Gilbert Water Ranch, Maricopa County, AZ

February 26, 2015
It was such a beautiful day that after a morning appointment, I headed out to Gilbert Water Ranch even though it was getting very late for spotting good birds.
Just a twenty-five-minute drive from home, I was able to arrive by 11:00 a.m., a time when I'm often departing the riparian area after several hours of birding.
While song birds go quiet around mid-day and are difficult to find, waterfowl generally stay on the water but with heads tucked making identification a bit tricky.

Name these ducks!  (pair of Cinnamon Teal)
 Some birders are expert at identifying sleeping waterfowl.  I'm not one of them!  But I found lots of other birds in this lush riparian area.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
The long-legged wading birds always fascinate me.  This one is a male American Avocet in the process of getting its full mating plumage on the neck and head; it will turn very russet.  Notice the slightly up-curved bill.  The female's bill has an even deeper up-curve.

The Pied-billed Grebe has its mating bill stripe--the source of its name.

Along the trails Globe Mallow was blooming.

Dowitchers, usually in flocks, probe the mudflats for food.  They move slowly and methodically.  These are Long-billed Dowitchers that are more often found along fresh-water ponds than salt water.

Long-billed Dowitchers foraging
For me, the photo of the day was getting all five Hooded Mergansers in the same frame!
The two males had been busy bathing and the females were in and out of overhanging bushes along the edge of Pond 2 - another new location for them.  The photo of the three females in the group definitively shows that all are female; there is no young male with a thinner darker bill that, otherwise, resembles females. 

I managed to see 44 species and many, many birds in two and a half hours. There were also many, many people out walking themselves or their dogs, and there were also a number of "snow birds" trying their hand at learning the birds they were seeing.  Photographers, I noticed were  as scarce as the songbirds.  Lighting and bird activity had declined since the early hours of the day.

For me, it was another good day of birding!

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