With seven other birders, we began birding at the western cove of Saguaro Lake known as Butcher Jones (for an old-timer doctor who owned land around there) at 9:15 a.m.
Many waterfowl were paddling around on the water from the beach to the point. With my spotting scope we were able to get good looks at many of them including this female CANVASBACK.
|LESSER SCAUP [note small black "nail" on tip of blueish bill]|
Out on a buoy was a gull. What kind? The scope view provided the answer: RING-BILLED.
Normally, I might see one or two NORTHERN CARDINAL there, but today it looked like a conference had been called! I counted at least ten at the edge of the marsh reeds coming to the water and another large group in the picnic area.
|Male NORTHERN CARDINAL|
|Female NORTHERN CARDINAL|
|PYRRHULOXIA (male) |
Note gray color, very short curved yellow bill, bright red crest, face and wings that contrast with the brown NOCA
When we walked the trail toward Peregrine Point, I got ahead of the group. Soon, I heard Sharon calling, "Come here!" -- meaning she was looking at a bird that needed identification. On a flattened part of the reeds in the marsh, stood a juvenile BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON. I was a bit short to take a photo over the nearby reeds into the flattened area but am inserting below a recent photo of another immature BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON. Excellent find on Sharon's part.
|Juvenile BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON|
In the picnic area we combed through the bushes following the sounds of various birds including gnatcatchers, most of which were the desert species of BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHERS.
Marsha was intent on find a CRISSAL THRASHER so we walked way back following the horse trails beyond the picnic area. There in the trees, we came upon RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, GRAY FLYCATCHER and ABERT'S TOWHEEs.
Checking out a bush talking "gnatcatcher", I was startled when out from a dense tree above me a big bird flew out. Quickly, I was on it. Not hawk - OWL! Marsha called, "big yellow eyes-orange face!" By then, a second owl flew out. Notably smaller than a Great-Horned Owl, I noted the wings, too, appeared broader and shorter than GHO. Unbelieveably, a third owl flew out. WHAT??? By, then, I sort of knew what we had just witnessed. In years past, I used to look for LONG-EARED OWL there, but never found any. Today, the three flew out of the tree one after the other within 30 seconds, separating from one another into different directions as they headed southwest. In awe, we followed slowly. Half our group were photographers and not a one of us had lifted a lens! We checked our field guides and concluded that our very good fortune was having seen a winter group of LONG-EARED OWLs. Each of us just sort of wandered off in separate directions wondering if we would come upon the bird(s) again. Yes! Rosemarie found one perched on an open limb (but backlit) with beautiful silhouette of LONG-EARED OWL. As I stepped closer for a photo, it took off again.
Photo below - from the internet - provides the closest representation to what we saw:
Some of the group hung back hoping to get a photo; the rest of us moved on to more birding. But the pull of the owls was no match for more CACTUS WREN or WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. One more sighting of the three LEOW brought us all into a final distant view of the three together. They immediately flew off separately.
We relinquished our desire for photos to let the owls regroup and rest up for their night's adventures.
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View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41944251