Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch, Mesa, Maricopa County, AZ

Saturday, September 12, 2015
Wide awake at 4 a.m., I decided to get up to do some birding at Gilbert Water Ranch, about a twenty-minute drive from my home. Although the place fills up quickly on weekends, I arrived just before dawn with just two other cars in the lot.

A Great Blue Heron on a distant platform looked good in the early-morning light.

About ten minutes later, I saw a different one perched on a light standard and was able to get fairly close to it.

Great Blue Heron
When I walked past it and looked back, I noticed the Great Blue had lifted one foot while it perched! (Reminding me of my balancing exercises!)

Overhead, I heard Canada Geese flying my way as they lifted off a distant pond.

My birding route was haphazard. Many ponds had low water so I checked from the trail and if shorebirds or waterfowl were present, I walked as close as possible.  Some good birds insist on staying beyond photo range, however, so I simply enjoyed the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs that were hanging out together in a remnant of water in Pond 2.

Although I saw no hawks fly over, an American Kestrel was perched watchfully over the plowed settling ponds.

American Kestrel
Closer to me was an Anna's Hummingbird.

Anna's Hummingbird in a mesquite tree on north shore o Pond 5

Pied-billed Grebe on Pond 6

Residents at Gilbert Water Ranch, Black-crowned Night Herons appear to have had a very successful breeding year.  While four of them were lined up in a row several feet apart, another photographer blocked my view and ability to capture that particular shot. I was fine with getting individual poses when the space became available for me.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron (note the red eye)

First-year juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron (also showing its red eye)
Every now and again, I'd spot a warbler bopping around in a tree next to a pond. It's always helpful when they peek out from behind the leaves to give me some clues. A Nashville, Yellow and Wilson's Warbler caught my attention as they were busy foraging this morning at various locations.

And, then, there's always the bird that I know I should know and it doesn't "click" for me.

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

People walking dogs, jogging, bicycling and showing up for bird-watching makes this riparian preserve a special place for a lot of people. But when they show up, it's time for me to leave!  I counted 44 species in just under two hours.

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  1. Best time of day for that place. It really is a wonderful place to explore when there aren't people running, biking, screaming, etc:) A great way to kick start the day. Now if this heat would just let up a tad.....

    1. First-light is the very best there! But, even in less than two hours I was feeling the heat build up. I was more than ready to leave. Cooler days must be coming. . .