted to get as close as possible to us, almost like 'Pick me, Pick me!' for our photos, specifically, American Avocet, Black-crowned Night Heron, Great-tailed Grackle, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, and of course the elegant Northern Pintail. In fact a Great Egret was so close, that my zoom lens could only focus on its head!
Black-crowned Night Heron
Great Egret - close up
Other birds that presented themselves well, were Anna's Hummingbird, Red-winged Blackbird, and the European Starling, which is a much despised bird by many people since it is not a native species to the United States. But one does have to admit that their iridescent plumage does have a bit of a wow factor to it.
After returning home and packing the car I headed for Payson so I could be there early on Saturday morning for the CBC. On the road up, I decided to make a stop at Sunflower a favorite birding spot in the summer. This place was practically overrun by American Robins. Growing up in Nebraska, these birds were always a good omen every spring as the winter started to fade. In Arizona, they are a winter resident except in the northern and higher elevations where they also breed in the summer.
Another winter resident that we see lot in the lower elevations is the Dark-eyed Junco. Technically, this species is made up of several sub-species and they can and do hybridize from time to time. The various sub-species can be a bit tricky for those that are interested in identifying them, and I have seen at least 5 of the sub-species in Arizona, but after this visit to Sunflower, I can add a 6th sub-species to the list. My first reaction at seeing this bird, was to quickly ID it as an 'Oregon' Dark-eyed Junco, but when I started looking at my photos at home, I quickly decided it was not quite right for an 'Oregon'. A few posts on some Facebook ID pages and the general consensus came back that this was a 'Cassiar' Dark-eyed-Junco. From what I have read, it is a hybridized bird of the Oregon and the Slate-colored sub-species and it breeds primarily in Alberta, British Columbia and as far north as Alaska, so finding one in Arizona is a bit unusual.
'Cassiar' Dark-eyed Junco
To finish out my day of birding, I stopped in Payson at their ponds and actually had a good time with some birds there as well. Birds included a quizzical female Brewer's Blackbird, a Song Sparrow, a vocal female Redhead, and just before leaving an adult Bald Eagle high on the ridge above surveying the entire scene below.
Brewer's Blackbird - female
Redhead - Female
Redhead - Female
An overall great day of birding with a lot of different habitats and different birds in each place. This was a day that will not soon be forgotten.