Saturday, January 30, 2010

Birding on the Desert Belle

On a recent unplanned trip to Saguaro Lake, I happened upon the Desert Belle tour boat and decided to hop on for a ride. The boat was very accessible, I just rolled right on. Most passengers opted to go upstairs, so we had the lower deck and cabin mostly to ourselves. I told the tour guides we were interested in seeing birds, so they were sure to point them out along the way, even slowing down and angling the boat for the best views! We saw American Coots, a few Western Grebes, Vultures, a Great Blue Heron, and groups of Cormorants fishing along the shore. We even saw a Bald Eagle perched on a cliff above the lake(they are known to nest on the surrounding cliffs). After the boat tour we dined at the Lakeshore Restaurant on their outdoor patio overlooking the lake. We managed to see even more birds as we dined - Mallards, Great-tailed Grackles, Cactus Wren, Hummmingbirds, Verdin, and Gila Woodpeckers. Also known to be seen in the area are Belted Kingfisher, Green Heron, and Osprey. For details about the Desert Belle Paddleboat Tours, click HERE. Call to reserve tickets at 1-877-749-2848. To see the great menu at the Marina's Lakeshore Restaurant, click HERE.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Desert Rivers Audubon Society Bird Walk at Tempe Marketplace

Even better than a cup of Joe in the morning is a Bird Walk, especially when its led by expert birder Kathe Anderson from Desert Rivers Audubon. It was a cool foggy morning along the path at Tempe Marketplace overlooking the Tempe Marsh - a lush riparian zone of the Salt River (Rio Salado). Water levels are still high, but not at flood stage, so the usual cast of characters has returned; Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, various Sparrows, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Blue Herons, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Cormorants, Coots, Mallards, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Pied-billed Grebe, Wilsons Snipe, Grackles, Hummingbirds, and Warblers. Kudos to Desert Rivers Audubon for organizing the walk, and to Kathe Anderson for leading the walk (and for being endlessly patient with those of us who can't tell one sparrow from another.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

You Just Never Know Who is Coming to Dinner

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Wow, what a treat it was to have this surprise guest show up at dinner-time last night! I was busy focusing on the Gila Woodpecker feeding on a bark buttered bird house when I saw a flash of bright red whiz by and land in the Palo Verde tree. The Northern Cardinal repeatedly came back to feed on a suet cake. That's a first for me. I'm already very blessed to have a great variety of birds visit my yard regularly. The usual dinner-guests include Curve-billed Thrashers, Northern Mockingbirds, Abert's Towhees, Gila Woodpeckers, Gilded Flickers, White-crowned Sparrows, Lesser Goldfinches, Annas Hummingbirds, Verdin, Great-tailed Grackles (they like the in-shell peanuts), Mourning Doves, and Gambel's Quail.

FYI - I regularly put out suet cakes, thistle, bark-butter, nectar, oranges, black oil sunflower seeds, seed blocks, in -shell peanuts, and premium blend bird food. Putting out quality feed really makes a difference, I get everything at Wild Birds Ulimited (Join their Daily Savings Club and get 15% off on all bird food!)

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Elusive Verdin

Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps)
I gave up trying to photograph these shy little hippity hoppity bundles of energy - the ever elusive Verdin. But after putting out oranges for them to feed on, my interest in these yellow headed cuties is renewed. They just LOVE the oranges, and I LOOVE that the Verdin now sit still long enough for me to photograph them! Check out their cute little red shoulder patches...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Birding at the Mall?!!

There's a hidden treasure at Tempe Marketplace (Rio Salado Parkway & McClintock) - a wheelchair accessible riparian preserve! Park in the northwestern-most parking lot, and head toward the wide, hard packed gravel ramp leading up to a long fenced path. The path offers great views of the Tempe Marsh Riparian area east of Tempe Town Lake. Be sure to bring your binocs to get a good look at the egrets, blue heron, cormorants, shore birds, ducks, coots and occasional osprey or hawk. Don't forget to look up at the billboards along the path - you may see a hawk looking back at you.

***UPDATE*** See NEW Photos taken after record rainfall, and Salt River Project releases along the upper Salt River, flooded the Tempe Marsh area. Last 3 images in slide show are photos taken on Jan 23, 2010.
Do you have an event, bird walk, meeting, or nature walk that belongs on this calendar? Please send info to

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