Marguerite & Camelback Lakes (McCormick Ranch, Scottsdale) and Glendale Recharge Ponds, Maricopa County, AZ

January 2:
A cold rain on New Year's Day kept me inside, so when it looked like the clouds would part this morning I took off to see if the rarity found yesterday at Marguerite Lake in Scottsdale would still be present. 

What would a White-winged Scoter being doing in an urban pond? The ocean species would not have been a Life Bird for me (I had seen them in the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia) but the thought of one in Arizona got me on the road. Just as I arrived, Gordon Karre was coming my way letting me know he had not come up with it.  If Gordon, with his spotting scope, couldn't find the scoter among the Ruddy-Ducks I was fairly certain I would have a problem finding it with just binoculars.

When I reached another birder, Louis H. and his wife, I joined them in their search (with binoculars) for the rare oceanic scoter. Naming and counting every bird we saw brought us to the unfortunate realization that only the intrepid birders who braved the cold rains of yesterday got the "prize".

I had seen a Black Phoebe across Marguerite Lake at a slightly higher lake in a residential area so I set out to see if I could reach that pond.  Ah!  Yes, I could! And, there was another pond a bit north of that one. Good move. A resident came out to see why I was there and when I told her about the rarity (couldn't it have just moved up to that pond?), she went on to tell me about a Bald Eagle that was present this summer. She was excited to hear about the scoter so I showed her a photo from my iPhone just in case she might see it.

The smaller lakes were quite conducive to taking photos because I was somewhat closer to the birds.


Showing some differences between our two cormorant species: NEOTROPIC (L)) and DOUBLE-CRESTED (R)  
Two pair of AMERICAN WIGEON (males showy; females dull)

Male COMMON MERGANSERS showing as black, white & red bills


Failing to find any sign of a White-winged Scoter at the upper ponds, I decided to see what waterfowl might be present on Camelback Lake at the Chart House Restaurant.

I was overjoyed at finding at least two dozen SNOW GEESE! Easy enough to ID with white bodies, dark eye, pink legs and a pink bill showing a dark "grin line". Its black wingtips (primaries) can show at the back end of a resting goose, but become an important identification marker in flight.

Although there is a blue morph of the Snow Goose, none were present.  Instead, there were many juveniles along with the adults.

Juvenile Snow Geese will gradually become totally white

Mix of a few adult Snow Geese with darker juveniles
Thrilled to see so many Snow Geese there, I decided to take a little bit more time to go to Glendale Ponds on this day when commuter traffic was nil.  Would the rare LONG-TAILED DUCK still be present?  YES!  There were other folks looking for it and they gathered close to me on the west side of Pond 3. 

I told them its behavior of diving, staying down and surfacing for like a second or two before going down again. With lots of eyes covering the pond, the woman closest to me called out,
"I've got it!"  Of course, by then, it was gone but we could see its disappearance circle.

Sometimes, the Long-tailed Duck swam very short distances just beneath the surface of the water

What does this bird look like??  Birder friends, Susan Fishburn and Laura Ellis arrived soon after the Long-tailed Duck was spotted. Laura's photo was much better than mine and is shown below.

Anytime a rare bird is present, it's best to get it on a Year List before it disappears. The three of us walked the ponds together, then, as we continued birding.

On our cold and wet New Year's Day, I had compared how many birds I had seen in Arizona during the full calendar year.  The number was good:  344 species -- compared to Brian Johnson who topped the eBird list with 410 species in Arizona. This year I wasn't chasing birds nearly as much as I had done last year when I managed 353 species (2015) when Susan F. had topped the list with 390. 

I did chase Life Birds (birds never seen by me before) that showed up in Arizona this year.  
Amazingly, I added thirteen 13 Life Birds right here in Arizona and I'm sure those sightings have been reported in my blog when they happened.

To begin 2017 with today's sighting of 49 species was just another exciting birding adventure in this very birdy state.

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