Higley Ponds at Ocotillo Road, Maricopa County, AZ

Friday, December 30th
With a group of five birder friends, we arrived at 9 a.m. to see what we might find at the five water-treatment ponds usually full of waterfowl at this time of year. By the time we made our U-turn at Ocotillo so we could access them going north on Higley Road, it was apparent that the pond fronting Higley Road was drained and contained piles of stones. Although we found a couple Killdeer in that dry pond, the pond in front of the parking area had some good water. 

GREEN-WINGED TEAL swam in two large tightly knit flocks -- probably to protect themselves from the NORTHERN HARRIER that flew over several times. Water appeared to be shrinking in the pond, too, revealing lots of mud strips that attracted LEAST SANDPIPERs and a few LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERs. The only other shorebird was the BLACK-NECKED STILT, three of which were busy foraging individually at various places. Lots of MALLARDs occupied the east end of the pond finding shelter under shrubs.

Somehow, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERs were everywhere else we looked: in the road, in the grass, in the trees. What? No pipits? No Orange-crowned Warblers? It was always Yellow-rumps! Well, not always, but the other few species we saw you can find from the eBird link below.

When we reached the eastern end of the dirt road and turned left, we all spied some ducks at the far end of the canal. Two of us, using spotting scopes were able to single out, among the dabblers, a couple diving ducks: one was a female COMMON GOLDENEYE.

Female Common Goldeneye

Obviously, we needed to walk closer very slowly to get photos, so, to keep the ducks settled, we stopped several times to bird the cottonwoods along the road.

Northern Pintail (pair); also note the piles of stones in empty ponds (?)
Drake & Hen Northern Pintail
A pair of male REDHEADs were the first birds we had identified from a distance and I was hoping they wouldn't spook before we got within camera range.

Drake Redhead
Hen Common Goldeneye on left [note yellow tip on bill]; Drake Redhead on right
Male Redhead [Scaup have much whiter sides & different color head)
Today, was one of those times when I birded by photograph, too!  Two female Redheads were on the water as were a pair of GADWALL, the male of which I did spy walking up from the water.

So, by the time we moved in for the best close-up shots we could get of the species above that were in the canal, they flew off.

By then, the sun had burned off some clouds and the temperature climbed. Time to shed some layers.

Disappointed that only one pond of five contained water, we were particularly grateful for the good species we found in the canal.

Good-humored birding friends: L-R: Shaun, Yvonne, Marsha, Linda, Kay & Hinde
The adventure was a good way to close out the year (rain forecast for tomorrow). But I expect we'll be doing more birding together in 2017!

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