Coon Bluff Rec Area along Lower Salt River, Mesa, Maricopa County, AZ

Monday, November 30th:
Today's birding followed some chilly birding over the weekend. First, a weekend update: 
Although I birded two places on Saturday, 11/28/15, I took only a few photos.  Lois and I joined Kathe Anderson (and her husband) for a bird walk she was leading in a place I rarely visit: the McDowell-Sonoran Preserve. It was 32° when we gathered at 7:30 and it didn’t seem a whole lot warmer when we finished a part of the Granite Mountain Trail at 10:00! In high desert, we were lucky to get 12 species since the sparrows weren’t yet out in the sunshine.

Moon setting over Granite Mountain, McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale, AZ

After six of us enjoyed a nice breakfast at the General Store Cafe at Pinnacle Peak & Pima, Lois and I continued on to Scottsdale Ranch Park to see if we could locate the Red-breasted Sapsucker reported by Diana BlueHerron on Thursday.  Although we came upon other birders (including friends Lindsay, Keith and Dick), none of us came up with the uncommon sapsucker. Even though we "dipped" on the Red-breasted Sapsucker, we enjoyed other birds at this location that none of us had previously birded.

American Kestrel

Say's Phoebe

On Sunday, 11/29/15, Lois joined me for a search of the Riggs-Price Road ponds where birder, Dale Clark had posted photos of three classic species on Thanksgiving Day: Snow Goose (juvenile), Ross’s Goose and Cackling Goose. We did get to see the birds in the alfalfa fields across Price Road, a bit northwest of the ponds. We had just started viewing the three species when all the Canada Geese decided to lift off and the three Snow Geese, two Ross’s Geese and the Cackling Goose joined them. Although we waited for them to finish circling in the air with the hope that they would return, they had moved on to feed elsewhere.  It’s my understanding that they return to the ponds around noontime after feeding all morning, but Lois and I have been birding so much neither of us had that much spare time. It wasn’t a great sighting, but their relative sizes were clearly seen when they flew, especially the Cackling Goose, darker than the white birds but associating with them, that appeared smaller than the Ross’s Goose and obviously nowhere near the size of the regular Canada Geese.
Here’s a link to see the photos of the 3 classics:

Another cold morning today (Monday, 11/30/15), so I decided to bird close to home. The Reddish Egret had been spotted at Coon Bluff over a period of two or three days and then not again for about a month. But birders had reported its presence again over the past three days, so I showed up there a little after 9 a.m. — again because it was close to freezing temperatures when I got up. 

Lindsay and her father, Dick, had just arrived when I pulled into the parking lot so we ended up birding together. However, they entered from a different direction than I had so I was startled to hear Lindsay call out to me. “I’ve got it!”  She had had to leave her scope at the first wide flat fishing area to get my attention and by the time she tried to re-find it in her scope the Reddish Egret was gone. Her misfortune turned out to be my good fortune since they wanted photos. 

Dick, Lindsay’s father who was obviously older than either of us, carried the camera while Lindsay handled her bins and spotting scope as we continued eastward on the trail. Dick had the best eyes of any of us and saw our bird lift and fly two or three times as it continued to move eastward, up the river. Tamarisk, shrubs and mesquite blocked our view much of the time but Lindsay finally got the bird in her scope again and at last, I got to see it in the distance.

We walked and walked trying to get past it so the sun would be behind us for photos. Dick rarely walks this far, especially over river rock terrain. We stopped 1.1 mile from the concrete sidewalk at the camping area to get our successful photos. I’ve seen the bird in Florida and Texas but never Arizona so I took lots of photos of this rare occasion. It was spectacular to view the bird through Lindsay's scope that picked up feather pattern and coloring that doesn't quite come through in my photos.

Juvenile Dark form Reddish Egret

Juvenile Reddish Egret flying off
Ruffled Feathers: Reddish Egret - juvenile
Young Reddish Egret in the Salt River at Coon Bluff
Dick, Lindsay's father returning from our successful FIND of the Reddish Egret  [Lindsay's photo]

After returning home, eating lunch and entering my list into eBird, I checked today’s email and discovered another rarity had been located at Gilbert Water Ranch.  At 12:38, Tyler Loomis reported seeing three Purple Finch along a certain trail and provided details. Too nearby to ignore, I headed out again, arriving by 2:30. As I entered Tiger Moth Trail, I saw two birders about half way down the trail. They didn’t look like they were on to anything so I walked up and chatted with Rich Ditch and Steve Ganley.  Steve had arrived closer to 2:00 and had seen one Purple Finch and heard the other but wasn’t satisfied with the looks he got. Or, so he said. Since we didn’t see them again during a two-hour wait, maybe his sighting will suffice. Steve and I left about 4:30 with late-comer Dale Clark staying on to see if they might return. My past several days of excellent birding couldn't dampen my spirits for having missed the Purple Finches. It was a delightful day of birding!

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