In the early part of December, I just happened to celebrate a landmark birthday and I was fortunate to have it fall on a Saturday. What better way to celebrate a birthday than getting out in nature to see what cool birds one can find! One of my best birding buddies, Chris Rohrer ventured north from Tucson and joined me in our quest to find some birds in and around the eastern suburbs of Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tempe.
First stop was the Gilbert Riparian Water Preserve in the search for some rare Purple Finches that had been seen there for a week or so. We did not have any luck with that species, but the birding was was still excellent with the highlight being a White-throated Sparrow. Of course several others were gracious enough to allow photos as well; Neotropic Cormorant and Wilson's Snipe.
Wilson's Snipe well camouflaged
Wilson's Snipe zoomed in and cropped
Our next stop was Coon Bluff on the Salt River northeast of Mesa to search for another rarity, a Reddish Egret which had not been reported for a few days, so our hopes were not very high and once again, we dipped on this bird as well. But once again, several other species made our visit very enjoyable such as Cedar Waxwing and Vermilion Flycatcher. And a couple more passerine species graciously gave me a chance to get photos with their reflection in the water, which is not too common; Say's Phoebe and American Pipit.
From here we headed to Scottsdale Ranch Park to look for a Red-breasted Sapsucker which had been reported there. It is an uncommon winter migrant in Arizona; its more common winter range is the Pacific Coast from Baja California northward to Washington state and into British Columbia in Canada. It is always a treat to see this bird in Arizona. We arrived and spent some time searching in the trees that it favored and was not finding it. As we decided to maybe head to the next location on our agenda, we met a handful of other birders also looking for it, but to no avail. I started scanning its favorite tree one last time and Bingo! there it was! I quickly got everyone else on it and it was quite accommodating to us all.
One last point of interest on our list: Tempe Town Lake. Sorry to say, but we came here to actually locate a drake Mandarin Duck that had been seen here for some time Although, it is non-countable as an ABA bird, you have to admit it really is quite a handsome specimen.
A nice adult Bald Eagle is always a bonus, and it is nice to find one is such an urban setting such as Tempe Town Lake.
Adult Bald Eagle
I was a great way to spend a milestone bi(rd)thday!