Brown Noddy

Brown Noddy

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Changes of Fall

September is the start of mellowing temperatures in Arizona.  Yes, it can still be very hot, especially during the day, but the as the nights start becoming longer, the nighttime temperatures, start to drop which create for some glorious mornings for birding.  September is also a great month to find migrants as they filter through the state on their south-bound journey. 

When one thinks about migrants, it is warblers that most generally come to mind.  We have several species that migrate through the state of Arizona.  Some of them actually spend their winters in Arizona, so we get the pleasure of seeing and hearing them all winter. 

Hermit Wabler - This bird is strictly a migrant in spring and fall and most generally are found in higher elevations during migration, but occasionally they can be found in some desert habitats such as this one that I found in South Mountain Park in a dry desert wash.

Nashville Warbler - Fairly common in migration and can possibly be seen in all types of habitats.

 Orange-crowned Warbler - This is one of the species that will over-winter in many spots in Arizona.

 Orange-crowned Warbler - Note the tidbit that it has found as it forages.

Chestnut-sided Warbler - This is a fairly rare bird as its range is normally the eastern part of the United States.  However, there are a few reports every year in the fall/winter in Arizona.  I found this one at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve in October, but it did not stay the winter.

'Audubon's' Yellow-rumped Warbler - This is our most common warbler in the winter in Arizona.  It is the first warbler that I was able to identify by its chip note. They are very abundant just about everywhere in the state in the winter.

Warbling Vireo - This leads us to a different group of birds, the vireos.  This is a fairly common bird, but not always accommodating for photos.  I was happy to get this one to pose for me for a brief moment.

House Wren - This species is an elevation migrant.  The House Wren does breed in the higher elevations of the state in the summer, but they tend to disperse to lower elevations in winter. 

Burrowing Owl - In the winter we have more Burrowing Owls than summer.  We do have our year-round residents that breed in the state, but we also get a lot more in winter when those that breed in the northern part of the United States and Canada migrate south and spend their winters with us in Arizona.

Pied-billed Grebe - This is a species that pretty much leaves for the summer, and are seen much more in winter.  However, we do have a pair or two that spends their summers at Pagago Park in Phoenix, such as this one.  Note that they love feeding on crayfish.
 American Bittern - Not a real common bird in Arizona, but then they tend to be a bit secretive and are not always easy to detect so there might be a few more than what are being reported.  This one spent some time at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve.

Least Bittern - Another species that tend to be pretty secretive, but luckily this bird has been breeding at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve and if you time your visit just right, there is a good chance you can see one.

  Great Blue Heron - Not a migrant and a species that can be found throughout the United States at various times of the year.

Reddish Egret - This is an interesting photo of 3 species of egrets and offers a really cool comparison of the three all together in the same frame.  In the back is the smaller Snowy Egret, in the front is the much larger Great Egret, and in the middle (the non-white egret), is the Reddish Egret, which is a species that is a bit rare for Arizona.  Every winter, we seem to get a few in the state and they are probably first year birds that disperse northward from their regular range along the west coast of Mexico.

Verdin - This little bird is very common is the right habitats and one that can be quite noisy so one can detect their presence by their calls.  It is a very small bird at only 4½ inches and they tend not to perch very long for photos.

 Bald Eagle - Probably one of the most recognized birds in the United States since it is our national emblem.  We do have breeding pairs of Bald Eagles nesting along the Salt River and at other spots in Arizona.  So when one of these majestic birds offers great views and a chance to take photos, of course I take advantage.

   Bald Eagle

Vermilion Flycatcher - One of my favorite birds that I cannot resist taking a photo when they perch and present themselves to me.  Some of these birds do migrate south, but there are usually a few that will spend their winters in certain parts of Arizona.

Rosy-faced Lovebird - Yes, this bird in the only non-native bird that I included in this blog post.  This bird is originally from Namibia, Africa, and is a very popular cage bird in the pet industry and they are quite easy to raise in captivity.  This species found the desert climate in the Phoenix area to be quite a bit similar to their natural climate in Africa.  These birds have escaped from pet owners and also from pet stores releasing them when going out of business and they have thrived in the Phoenix suburban areas, with a current population of over 6,000 in the Phoenix metro area.  They seem to be holding their own and so far, there does not seem to be any competition with the native birds in the food or nesting locations. However, with all non-native species, it is possible for that speculation to change.  They have a foothold here and are ABA countable in the state of Arizona, for those that are wanting to add birds to their life lists.

