Salt River--Coon Bluff Recreation Area, Maricopa County, AZ

Monday, November 7th
Didn't get started birding until 7 a.m. (late for me) but a woman was already out picking up trash left over from family fun on the weekend. It was not her family trash; she told me she just feels like it needs to be done so she's being doing it on Mondays - and what a difference it makes in the overall appearance of the mesquite bosque picnic area.

The only other thing I noticed about that specific area was that it was devoid of ground cover -- that does not bode well for a healthy ecosystem. No grassy weeds; fewer insects; less food for birds and others, etc., etc.  We're all connected...until we aren't.  As the sandy banks of the river continue to erode, the river will spread wider and become more shallow; eventually, perhaps, unable to provide the water grasses that the horses enjoy. I'm no scientist but when I look at the relationships of one thing to the other, the area appears quite stressed right now.

Birds were still plentiful this morning so I spent a very pleasant two hours walking east for a mile and a half from the bluff.  

No longer in its spotted breeding plumage, a Spotted Sandpiper teetered on a rock and then a floating board in the river below the bluff. Note the white of its belly reaching up toward its shoulder.

First Spotted Sandpiper (below the bluff)
Same bird as above; different camera setting

A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker was already searching for grubs in a broken off tree, below.

Two Belted Kingfishers patrolled the river appearing to take turns going east, then west, and repeat. Eventually, it was only the male that hung around, giving me a brief photo op.

Sometimes, I just laugh at what I see. I know herons and egrets roost in trees but this may be the first time I've seen one perched up like an ornament on top of a cottonwood.

Several Gila Woodpeckers were active in the mesquites in that first hour. Below is a female GIWO.

Still within that same area, before reaching the low-lying inlet area often used for fishing, I saw a bird that kept me guessing. It looked too big for a Green Heron; it had the markings of an American Bittern that's 10" bigger than a Green; but I've only ever seen them in marshy settings not out in the open along a river.  But that may be my lack of experience. So, below is the mystery bird.  In photo #1 below, it looks mostly like a Green Heron but also shows the "hump" at the shoulder, an ID help for American Bittern.

Short of experience with Juvenile Green Heron as well as AMBI, this appeared to be taller than most Green Herons I've seen, including one other there this morning. American Bittern has wide brown stripes on its neck as does this bird.
I've learned that an earlier report of an American Bittern sighting was corrected to be that of a juvie Green Heron, so I'll go with that for this bird that looks terribly hefty for a Green but not quite right for AMBI. This bird was on the opposite shore (north side of the river) from me.

The farther I walked, the more interesting birds I found. At a ponded area, there were Killdeer and one Greater Yellowlegs and a Pied-billed Grebe. Farther upstream, six Greater Yellowlegs were "tew-tew-tewing" as they foraged the water.

The second Spotted Sandpiper I saw was out in the shallow middle of the river not far from the Greater Yellowlegs. Its frequent teetering back and forth is a helpful identification marker for this winter-plumaged non-spotted sandpiper. Note also the brown patch down its shoulder.

The best bird I spotted was this WILSON'S SNIPE below. I didn't know what flew out from shore as I walked on the bank trail and had a heck of a time finding it.  Photo below.  Finally, its stripes stood out. It reminded me of when my granddaughter, Megan, visited a couple years back. She had picked it out on the opposite shore and asked, "What's that weird bird?"  It really is weirdly cool!

Wilson's Snipe

After seeing the snipe, I was ready to turn back but two other women came my direction thinking I was there to see the horses. They assured me they were up ahead just around the corner, so I walked a bit farther to see how many might be there.  I think it was a herd of about twelve.

Walking along the running river, seeing the various birds (30 species) and watching this one herd (of many) wild horses calmed my Election Day (tomorrow) anxiety. My ballot was cast early and the voting drama tomorrow will play out as it will. 

Click on the link below to see species list I posted with eBird. 

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