Tres Rios Overbank Wetlands (permit required), Maricopa, Arizona

Sunday, April 10th
Trying to beat the midday rain forecast, Jeanne Burns and I met at our usual Park and Ride for an early start over to the West Valley. Both of us avoid using the commuter-stalled I-10 in that direction on weekdays and it was a pleasure to arrive in excellent time to begin birding at Tres Rios by 6:45 a.m.  The rain prediction had moved to earlier in the morning but it was a mild and pleasant beginning for our birding.

While we checked distant ponds with the spotting scope, the morning chorus of blackbirds in the marsh screeched and hollered in the background. Both Yellow-headed and Red-winged were there.

Tres Rios provides extensive birding habitat, but wanting to focus on marsh birds, we walked no farther than a mile. Yellow-headed Blackbirds (that winter in the Southwest) often fly north to western Canada to breed. Whether this large flock was staying to breed or just hadn't taken off yet, I don't know but I really wanted to try for decent photos of this bird. In addition to their very yellow heads and breast, their wings have white linings that show well in flight. And, they've proved very difficult for me to photograph.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds

Hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds also populated the rushes. Obviously in courtship mode with their red shoulder epaulets (trimmed in yellow) flaring wide and thick with each song, they seemed oblivious to the camera.

Staying close to the marsh, we heard many Common Yellowthroat (warbler that likes the reeds), a Virginia Rail and two Least Bittern. We saw Great Blue Herons, as well as Great and Snowy Egrets.  When the cacophony of the marsh went quiet, we knew to look overhead.

White-faced Ibis flock had nothing to to do with the abrupt noise abatement from the blackbirds,
but this Cooper's Hawk below silenced them for several minutes before flying off

Cooper's Hawk

The sky was growing increasingly ominous with cloud cover turning to black and stormy.

White-faced Ibis from another big flock 

Just as we wrapped up at Tres Rios, a Bald Eagle flew over!

And, a cardinal that had been singing on our arrival in its bare-limbed tree continued to serenade the morning. 

Northern Cardinal

Our much-needed rain had not yet materialized, so we stopped by some ponds east of Tres Rios with the hope of finding Jeanne's major target: Black-bellied Whistling Duck.
What we found:

Two Killdeer

30 Least Sandpipers

Jeanne found several Western Sandpipers among the Least SP, while I counted 99 Black-necked Stilts clacking about among Northern Shovelers and other ducks. But none of the rare (for here) Black-bellieds. Western Sandpipers below, photo taken by Jeanne Burns. Note black legs, droopy bill, larger than Least Sandpiper, with reddish wash on crown and ear patch and on shoulders.

And, then, just a bit after schedule, the rains came down sending us home.

But not before we enjoyed another good morning among the birds!

* * *


No comments:

Post a Comment