Glendale Recharge Ponds & Tempe Town Lake

February 20, 2015
Today had been set aside to do some target birding.  I reached Glendale Recharge Ponds about 16 miles west of Phoenix just as the sun was rising.  Carrying my spotting scope, camera and binoculars, I walked up into the "pedestrian only" area from the East parking area just as clouds moved in front of rising sun.  Yikes!  Another gray day.  Well, BIBBIDI-BOBBIDI-BOO!  I had already seen a Prairie Falcon perched along the entrance road so I was feeling lucky, sunshine or not.  I just won't take many photos.

These six large rectangular ponds attract a multitude of rare birds.  The birds I wanted to see weren't really rare, but also not common in the Phoenix area:  Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs.  The ponds, laid out in an open grid are easy to access and the clouds would at least provide shade since there are no trees.

As sometimes happens at these recharge facilities, some of the ponds are drained and allowed to dry out.  Pond 5 was the one with the most water and most waterfowl.  A Dunlin is a sandpiper that is just a bit stockier and larger than the "peeps" (Least Sandpipers) that run around the edges of the water and fly off in synchronized flight like sparkling little BIBBIDI-BOBBIDI-BOOS!  But scoping each flock of these sandpipers, I came up empty each time for Dunlin.  The sandpipers were up in the roadways poking around in the gravel much of the time so my access to them was great.  

This is the first time I've ever had the whole place to myself while birding here.  But, it isn't quiet:  Killdeer are always piping their "dee, dee, deee" while the Black-Necked Stilts are clacking away with their long beaks, "kik kik kik" or when complaining, "kee kee keef".
And, there are muted conversations among the many ducks.  Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal seemed most abundant but Gadwall were plentiful out on the water, too.

Such open ponds provide easy access for predator birds.  A Bald Eagle who flew in, perhaps for breakfast, was chased away by an Osprey who had already done some good fishing.  When the big hawks fly over, the ducks on the pond tend to huddle together to make the target look too large for the predator.  If you look closely, you may be able to see several different species in the "huddle".

Mixed species flock of waterfowl 
The Black-necked Stilt is a handsomely plumed shorebird with a long needle-thin bill and bubble-gum pink colored legs.
Black-necked Stilt calling
Close up of Black-necked Stilt
Of the birds I set out to see, I managed to find the Lesser Yellowlegs in one of the drier ponds; there was one at each end of Basin 3.   So, I was feeling fine about the birds I had observed in two and half hours and decided to move on.  As I reached the parking area, this Song Sparrow perched for me.  I post the photo because a Song Sparrow on the East Coast looks a bit different from the ones out here that tend to be more rufous in color.

Song Sparrow
As I headed east toward home, I decided to stop by Tempe Town Lake as I had avoided it for several months because of the holidays and special events that take place there each winter.  It was quiet today; too quiet.  I was looking for a Brown Pelican.  Yes, you read correctly.  We have a Brown Pelican in the desert.  And, you know that that bird is big enough to see.  But did I see it??  It must have flown off while I was searching the opposite end of the lake; someone reported seeing it at about the same time that I was at the marsh end.  I did drive up to the west end of the lake where the pedestrian bridge crosses it.  I searched from there and from the sidewalk along the lake to no avail.  Again, I saw birds that I really enjoy: Ruddy Ducks and Western Grebe for starters.  And, at the marsh end of the lake, I had been studying the Double-crested Cormorants who were joined by many first-winter juveniles on a long sand spit beyond the cottonwood and tamarisk trees.  There must be a rookery nearby.

Pedestrian Bridge; West end of Tempe Town Lake

Double-crested Cormorant
And, the BIBBIDI-BOBBIDI-BOO bird of the day goes to this one:

Domestic Muscovy Duck

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