Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch, Maricopa County, AZ

Tuesday, April 19th
Arriving at 6:00 a.m. at Gilbert Water Ranch, I had the unusual opportunity to see at least ten (10) Gila Woodpeckers take off from their cavity nests in the saguaro garden. Seldom do I see or hear that many throughout my birding time there, and I'm not sure where the woodpeckers go, but it was sure thrilling to see them all come out and take to the sky together. Perhaps, I was their alarm clock.

I was hoping to find a reported Dunlin in the mudflats of Pond 2, but I get so carried away with what I'm seeing and hearing that I almost forgot to check that pond! When I did find some good mudflats, only a single Least Sandpiper was poking around, but I stood my ground and waited. Within ten minutes, two flocks of Long-billed Dowitchers and mixed flocks of smaller birds arrived. The Dunlin was reported to be into or at least transitioning into breeding plumage with a black belly and that was really the main reason I wanted to see it. We're so accustomed to seeing all the drab winter shore birds that it's a real treat to find one in spring plumage. Should have been easy to spot - slightly bigger than the sandpipers, shorter than the yellowlegs. Nope, not there. My eyes aren't the best they can be so I took photos of the flocks in the shallows but no Dunlin appeared there either!

The Preserve was certainly not lacking for bird life. Playing in the background for the duration of my two-hour visit was the call and call-back of perching male Gambel's Quail in trees on benches, wherever they could find a spot. In my attempt to listen to other bird sounds, I found myself shutting out the quail sounds. . .but they were part of the fabric of the morning and so I just listened harder to the others. 

Gambel's Quail

Least Sandpiper

Lesser Yellowlegs - note breeding feathers beginning to bolden their color

Other birds included an American Coot walking on land showing off its big feet ... and one of several Black-crowned Night Herons stalking a morsel in the shallow water.

Black-crowned Night Heron

One of my favorite birds around water is the Belted Kingfisher. Although it was across the pond from me, I managed this one of a tricky bird to photograph.

Belted Kingfisher
The Yellow Warbler by the Mason Bly bench was much less cooperative, giving me only 1) its eyeballs; 2) its tail end; and finally, with no cropping, its whole body barely identifiable except for being all yellow with that marble-like black eye.

Liking the details of the birds fascinates me especially with the American Avocet. Such a striking bird in its mating plumage! The detail of its long bill lets you know which is the male and which is the female. Look below: the male's has a slightly graded up-curve; the female's is angled more sharply.

Refreshed with seeing 43 species in such a brief period of time, I headed home to prepare for an upcoming birding trip to - of all places right now - Houston. Not precisely Houston, but that's my airport. More later on migrating birds that I see next week!

* * *


  1. I do like that ranch. It's a nice getaway to just bird. And you never know what you might find. Considering it's in the middle of suburbia, it's a pretty nice spot for the Phoenix metro.