Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter's Here and So Are the White Crowned Sparrows

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

Its December 21st, Winter Solstice, and my yard is full of cute little White-crowned Sparrows, a beautiful sign that winter is here! They pop out of every nook and cranny of the lantana, cape honeysuckle, palo verde, italian cypress, and oleander, happily munching at every feeder.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What's With the Fancy Colors Dude?

Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii)

 This House Finch isn't quite sure what to think of the flashy colored visitor with pink beak tips (from frequent drinks at the hummingbird feeder). Its a first for me to have an Oriole appear in my backyard. I think its a young male Bullock's Oriole. He showed up September 10th, likes to hang out in the Palo Verde tree, and continually drinks from the hummingbird feeder throughout the day. He seems to be alone, or I just haven't recognized a female Oriole's subtle coloring. With those pink beak-tips he might have trouble attracting a female mate!'

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

He's a 'human-socialized' bird accidentally raised by the people who rescued him - after being blown from a wild Louisiana nest in a storm as a baby in the late 1980s. Declared 'non-releasable' by federal and state wildlife authorities, he was trained by the AEF to perform educational free-flightdemonstrations at high profile public events.

The story of a Bald Eagle named "Challenger"...

He's the first Bald Eagle in U.S. History that learned to free-fly into stadiums, arenas and ballrooms during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. The celebrity eagle has appeared at numerous major sporting events like the World Series, Pro-Bowl, All-Star game, BCS National Championship, Fiesta Bowl, Men's Final Four, etc.

Challenger has also flown before 4 U.S. Presidents!

His life story is told in a children's storybook titled 'Challenger, America 's Favorite Eagle.'

Turn on your speakers and click HERE or go to the American Eagle Foundation website HERE.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Desert Botanical Garden Bird Walks

There is simply no better way to start your week than with a Monday Morning Bird Walk at Desert Botanical Garden! The guides/docents are some of the best birders around and very friendly and helpful. The Garden is very accessible, the walkways are wide and smooth, and the trails are well maintained. If you are using a manual wheelchair, its a good idea to bring an assistant, no matter how macho you are, the trails are long and have some inclines. You'll need help to keep up with these serious, but fun, birders. They meet at 7:00 AM (May-August) 8:00 AM (Sept-April) inside the entrance. Scooters are available for rent, which is great for people using canes or walkers, or to swap out of your manual chairs. These are nice scooters and work well on the trails. Binoculars are available for use during the bird walks, and the guides usually have the Sibley bird guide book with them. Be sure to bring water, a good hat, sunscreen, binoculars (if you have them) and sunglasses.
Even just as the birders are gathering, people will start spotting birds, in trees, or flying overhead, or just hear their calls. The walk starts out on the Wildflower Trail, where you will often see hummingbirds (Anna's, and at times Black-chinned, or Costas), Goldfinches, Verdin, Abert's Towhees, Inca Doves, and Gambel's Quail.

The main part of the bird walk is on the Plants and People Trail, a longer trail with many inclines. Here you will likely see Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Cactus Wren, Gilded Flickers, Curve-billed Thrashers, Phainopepla, and at times, Elf Owls. In the distance, you can often see hawks soaring over the Papago Buttes. Along the trail you'll also see Rock Squirrels, Round-tailed Ground Squirrels, Cotton-tail Rabbits, wonderful Desert Spiny Lizards, and Zebra Tailed Lizards flicking their tails around.

The walk ends at the Ullman Terrace, where the group goes through the DBG Bird Checklist and checks off what birds were seen, and which were only heard but not seen. This can sometimes lead to lively discussion and debate, and is all part of the fun of birding.

There are many more birds to see than I have listed here, you'll have to go see for yourself! For directions and detailed information visit . To read a detailed review of the accessibility of Desert Botanical Gardens, visit Loren Worthington's excellent Blog "Accessing Arizona" at .
The following photos were taken at Desert Botanical Gardens over the course of 3 or 4 bird walks in late spring 2009 while the Dale Chihuly "Nature of Glass" exhibit was on display. Special thanks to Denny Green for providing several amazing photos.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Baby Hummers

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

Its the saga of a tiny hummingird that laid tiny eggs in a tiny nest at a tiny porch on a fake plant... Photos by Peggy Thomas and Binki Alonzo (owner of tiny porch and fake plant, Fountain Hills, AZ)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Baby Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicappillus)
Up in North Phoenix, my friend and fellow birder Jesse Cuilty, scored big-time with these great shots of a baby Cactus Wren nested in her front yard. She claims she's not a good photographer, hah, someone get this gal her own digital camera! Its a crime against humanity for this avid outdoorswoman to not go digital.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Baby Rock Squirrels!

