Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch, Maricopa County, AZ

Wednesday, October 26th
Locals abbreviate the name of this location to Gilbert Water Ranch; many birders go a step further and call it "GWR".

Being just 25-minutes from home, it is one of my "go-to" birding spots but I rarely post about it.  It's been a full month since my last visit there and today, I noticed, birds and bird behavior have changed. 

A friend, and just-returned snowbird herself, Rosemarie joined me today as we explored edges of several of the seven settlement ponds as well as the cottonwoods, desert willows and shrubs along the trails. We came upon many SNOWY EGRETS feeding in the remnant pool of Pond 1.


At Pond 2, we saw a juvenile BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON and then I got hung up on seeing what appeared to me to be an American Bittern, but it was too well hidden to get a definite ID. Birds are often so camouflaged it's like a "hidden-picture" game to find them but while I was taking photos of my questionable bird, Rosemarie was spotting one, two, three and four and more in this one area where we stood still, not moving. She located one adult BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON and, including my sunlit bird, we counted SEVEN of them in this one small area. 

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
That's the only area of Pond 2 we birded because we could look west from our vantage point.  Many other birds were farther east forcing us to look directly into the early-morning sun - no fun. We can walk around the pond when we want to look at them, but we decided to check out Pond 5 instead.

With just a survival pond of water in the northeast corner of its big dry weedy field, Pond 5 holds few but sometimes very nifty birds. I was surprised to see so many photographers there for such a few birds and didn't learn until later that they were enjoying a Least Bittern. 

Usually, I'd walk up quietly to the folks with cameras to find out what was going on, but we had a "creature" that approached and fascinated us. I've never seen such a tame Black-tailed Jackrabbit. Usually, they hop high and quickly until they are a safe distance away.

Jackrabbit sniffing Rosemarie's leg and clothes

Fabulous Ears

This one came so close to me I couldn't fit it in the frame!

Eventually, we worked our way over to Pond 6 where more egrets and other birds were busy in a remaining pond (the rest of the area was weedy and awaiting water to be pumped full).  

Watching cormorants fishing together...sinewy movements up and under the water in loose rhythmic formation ... fascinates me and I watched them circle the pond several times. Snowy Egrets were less impressed with them.

GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Male) at far edge of Pond 6

Of the 42 species we enjoyed in a little over two hours, the Snowy Egrets seen very early on were now back in great numbers and were the show of the day.

With our temperatures still climbing into the 90sF everyday, it felt like it was time to head home. A good early birding day for the two of us!

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  1. Oh this damn heat! I'm so over it. I'm boycotting the birds until the heat comes down. Loving that cute Jackrabbit. How friendly!

  2. Call me crazy, but I'm headed over to Sweetwater early tomorrow morning (7ish) and hope to see some goodies before we melt.