This month always arrives with its preset agenda. And, I'm always trying to carve enough time for some good birding...which I've managed to do, so far.
This blog will highlight photographs of some of the best birds I've seen at the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch (2 visits); a scouting bird visit to Lost Dutchman State Park in preparation for my monthly bird walk on Wednesday, Dcember 13th; and a two-hour visit to the Higley & Ocotillo ponds.
|NORTHERN PINTAIL (Drake); Gilbert Water Ranch -- above and below|
|GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Drake); photo above and below; Gilbert Water Ranch|
|ROSY-FACED LOVEBIRD foraging with RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD at Gilbert Water Ranch|
Some unseen raptor must have been stirring the birds up and off the seven ponds. Canada geese were in the air repeatedly. I love the challenge of catching them in flight.
|CANADA GOOSE (two above photos)|
Up, up and away. . . before settling down on a different pond.
On Sunday (12/10/17), I visited Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction for about 90 minutes but earlier than my scheduled Bird Walk on Wednesday that will begin at 9:00 a.m. Thus, the PHAINOPEPLA were almost a no-show. They stay down until the sun comes over the Superstition Mountains. The warmer it gets, the more insects the birds will find. By waiting, the PHAINOPEPLA, a flycatcher, increases its chances for a healthy breakfast. Since I was about to leave when the sun showed up, I spotted only one PHAINOPEPLA, too distant for a photo.
With blustery winds between 5 & 10 mph, I was lucky to photograph any birds. They dive down under the bushes, into the tangles below trees, and just find hidden spots in the washes to stay out of the breeze and out of sight.
The "drip" is always worth checking out, especially on a day when bird sightings would be scarce.
|GILDED FLICKER (male); above and below|
|When its yellow underwing is not visible; its copper-colored head provides ID as opposed to the gray head of the Northern Flicker|
The two photos below are of the same species of bird: ROCK WREN. Note the difference the light plays in each.
This first photo was taken when the ROCK WREN perched up on the sign for Jacob's Crosscut Trail with nothing but space all around us. Even though it was partly cloudy, this light photo is often how the bird actually appears...very light and gray.
At other times, like when I approached the parking lot as I finished up, this ROCK WREN was at a picnic table platform surrounded by shrubs. Here, below, the same species looks very brown. We learn early on that color is NOT the best way to identify our birds.
From Lost Dutchman State Park, I headed southwest to the Higley-Ocotillo Ponds in Mesa.
A Eurasian Wigeon had been reported seen there on Saturday and I thought I'd take a look at the ponds -- only one of which held water, the one stretched out parallel to Higley Road. It's a large pond but being rectangular, running east and west, I was able to observe all but the most distant birds on the south edge with just my binoculars. I could have walked around to get a closer look, but the winds kept getting heftier and by the time I left, they were blowing at a steady 10 mph, stirring up the water just enough to add a touch of diffculty I didn't want.
MALLARDS were the most numerous duck, but there was an overall abundance of waterfowl. NORTHERN PINTAIL are always a pleasant sight just by nature of their physical and color design.
NORTHERN SHOVELER were not close to where I was birding but a RED-TAILED HAWK flew over the east end of the pond stirring the shovelers into the air where I counted about 150.
Two tall GREAT BLUE HERON stood out in the fairly shallow pond. This was my favorite:
|GREAT BLUE HERON (with Northern Shoveler in background)|
GADWALL were present but not nearly as many as AMERICAN WIGEON, of which there were very many. While I had been hoping for my target bird to be a drake (male), I settled on a brown-headed Wigeon as a female EURASIAN WIGEON, a rarity, but occasionally seen on our winter ponds. The drake AMERICAN WIGEON show a wide white stripe from beak to the crown of their head through a gray face. The duck between them is the wigeon with a brown head, (unlike the gray head of the female American Wigeon) which I concluded was the female EURASION WIGEON. It was not really all that hard to pick her out among the many AMWI that were constantly snapping and chasing her.
|Possible female Eurasian Wigeon, second from right|
The Eurasian Wigeon drake has a very rufous head with a golden stripe while the female has a warmer brown head color than the drake.
After taking those photos, I looked around the pond and the grounds and found some more birds of interest. WILSON'S SNIPE are striped and colored to match the mudflats with dead growth. Hard to see, but their dagger bill is distinctive.
|WILSON'S SNIPE (two above photos)|
The GREATER ROADRUNNER below played hide-and-seek with me, only I didn't chase it. It was coming up over the berm of the dry lake on the north side of the road/trail. When it saw me, it went back down. I stayed put waiting to see where it would come up again. It was close enough to catch the photo below.
All in all, another good day in the field despite the wind. As usual, you can check my eBird posts by clicking on the links below.
* * *
View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S40993803
View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41013338
View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41015322