Glendale Recharge Ponds, Maricopa County, AZ

Monday, November 16th
It was raining when I picked up my morning newspaper. What? - A free day and no birding? 

By the time I finished breakfast and the word puzzle, though, the sun was out, giving me an opportune late start to head west on I-10. Had I missed out on seeing the rare Heerman’s Gull that had been seen most of yesterday after Melanie Herring’s morning post?  Had it hunkered down or taken off during last night’s storm?  Commuters should be at work making the drive to Glendale Ponds less stressful.

Turning west from 107th Avenue onto West Bethany Home dirt road, I took note of the birds as I drove to the parking spot. I also noted that several people with spotting scopes were out on the berm by Pond 5 - where the Heerman’s Gull had been reported yesterday. Leaving my scope in the car helped me move out at a good clip to see if they had spotted it. Body language gave me a clue; no Heerman’s Gull this morning! A ONE-DAY WONDER! 

The woman with a scope said she had spotted a Bonaparte’s Gull earlier but could no longer find it. Easily explained by the raptors making passes over the ponds. One of two men I recognized as being from Tucson; we’ve crossed paths on other rare-bird searches. 

After getting somewhat acquainted, we birded separately from there on. Usually, I see executive airplanes fly out of a nearby airport but today none of them were in the air. Filling the space was SOUND == thunderous roars from jet planes over at Luke AFB drowning out bird voices. Three times the ground rumbled with these fired-up booming engines. Tumultuous times internationally may mean preparedness is stepping up. 

When I don’t see my target bird(s), I generally find gratification in taking pictures.  Today, I focused on a Peregrine Falcon perched on the same berm I was walking. Having learned to take distant shots of distant birds followed by five or ten steps forward for more clicks, and then again, until I could get within my camera’s range proved helpful.

Peregrine Falcon keeping an eye on waterfowl
It was not my intent to spook the falcon, but when it flew out over Pond 5, Great Egrets lifted up from the shoreline.

Great Egrets
Later, the Peregrine settled on a different berm directly behind those same egrets and one, knowing it was safe, perched next to it.

Peregrine Falcon and Great Egret
Crossing the canal, then, to take a close look at dry bare Basin 3 on my left and weedy Basin #2 on my right, I searched for birds I hadn’t yet seen or heard in Basin #6 (Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Pipits, Horned Larks).

A Northern Harrier made a pass overhead scattering the waterfowl on more distant Pond 1. Two Osprey were communicating with call notes and would make brief forays over the occupied ponds before returning to utility pole perches. Later, I saw another Osprey while those two were perched.

Two other good sightings were a female Belted Kingfisher in deep-colored feathers and a Greater Yellowlegs, both beyond camera range. Northern Rough-winged Swallows were out in force swooping all the basins, not just the ones with water.

When I walked the berm between basins # 2 & 3, I thought I spotted a longspur fly in off the dry bare gray bottom of #3 and dive into some grasses not far from me. Phishing and waiting didn’t bring the bird into the open, so I walked farther away before deciding to “call” for the Lapland Longspur (previously spotted here). As soon as I did that, a bird popped up from the NW quadrant of weedy Pond 2, flew directly toward me then circled back from whence it came. Having barely gotten a look at it, but sensing some good color contrast, I called again. Instead of diving down into the bushes, it returned, circled my head and gave me a good look at good identification marks for Lapland Longspur: more white than grayish (Chestnut Collared), saw the white under tail split by a thin black line of feathers and noted the wings were pointed. Saw contrast on face area as it approached me but it was so quick that’s all I can say about it - contrasting facial pattern. Without my scope, I doubted I could find it again even though it had returned to the same area it had flown from.

After looking over the waterfowl in Pond 1, I was wishing I had carried my scope. I saw a couple Ring-necked Ducks and I’m sure there were scaup out there, too, but couldn’t decipher them. They’re all on my list from Gadwall and Pintail to Northern Shoveler and a couple Green-winged Teal. Most other ducks on my list were on Pond 5 when I arrived.

At 11:45, wind picked up big time and it looked like a dust storm was gathering farther west. A good time, to leave!  I finished up by snapping photos of one of the Osprey perched on the crossbar of a utility pole as I walked back toward the car.

After another hour of driving back to the East Valley, I was home a little after noontime. So glad the sun came out and I had a chance to visit the birds over in the West Valley.

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