Holiday Birding 2 - New Year's Day 2015

Superstition Mountain, Apache Junction, AZ

January 1, 2015
A brisk New Year’s Day got off to a leisurely Big Day of birding with Susan Fishburn, Lois Lorenz and friend.  Snow doesn’t gather on the Superstition Mountains in the East Valley of Phoenix every year so it was exciting to see the west face of that range draped in it as we set out.  Between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., we birded six locations in the East Valley of Phoenix, Maricopa County.

I am forever grateful for the many open spaces still available for wildlife in Arizona.  In my last posting, we had observed just 15 species of birds in four hours on a frigid day at Mormon Lake.  Depending on where one lives, that may be a normal count, but certainly not for those of us who live in one of the richest birding states in the USA.  

At our first stop at the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch, we spotted 55 species in three hours including three Hooded Mergansers and many other waterfowl including both Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal.   Among the shorebirds were many Black-necked Stilts, a couple Avocets, plus the usual assortment of herons and egrets.  For those of you not familiar with our birding opportunities near Phoenix, this included Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Green Herons, and Black-crowned Night Herons (yes, all plural) plus a Cattle Egret foraging in one of the dry ponds of this water recycling facility that pipes its wastewater into the seven basins here to replenish the underground water supply for the Town of Gilbert.  Warbler habitat is provided by the mesquite, salt cedar and cottonwood trees that line the many paths throughout the Water Ranch.  January 1st, we spotted Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers plus one Common Yellowthroat as well as Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.  Seeing all of those smaller birds was possible with our four sets of eyes searching the trees and shrubs.

Anna's Hummingbird, almost in torpor

Male and female Hooded Merganser

Rather poor photo of the same Mergansers with a young male taken Christmas Day

A Big Day does not usually include a lunch stop, but morning temperatures never got above 45 degrees F., so we stopped to warm up with a hearty breakfast before heading to our second location at Red Mountain Park in Mesa.  Every bird we see on January 1st is a “new” bird on our Year Lists so we were able to add a few desert species here as well as a Lesser Scaup and a Redhead.

Lesser Scaup


Our afternoon was spent birding four recreation areas along the Lower Salt River.  Having never seen Bushtits at Granite Reef Recreation Area before, I was quite surprised when a small flock flew in and perched in the tamarisk (salt cedar) next to the river.  Too quick for photos, they did not stick around but flew off.  My additional favorite sightings included a Brown Creeper, Red-naped Sapsucker, Belted Kingfisher, 14 Common Goldeneye,  plus Eared and Western Grebes and Ring-billed Gulls at Saguaro Lake.

Goldeneyes: L-R:  Juvenile male; Adult male; Adult female
Granite Reef Recreation area
By 5:30 p.m., daylight was gone and the four of us retirees headed home after a good, but cold Big Day day of birding.

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