On the last day of January I had planned on taking part in a birding field trip that was being led by an extraordinary young man to some spots in the west valley in and around Buckeye and Arlington. I have been out west twice already in January, but knowing Caleb Strand and birding with him before, I knew how good he was and I wanted to join him and support him. Friday the rains hit Arizona and the decision was made to postpone that birding outing because of the many roads that were not paved and would be muddy. I had already made plans to ride with 3 other familiar and great birders; Susan Fishburn, Babs Buck, and Barb Meding. Once the four of us heard of the cancelation, we got together and decided we would go out anyway and at least try to do some birding from the paved roads and I contacted Caleb to see if he would like to join us. He was happy to join us and with the threat of possible rain showers on Saturday, the 5 of us headed out to see what we could find.
With dark clouds and an overcast sky, we started out at the infamous Thrasher Spot. First thrasher we heard and saw was Bendire's Thrasher, but our focus was the more difficult species, the Le Conte's Thrasher. After a bit of walking around on the northeast side, we heard a Le Conte's singing in the distance. Eventually we found it on top of a bush singing away. While my photos on this day did not compare to the one a couple of weeks earlier, it is still a bird I will photograph anytime I can find it. We also had sparrows in the shrubs, but they were very reluctant to show themselves very well. Of course the most common sparrow was the White-crowned Sparrow, but we also had Sagebrush Sparrows and Bell's Sparrows. At least on this trip, I was able to get a photo of a Bell's Sparrow, which I missed last fall when I got my first view of them.
Le Conte's Thrasher
The muddy roads definitely kept us away from many places that we have like to drive to so we were definitely put at a disadvantage. A trip down Arlington School Road presented us with a few Vesper Sparrows and one that really fits the description of 'LBJ', Little Brown Job. Many new birders are less intrigued with sparrows due to the difficulties of identifying some of them. Yes, it takes a lot of exposure to them to start learning how to ID them, but they are definitely worth learning and getting to know.
Also along the paved roads we did spy a few raptors, including a very wet Osprey and a handsome Peregrine Falcon.
The bird that presented us the best photo op was a Burrowing Owl. We were all looking on the left side of the car for this bird when I turned around and there it was by the car on the right side. The windows went down and the cameras started clicking.
The most exciting bird of the day, at least for me, was a bird that Caleb had discovered about a week before in his neighborhood. The Greater Pewee is a summer resident in Arizona, so just being in Arizona this time of the year is rare. When it is a resident, it is found in higher elevations, so this lower elevation added a bit more intrigue to the find. I have seen this bird elsewhere in Arizona several times, but had never seen it in Maricopa County and figured that I would have to find it on Mt Ord sometime in the summer. Caleb's find was definitely a great find and nice to add to my Maricopa list.
This may not be the most colorful blog post, but nonetheless, there are some great birds that we got to observe on a dark and dreary day in Arizona. Thanks to Caleb for showing us around and thanks to Susan, Babs, and Barb for joining forces and making this a great day of birding.