Since when do we have squirrels in Phoenix? I grew up here in the 70's and I don't think I ever saw a squirrel. Now that I'm living in Mesa, we have Rock Squirrels, just hanging out in the backyard like they own the place. But they are awfully cute, where ever they came from. So we put out raw in-shell peanuts and have fun watching them at the feeders.

This spring we have been blessed with 2 adorable baby squirrels.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Peach-faced Lovebirds!?

When I first saw one of these in my neighborhood, I thought someone lost their pet bird. Only later I learned that there are feral flocks of Peach-faced Lovebirds scattered around the Valley, especially here in Mesa. Their colors are just amazing, and they're so darn cute.
Peach faced Lovebirds are actually small parrots from an arid region of South Africa, so they have adapted to our sonoran desert quite well. So how in the heck did they end up here in Arizona? Well, they didn't migrate, thats for sure. It is assumed that a few mating pairs of pet Lovebirds escaped from their homes somewhere here in the Valley, and unlike other escaped pet birds, they survived and continued breeding.

They seem to be picky about which feeders they will go to, and only stay for short periods, and at certain times of the day. I have only seen them in my neighbors backyard, and at Gilbert Water Ranch. See the Map of Lovebird sightings in the Phoenix Metro area.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Birding Next-Door

Today I was marooned at home while my van was in for repair. To ease the frustration of not being able to go birding anywhere on a Saturday, I thought I'd spend the day stalking birds in my next-door neighbor's yard. The grass is always greener...

I was hoping to get photos of the peach-faced love birds who are regulars in my neighbor's yard but are no-shows in mine! But someone much better showed up, as if to say "hey, I'm the one you should be searching for, I'm a true native Arizonan!" Our neighborhood Roadrunner appeared in all his glory, proudly carrying his recent catch - a poor lizard.

This is only my second day of using my camera by attaching it to my new SteadyMount, so the photos are sub par as I become accustomed to the new set-up. So far, its great, I have better control of the camera, and many more shooting angles available.

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Superstore Birding?

After receiving this photo taken of an owl nesting in a superstore garden center in northern Arizona, I now know where I'll be birding when it gets too hot outside! Hey, why not? If you're jonesing for a bird-fix, but its 110 degrees outside, gather up the binocs, bird book, and camera and head to your local WalMart, Home Depot, or Lowe's garden center!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Its not easy to hold binoculars when you have limited use of your arms and hands. So I searched the internet looking for a solution. I already owned a neat gadget that attaches my camera to my wheelchair, the Add-a-Lap, available from Don Kreb's Access to Recreation. So I tried mounting the binoculars to the tripod on the Add-a-Lap. but this really limited my viewing angles, and forced me to lean uncomfortably forward to reach the binoculars.

Just when I was about ready to have binocs surgically attached to my forehead, I came across ! An answer to my prayers! Who cares if I look like a techno-nerd, rolling around the desert with space-age looking binoculars strapped to my head! But the site turned out to be obsolete, there seemed to be no way to order the SportBinox. Its probably for the best, as much as I would love to be seen as the geekiest birder on wheels, I likely would have become disoriented and rolled myself right into a tree or off of a pier!

Then I spotted these little gems - Sightrex, another head mounted binoc. But I wasn't sure I had the manual dexterity to handle the focusing of such small binocs, and the power (10x25) was not really ideal for birding. What is recommended is 8 or 10x42.
Finally I came upon SteadyMount, which is very versatile, would provide a multitude of viewing angles, and was a steal at $150 ($130 for the SteadyMount and $20 for the rail clamp)! It can hold binoculars, or a spotting scope, digital camera, or video camera.

I went out and bought some low-end 10x42 Bushnell binocs, and a binocular tripod adapter, put them on the SteadyMount, and attached the SteadyMount to the armrest of my wheelchair. I've been on 2 long guided bird-walks with them, and they work great!

Here's the binocular tripod adapter -

Do you have an event, bird walk, meeting, or nature walk that belongs on this calendar? Please send info to

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