Veterans Oasis Park and Zanjero Park, Maricopa County, AZ

September 18, 2015
When I arrived at the small pond northeast of the restrooms and fishing pond at Veterans Oasis Park (VOP), I noted that it was 6:00 a.m.  Yesterday, a birder friend, Susan Fishburn, had seen the American Bittern first reported by Darrel Wilder on 9/16/15, and suggested I walk to the east side of the water for the best view so the sun would be at my back.  Being quite a bit on the short side of tall, I walked up the bank beside the trail to see over the oleanders and other thick shrubs that prevented my penetrating to water’s edge.  I scanned and continued to scan the reeds on the west and south side of the pond several times. 

There!  The American Bittern was within the reeds not out in front but just barely behind the first few. It was in “poised” mode, but still. Its beak was the first thing I noticed, then followed its deep brown stripes down to its belly. I viewed it for a full minute before I saw another bird clinging to a reed to the left of it - the Least Bittern!  It didn’t stay put, but its small size and buff color set it apart from the Green Heron.  When I swung the bins back toward the American Bittern that had been close by, it was gone.  I looked at my watch: 6:10 a.m.  It had been too dark for photos.

There were egrets and a Green Heron on the west side of the pond.  Since I had seen a larger bird (possibly a Black-crowned Night Heron) fly into the corner of “my” side of the pond, I decided to walk over to the west side that did open all the way to the water.  That’s when I spotted Steve and Joan Hosmer walking briskly along the trail, so I stopped and waited for them, knowing they would not like what I was going to tell them.

Since Steve had his spotting scope I stayed with them there for a while hoping the American Bittern would show itself again. A photo would be a "keeper" for this unusual bird.  If it was going to come out again, it was taking its time doing it, so I let Steve and Joan know I would go check the west side of the pond.  They decided to join me since we were able to get to the edge of the water, but the sun had risen too high by then, it was very difficult to see, looking eastward.  So they returned to the east trail to maintain a watch for the Bittern while I continued around the park on its perimeter trail.

Black-tailed Jackrabbits were bopping about on all the trails and into the shrubs as I approached.  I counted nine (9) but that’s conservative!  Walking northward to reach the west-to-east perimeter, two coyotes came strolling toward me but quickly decided to take the next E-W trail that cuts through the middle of the park.  A jogger came out from that trail exclaiming about the coyotes!  [They were too quick for photos]

A residential area lies adjacent to the north-going trail. It was along that spot that I saw House Sparrows and House Finches.  Otherwise, it was all desert and riparian species: Black Phoebe (almost always close to water), Verdin, Curve-billed Thrashers, Abert’s Towhees and Anna’s Hummingbirds.

At the northeast corner, where the trail turned south again, I came upon a much larger lake than the first one.  This was full of egrets, herons, Mallards and Black-necked Stilts.  Two White-faced Ibis were there and I saw a White-fronted Goose fly in.  

Two White-faced Ibis (Black-necked Stilts in foreground)  Too distant, really, for good photo.

Great Egret & Great Blue Heron across the lake

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

Greater White-fronted Goose

Loggerhead Shrike 

Note the green wings on this young or non-breeding plumage White-faced Ibis
WFIB preening; red eye is one ID marker that helps differentiate it from Glossy Ibis

White-faced Ibis

After two hours and three (3) miles of walking the trails at the VOP, I said Good-bye to Steve and Joan (who had not yet seen the American Bittern), and departed for Zanjero Park.  This has turned out to be quite a successful volunteer effort by the Desert Rivers Audubon group.  They created many many burrows (google it; it's not easy) and Burrowing Owls now occupy many of them.

Although a Greater Roadrunner was the first bird I spotted there, I didn't need to walk far to get photo of two Burrowing Owls that didn't spook (I stayed back a bit).


Good-bye to you, too, dear friend.  Thanks for allowing my photographs.

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