Wednesday, March 1
I was one of seven birders who set out this morning for Foxtail Rec Area along the Lower Salt River.
We heard familiar bird song almost as soon as we stepped foot into the desert area at 9:15 a.m. Our first sighting was a CURVE-BILLED THRASHER with worm in its bill. It soon flew off to another tree allowing us to speculate as to whether it was courting a female, devouring the worm himself or feeding it to an early nestling.
|CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (above and below)|
I heard several PIK calls of a familiar woodpecker before we located it for everyone to have a chance to see it in the distance: LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER (male with red cap)
Other familiar desert birds observed as we walked toward the river included:
|BLACK-TAILED GNATGNATCHER (above & below) (small bird)|
|Female HOUSE FINCH|
|Male and Female HOUSE FINCH (with limb shadows on shoulders/head)|
|PHAINOPEPLA (male) Greek word meaning "black shiny robe"|
A good find by Marcia W. was a GRAY FLYCATCHER. Not exactly common, but seen occasionally in other desert locations along the river, we enjoyed that first sighting together and then would find another one later on.
We thought we were approaching the river quietly, but just as we arrived at the bank a flock of COMMON MERGANSER lifted off and flew upstream around the corner from us.
|COMMON MERGANSER flying upstream and around the corner from us|
So, we continued walking westward on the river-rock trail where we found another flock of them along with one that looked “different”…darker, smaller. I kept my eyes on it as we were distracted from time to time by shorebirds.
A GREAT EGRET walked along the north shoreline toward a GREAT BLUE HERON. We waited to see if there would be fireworks between the two, but the Great Blue just picked up and flew downstream a bit farther.
A KILLDEER was looking for goodies in a small rocky section; a SPOTTED SANDPIPER was doing its tilty behavior (tilting tale end up and down) behind it, almost hidden from us.
As we walked closer to the Common Mergansers still foraging in the river at this spot, they, too, lifted off. When they were gone, the smaller dark one was still present poking around some rocks. Eventually, it moved closer to some HOODED MERGANSERs.
|HOODED MERGANSER (Young male, juvie and female)|
It wasn’t until I looked at my photos on the computer that I was able to see how much different the darker smaller merganser appeared next to the Commons. Along with it being smaller and darker, its unkempt hairdo sealed the deal for me and I reported it as RED-BREASTED MERGANSER and have not yet had it challenged by eBird reviewers. It’s not a bird I see frequently, but had a good study of it today.
|The merganser on the right on photo above and below appears to be smaller with different markings than the Common Mergansers beside it - including its shaggy hairdo.|
Walking back toward Bush Highway we enjoyed a small flock of WESTERN BLUEBIRDS that flew into a mesquite close to us.
|Female WESTERN BLUEBIRD|
|Male WESTERN BLUEBIRD|
Including the RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, the seven of us were able to identify 32 species in 2.5 hours of great weather.
A very fun day with some very good and some budding birders.
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View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34902089