Urban Birding, Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, Maricopa County, AZ

Saturday, December 12th:
A spontaneous choice for birding local rather than distant on this cold (48°) and drizzly morning provided some good bird action and, of course, a miss on the target bird.
Taking Glenda J, visitor from Ontario, with me, we hoped to find the Red-breasted Sapsucker at Scottsdale Ranch Park. After birding for 55 minutes, we both were cold and moved on without seeing the target bird at or near either of its frequented locations, per reports. Magill Weber reported seeing it this afternoon at 2:15 p.m., so I know it's still around and will give it another try another day.

Second stop, a quick visit to the lake at Paradise Memorial Gardens before heading to Mercado del Lago (McCormick Ranch--Margaurite Lake) where our best sighting was a WESTERN GREBE. With its head tucked, and its low body floating around with a massive flock of Ruddy Ducks, it was difficult to discern until it lifted and unfurled its neck.

Distant Western Grebe
When we walked to the area below the dam, we found the small pond filled mostly with American Wigeon.

L-R: Female & Male American Wigeon
Female American Wigeon on left; wears a smudge on its eye
From there, we traveled a short distance to the ponds around the Chart House restaurant identified as McCormick Ranch-Camelback Lake.  Aside from the many coots that filled the surface of the west finger of the lake that was easily viewed from the parking lot, we found one of 12 Great Egrets standing on the grass. About nine (9) Snowy Egrets lined the distant bank (sw corner) and were interspersed among Neotropic-cormorants providing a nice black-white pattern.

Great Egret
Our final stop was the lake at Fountain Hills and what birds we found!  Never have I seen so many HOODED MERGANSERS (20) in one place, nor for that matter, EARED GREBES (35). It looked like water was being pumped into the lake (or perhaps it was a submerged aerator), but something was stirring the water and the ducks were going crazy for such easy food.They were diving and surfacing so fast it was hard to count them!  Obviously, I could only take pics of those on the surface between dives.

A Bufflehead got into the act on this pic, along with male and female Hooded Mergansers, two Eared Grebes and a Pied-billed Grebe.

A Bufflehead (just right of center) got into the action, too.

Pied-billed Grebe

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe
Despite the cold sprinkles of rain, we held fast for as many photos as we could get.

Female Hooded Mergansers

Male Hooded Merganser who separated itself from the crowd to, perhaps, swallow a BIG ONE!

For local urban birding, we felt like Fountain Hills Lake had delivered the jackpot experience.
It was a 3-GREBE DAY (Western, Pied-billed & Eared) PLUS a mad communal feeding show by several species.

Unless I wander out to see what's happening, I sense that I'll miss something for certain.
So, it was another good day in the field with a birding friend who will be visiting through the winter months.

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