Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Diversity of Maricopa County - Part 1

Finally, a full weekend of birding where I felt good and I had some awesome company to go birding with me.  Saturday, Muriel Neddermeyer joined me by heading out to some spots west of the Phoenix metro area.  We ended up having an incredible day of birding with some very nice birds.
 
We started out by heading to Friendship Park in Avondale; a very unlikely spot for birds, but I had read a couple of eBird reports that Lawrence's Goldfinches had been reported there recently.  Definitely want to get there early to avoid the crowds of soccer teams playing.  After getting a feel for the park, we quickly decided that the southwest corner of this park would be the mostly likely habitat.  After a few minutes we caught a glimpse of a few in a small cottonwood tree and they quickly took off. So we meandered down to the dry stream bed and found a tree full of Lesser Goldfinches, but upon closer inspection, we found some of the elusive Lawrence's Goldfinches also a bit lower in the tree and of course harder to photograph.  No matter, because finding this bird is rather special as they are definitely not as common as the other finches.
 
Lawrence's Goldfinch
 
From there we traveled a little bit further south to Baseline and Meridian a place that Muriel had not yet been to.  A great place with lot of different habitat, including running water in the river and desert scrub on the hill sides nearby.  At one time we came across a group of very active warblers and we were checking out several Yellow-rumped Warblers and Orange-crowned Warblers and we both zeroed in on a bird that was different.  Luckily Muriel had just seen one of these birds about a week before at Granite Reef and she knew immediately that it was a female American Redstart.  As soon as she said that, I immediately knew she was right.  It is not a bird that I have seen very often as they are rare to uncommon in Arizona, but it seems like about a dozen or so get reported every winter.  It is really cool to find a rare or unusual bird without chasing someone else's find. Wish I could have gotten a bit better focus on it, but at least the photos are good enough for an ID.
 
American Redstart - Female
 

American Redstart - Female
 
We also had the privilege of watching a Peregrine Falcon fly over and take a dive at some Eurasian-collared Doves, but it missed this time.  Also had a small flock of 4 American White Pelicans fly over.  This day was overcast all day and photos leave a lot to be desired when the sun is not shining as all my photos from that day are definitely not the best.
 
American White Pelican
 
From here we headed further west to the Buckeye/Arlington area where we were treated to a vary wide array of raptors.  We had 5 Ferruginous Hawks, including a rare 'dark-morph' of this species.  Lots of Red-tailed Hawks, which included a 'light-morph' "Harlan's" Red-tailed Hawk.  Also had a Prairie Falcon that was very wary of humans and did not allow any close approaches for photos.
 
American Kestrel
 

 American Kestrel
 
The next two birds are both Ferruginous Hawks.  The first one is the normal Ferruginous Hawk and by far the most common one.  The second one is the much scarcer 'dark-morph' Ferruginous Hawk.  I had not seen this color morph of this species before, so this was a real treat.  While the birds do look very different from each other, one thing they do have in common is the extended yellow gape which gives one the impressions of a yellow 'grin'.
 
Ferruginous Hawk
 

Ferruginous Hawk
 

Ferruginous Hawk - Dark morph
 

Ferruginous Hawk - Dark morph
 

 Ferruginous Hawk - Dark morph
 
The next couple of photos is  light-morph 'Harlan's' Red-tailed Hawk which is another rare color morph.  I have actually seen one of these once before in a fly over in my neighborhood in Mesa a couple of years ago.  This bird also comes in a dark-morph phase and it is a bit more common than the light-morph.
 
'Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk - light morph
 

 'Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk - light morph
 
We also had a field with over 70 Black Vultures in it; another field with over 300 Yellow-headed Blackbirds mixed in with a few Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbirds.
 
 Black Vultures

Black Vultures
 

Yellow-headed Blackbirds
 
And in one of the freshly flooded fields we found a couple of Long-billed Curlews, an extraordinary bird with a very long curved bill.
 
Long-billed Curlew
 
Before we knew it, this day was drawing to a close.  It is amazing at how time flies when one is having a great day of birding.  I want to thank Muriel for joining me on this trek, just wish the weather would not have been quite so overcast and cloudy.  Photos might have been a bit better, but just seeing these remarkable birds made the day a great day.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  


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