Target Birding, Maricopa County, Arizona

Saturday, July 16th
There’s nothing quite like waking up to news of a rare bird within driving distance!

On Friday (7/15), I decided against chasing a very rare phenomenon and was feeling bummed out about it when I awoke early (4 a.m.) on Saturday and was considering giving chase to two BLACK SKIMMERS at a farmer’s pond over in the far West Valley of Phoenix - east of Route 85 South, on Lower River Road. Duane Morse happened to have been there, photographed them and put it out on the Rare Bird Alert.

It was almost noontime when I saw the notice yesterday and I just couldn’t bring myself to get out into I-10 Friday afternoon traffic. But if you’ve ever seen Black Skimmers (highly unusual but sleek-looking birds) you know they are found on beaches and marsh ponds not inland. But here they were at a farmer’s pond, skimming the water with their extended lower beak to catch fish, then resting on land. Many birder friends showed up and got wonderful photos. The photo below is one I took at Bolsa Chica, CA in July 2013.

Black Skimmer

At 4 a.m., Saturday morning, I awoke with birder’s remorse, got up and figured I’d get myself over to the pond by daylight to see if they had hung around. It seemed unlikely but what the heck. Traffic would be light and I should arrive within an hour.

As I took the first sip of coffee, I looked at new emails.  Holy Jumpin’ Jehosophat!
A HUDSONIAN GODWIT had been located by birder, Kurt Radamaker yesterday at a dairy SLOP POND not terribly far from where he had observed the rare Black Skimmers. That was a MUST SEE bird for me!  I got such a poor quick look in a cloudy sky when that bird flew over my head in April in Texas, that I needed to see it long enough to get a good look. Even though I counted it as a Life Bird, the ID was made by our trip guide and I really only saw the godwit’s silhouette.

Coffee and breakfast were quickly set aside as I dressed and got on the road. I did stop first to look for the Black Skimmers that were no longer there.  So I took off for the Slop Pond, a a short distance away, where many birders were already observing the Hudsonian Godwit through spotting scopes at quite a distance into the private property where the owner prefers birders to stand back at the road (liability). 

Among the birders were several I knew: Tommy, Caleb, Chris, Moe and Louis. I used both Caleb’s and Moe’s spotting scope for excellent views of the HUDSONIAN GODWIT in breeding plumage. Now, I could amend my notes on my Life List to indicate I really did get a good look at this unusual bird in - of all places -- Arizona. [It migrates mostly through the midwest from south Texas to northern Canada.]

Although my views were great, my photos at that distance with heat waves between us were lousy. Much better photos by friends are posted below.

Hudsonian Godwit at Dairy Slop Pond, West Valley of Phoenix. Photo by Steve Hosmer.

 Same Hudsonian Godwit in flight - silhouette of this species I had seen in Texas. Photo by Laura Ellis.

What an exhilarating Saturday morning!

* * *

No comments:

Post a Comment