Pacific Wren

Pacific Wren
Pacific Wren

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Golden Nugget in Maricopa County

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my birding expeditions that I fail to stay home and take care of yard and household chores, so last weekend, my intent was to stay home and get something done instead of birding.  Those plans went by the wayside for me on Saturday.
 
A rare bird for Arizona, let alone Maricopa County, was discovered by Louis Hoeniger in the west valley; an American Golden-Plover.  This bird has one of the longest migratory flights of all birds.  Its breeding grounds is the Arctic tundra in Canada and Alaska in the summer of the Northern Hemisphere.  They spend their winters in Patagonia, a distance of about 25,000 miles.  This is incredible when a person considers the fact that they fly this distance twice a year!!!  Louis found this bird at a little known pond of water at the end of a dead end street that is not well marked.  Not knowing how long this bird might stay was impetus enough to get out there to try and locate it before it decided to move on. 
 
I arrived before the sun came up and before anyone else arrived and I started my search.  It was not long before 3 more people showed up looking for it as well.  It took us a while to locate it and all of a sudden it appeared right where we were looking for it.  But alas, I discovered that I had a 'senior' moment as I got ready to take photos and my camera was indicating there was no memory card in the camera!  So I enjoyed watching the this marvelous bird while other were getting killer shots.  I finally left and drove to the nearest Sam's Club and purchased a memory card and headed back.  Of course when I arrived for the second time, it was a new cast of birders, including birding pal, Laurence Butler and he was on his way out, but gave me the scoop on where he last saw it.  So I headed to the extreme eastern edge of the pond but was not having much luck in relocating it, and it was not long before I was joined by Caleb Strand and his mother Debbie.  We then joined forces looking for this bird.  We did discover another smaller pond of water at the far east end inside a cattle corral and it did contain a lot of shore birds including a cousin of the American Golden-Plover, the gregarious Killdeer that is very common.  But what was cool about that, was 4 baby Killdeer in the mud flats foraging with the adults.  While this is not the best photo due to distance, it is still kind of cool to see how even the chicks blend in.
 
 Killdeer and 4 chicks
 
After searching for quite some time, I decided that my own stupidity was going to leave me photo-less on this cool bird and I started heading back to the parking area.  Leaving Caleb and Debbie on the far eastern edge, I noticed another couple had arrived and they were on the far western edge of the pond.  All the while I was scanning the pond to no avail, until I was about halfway, and I glanced across the pond and there it was!!!!  Eureka, I had re-found it and I started waving my arms and both parties, trying to get their attention that it was here after all.  While waiting for them to show up, I was trying to keep an eye on the bird and also get photos at the same time.  Both parties managed to get close enough to see it briefly and then it took flight and flew to the northeast in a direct straight away pattern that made all of us wonder if it had decided to start heading further north on its way to the tundra regions.  I finally did manage to get a couple of photos of this 'Golden Nugget' after all.  But a lesson was well learned from this because the views I had earlier were much closer and better than the second viewing.
 
American Golden-Plover
 

American Golden-Plover on right, Black-necked Stilt on left for comparison
 

  American Golden-Plover
 
Very thankful for Louis Hoeniger for finding this marvel and reporting it.
  

4 comments:

  1. Hey, at least you got the shots! If it were an adult in breeding plumage...one shudders to think of the possibilities!

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    1. Laurence, I blame it on senility! Don' eve say that I didn't warn you of what's to come! And I probably would have kept it a secret if it had been an adult in breeding plumage.

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  2. Congrats on a great bird! I laughed when I saw you went out to buy the memory card. I laugh because I would do the same thing.

    Here's hoping you and I can get caught up on some chores...or better yet, get distracted with more great birds!

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    1. Josh, a couple more memory cards are always nice to have for future trips. But if I leave them at home, then it is really a waste of money!!! You can bet I won't forget them about next February!

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