This last photo was taken in a captive enclosure, but it is a bird that used to reside in southern Arizona.  This is a 'Masked' Bobwhite, which is a sub-species of the more widely known Northern Bobwhite in other parts of the United States.  It has pretty much been extirpated from Arizona and is only found in a small area further south in the state of Sonora, Mexico.  However, there is a captive breeding program in Arizona for this species  and they are trying to attempt to reintroduce them to the desert habitat where they formerly resided in Arizona.  So far, the success has had mixed results.  Would like to see this bird make a comeback in this state.  Note that this pair has a chick with them.  This was photographed at the Sonoran Desert Museum just outside of Tucson.

Birding in Arizona is always a lot of fun.  Yes, there are times when I see the same birds that I always see, but I learn from each one of those encounters.  I am currently trying to catch up on some blog posts that I have procrastinated about doing for far too long.  With a couple of upcoming trips on the horizon, I know that I will not get completely caught up, but am going to try for one or two more posts before I head off on my next adventure.  Both of these trips in 2019 are within in the United States and at the present I do not have any international trips planned.  Stayed tuned for more updates and thank you for taking a look at my blog.   

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Winter Hummingbirds in Arizona

While reviewing my photos from this last fall, I found that I had forgotten about some of the photos of hummingbirds that I took and decided a blog post might be in order to show some of the various stages of what some of these marvelous little birds can look like at other times of the year.  It is uncommon that one will see the various plumage variances in field guides and on apps.  Field guides do not always show the various stage of plumage molt and lighting plays a big factor in seeing the iridescence that is depicted in field guides or apps.

Here in the Phoenix area, we have 2 species that can be found as year-round residents; the very common Anna's Hummingbird and the stunning Costa's Hummingbird.  Anna's are by far the most common, but Costa's can be reliably found in the right habitats.  We do have the occasional rarities in the winter as well.  We have had records of Broad-billed, Rufous, Calliope, and most recently a Broad-tailed Hummingbird that has spent winter in the Phoenix area.  

At the beginning of each species, I have included a brief note as to how these 2 species got their names that will hopefully give you a bit of insight on the background of the names of these  hummingbirds.  Now, let's move on to some photos of them that will show how different they can appear.  Lighting plays a lot in how we see them.  The males have bright and colorful gorgets, but only when the light is refracted off of them.  Many times, all we see is what appears to be a black gorget.  When an immature male begins to molt into adult plumage, there is frequently a sprinkling of  the iridescence that we can sometime see.  With females, there is not as much of a noticeable difference.

Anna's Hummingbird 

 Anna's Hummingbird was named after Anna Masséna, Princess d'Essling, Duchess of Rivoli, who was the wife of Prince Victor Masséna, the Duke of Rivoli.  And if you saw the connection to the name of Rivoli's Hummingbird, then you are correct.  Rivoli's Hummingbird got its name from the Duke of Rivoli and the Anna's Hummingbird was named after his wife. 

 Adult male - Note the light refracting off the crown and left side of throat appear to be goldish/green.
 Adult male, but note the red behind the eye and the rest of the gorget and head appear black.
 Back looks green in this photo, but note the next photo.
 The back appears gold in this photo.  All a part of lighting and a good reason to not depend on color all the time for identifying birds.
Adult male
 Immature male just beginning to molt.
Same bird as preceding photo, but a different angle.
 Immature male, note the magenta colored feathers which is a part of the molting process.
Same bird as preceding photo, different angle.
 Immature male, still has a way to to go on its molt.

Costa's Hummingbird

Costa's Hummingbird was named after Louis Marie Panteleon Costa, Marquis de Beau-Regard, who was a Sardinian aristocrat and an accomplished amateur ornithologist. 

 In this photo gorget appears black.
 In this photo, most of the gorget appears black, but note the purple on the tips of the gorget.

 An immature male in molt.
 The same immature male as above.
 Another immature male, and below is the same bird but a different angle.

Rufous Hummingbird

Just this past week I had the pleasure of hosting a Rufous Hummingbird in my back yard for 4 days.  It arrived before the first day of spring so technically it visited my yard in the winter.  This species is a long distance migrant, wintering in southwestern Mexico and breeding in the Pacific Northwest and all the way through British Columbia and even Alaska.  They migrate approximately 2500 miles twice a year.  Pretty remarkable for such a tiny bird!  Twice before, I had a Rufous Humingbird visit my yard and both visits were in August on their way south and both birds were one-day wonders in my yard and my feeders.  This was the first spring migrant that I had and she decided to stay for 4 days!  They are notoriously feisty, and she was no exception.  She quickly took charge of my back yard and the resident Anna's did not know how to respond.  It was quite enjoyable to watch one for a longer period of time than normal.

If you love hummingbirds and you live in Arizona, you have a lot of opportunities to see several species.  And if you have a home, putting out hummingbird feeders is a great way to attract them to your yard.  Even apartment dwellers can get them to visit a feeder on a balcony.  They are remarkable little birds with a lot of energy and personality.