Glendale Recharge Ponds, Maricopa County, AZ

December 11, 2015
I had an ulterior motive when I volunteered to take a friend to the airport this morning. When I'm at Sky Harbor, I'm about 2/3 of the way to a good birding spot.  So, after dropping Bari Silver off at Terminal 4, I continued west on I-10 for about 20 miles, arriving at Glendale Ponds at 11:30 a.m.  Usually, I'm early for birding, but with waterfowl, the time isn't quite as significant as it is for songbirds that lie low in mid-day.

As soon as I hit the dirt road, I started counting and was able to pick up a Vermilion Flycatcher, abundant Abert's Towhees and the first of several American Kestrel.

What I really wanted to find out there, especially with overcast skies, were some gulls other than Ring-billed, the most common on our desert lakes. Other gulls show up from time to time but I just haven't connected with them this year.

One of my favorite birds showed up early over Pond 6 -- a Belted Kingfisher.

Male Belted Kingfisher (above & below)

A flock of Horned Larks flew overhead while many birds perched on the same stretch of utility wires that the Belted Kingfisher used.

Also in Pond 6, I counted 13 Canada Goose, many Gadwall and American Wigeon.
On my way to Pond 1, I scanned the farmyard across the canal where I spotted a dozen Gambel's Quail.

The 6 rectangular ponds are laid out in a grid, beginning with No. 1 on the NE corner and ending with #6 on the SE corner, so they are directly across from each other with dirt roadways and a water flow channel separating them.

With more mud in Pond #1, the shorebirds were active. In addition to the Least Sandpipers, Killdeer and Long-billed Dowitchers, there were Black-necked Stilts, Great Egrets, and three Lesser Yellowlegs.  Ring-billed Gulls walked around in the midst of these shorebirds grabbing anything they stirred up!

Above:  Ring-billed Gull with fish;
Below: Ring-billed Gull posing
Ring-billed Gull - adult

Although I had spotted a perched Osprey when I birded Pond 1, that was the only raptor I saw until I birded Pond 5.  Then, two Bald Eagles flew over making all the waterfowl take to the air and re-arrange themselves on other ponds. With the adult Bald Eagle was a younger one that appeared to be, perhaps, a 3rd year bird, since it showed a fairly white tail but still had many dark flecks in its whitish head. Their fly-over brought me two birds from the most distant ponds (# 3 & 4) -- a Western Grebe and a Clark's Grebe, two beautiful long-necked birds that landed on Pond 5 in front of me but very distant on the water.  (No pics)

Then more raptors started showing up. Stirring up the ponds this time were two Northern Harriers, soon followed by a Peregrine Falcon that may have been doing clean-up after the harriers!  And, as I started walking past the ponds toward the parking area, a Red-tailed Hawk got into the act but stayed higher, didn't strafe the ponds like the harriers.

I paused long enough to take a photo of the nearby Arizona Cardinals Stadium mainly because the cotton field next to it was ripe for picking. It reminded me of the historical 5 C's of economic growth in Arizona: Copper, Cattle, Cotton, Citrus, and Climate.

Amazingly, in the middle of the desert I see more waterfowl than I ever did in tidewater Virginia!

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