Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa, Maricopa County, AZ

March 5, 2015
Having spoken with neighbors about a bird sighting they had yesterday in Usery Park, I set off in the late morning to see if I might be able to re-locate the bird with their directions.  The Hooded Oriole would be my first sighting of this bird for the season (FOS) and also for this calendar year.

When I reached what I thought might be the spot within the campground to see the oriole, I took my time checking each of the several feeders on the 5th-wheel parked on the fairly large corner site.  With no one home, I was reluctant to enter the site, so I stayed to the edge of the lot until I spotted an adjacent wash.  Walking slowly north on it, I spotted seed feeders tucked within a sprawling palo verde.  House Finches, Mourning Doves and House Sparrows were thick within and below the tree.  A lone Harris's Hawk perched on a distant saguaro.  I had seen one earlier in a different location, also.

House Finch

Harris's Hawk after lifting from its saguaro perch

After 20 minutes of counting Curve-billed Thrashers, Verdin, Cactus Wrens, and Gambel's Quail, I hung back beside the car where I might appear less visible to a bird wanting to visit one of the hummingbird or oriole feeders.  Ah!  A very familiar squawking!  In flew some Rosy-faced Lovebirds to the deeply hidden feeders.

Rosy-faced Lovebird

At noontime, I got the first of several quick views of the Hooded Oriole.  But no photo!  The bird didn't stay long at the hummingbird feeder, so I stuck around.  It would fly in from somewhere, dive directly into or below a wide thick creosote bush and stay there for several minutes.  When I didn't stir, it would fly up to a hummingbird feeder attached to a window on the rig.  But it didn't stay long enough for me to get a photo.  Fifteen minutes later, just as I was giving up on the photo shot, it returned and stayed a few seconds longer, giving me half a chance. 

Hooded Oriole: here . . .
. . . and gone!

According to the Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas, an exceptionally early sighting for the Hooded Oriole would be in February, but today's bird was my earliest sighting of a Hooded Oriole in Maricopa County. I was definitely glad to have seen and photographed it.  Thanks for the tip, Woody and Jennifer!

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