Sunday, May 30, 2010

Evening Tour at Gilbert Water Ranch

Friday night I went on an Evening Tour at Gilbert Water Ranch - the weather was perfect, warm and breezy, and no bugs- at least not the annoying head buzzing kind.  I didn't get many photos - still figuring out how to use the camera at night without blinding people and scaring away the wildlife.  Cliff Swallows were swooping around eating bugs over the ponds, Canada Geese and their goslings were feeding along the shorelines, and hundreds of ducks were huddled down for the night on the mid-pond islands.  The kids caught and released a young bullfrog, found a wolf spider with a load of baby spiders on her back, and encountered gobs of June-bugs around the lamposts.  The GWR Observatory was open, and we all got a great view of Saturn and 3 of its moons!  I lucked out again, the telescope was pointed high in the sky, and I could wheel right up to the scope.  Kudos to the East Valley Astronomy Club members/volunteers who are always so helpful and willing to share their knowledge.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Yellow Warblers in My Yard!

Yellow Warbler hiding out among the yellow blossoms
of our Palo Verde tree (May 7, 2010)

And he's off!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Armchair Birding at Rio Salado

Here are the armchairs, but where are the birders?

It was Armchair Birding today at the Rio Salado and in keeping with the last few events here, something other than the billed feature showed up and stole the show.  Sure, there were plenty of birds flying by - Egrets, Herons, Cormorants, Ravens, and more - but they were all upstaged by, of all things, a Snapping Turtle. 

The armchair birders are all over here, agog over this interloper, a stray Snapping Tortoise!

Still, there was something to be learned from the Armchair Birding experience - You really can see a lot of birds by just sitting still in one spot, listening, and looking at who flies by!  For disabled birders - this means you're not always at a disadvantage because you can't hike down a stream bed or into the thicket to find birds.  More often than not, you can just park yourself somewhere and quietly observe, listen, and see a number of birds without moving at all.  Walking is highly over-rated!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fun at Gilbert Water Ranch

Great Blue Heron fishing on the dock

Ready to strike!

A Canada Goose and her goslings.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cool May Morning at Granite Reef

Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)

The mornings are still somewhat cool so I headed out to Granite Reef this AM to dwell in the shade of the mesquite trees and try to catch a glimpse of a Vermilion Flycatcher.  Didn't see nary a one of them, but I was fortunate enough to run into a few very nice fellow birders, Barb and Johanna (both are docents at Desert Botanical Gardens!) who pointed out a Common Yellowthroat lurkng in the reeds.  Thank you Johanna for pointing out the Yellowthroat and its call!  I certainly wouldn't have seen or heard that on my own.  None of the birds were being very cooperative, only the Gila Woodpecker stayed still long enough to be photographed.  A pair of Bullock's Orioles taunted us most of the morning zipping in and out of the mesquite trees, as we tried to get a good look at the Yellowthroat.  I never knew where to look first!  To add to our head-twisting adventure, a pair of Northern Cardinals in their bright red breeding plumage whizzed by our heads a few times.  It was certainly a colorful morning!

Belly view of a Bullock's Oriole

There were Phainopepla everywhere, chasing Grackles away from their nests. Other birds seen were Brewer's Blackbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Turkey Vultures, and possibly a Yellow-rumped Warbler.  Most of the views we had of the birds this morning were of their backsides as they flitted away!

Warning to Wheelchair Users - The ground here has become quite soft and sandy, you can easily get stuck in it.  And there are critter holes everywhere!  So if you venture off of the cement paths, be careful, and have someone with you that can help pull you out if you get mired down into the sand.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Night Hike at Usery Mountain Park

Summer is nearly here with temperatures heading toward the 100 degree mark.  So I'm embarking on my strategy of finding night time outdoor adventures, to avoid going absolutely insane this summer.  I'm starting easy, on a ranger-led family oriented hike on a very wheelchair-friendly trail - the Merkle Trail at Usery Mountain Park.  It was a large group that showed up for this hike, with lots of little kids, so we didn't see too many critters, but the kids were quite entertaining and so darn cute.  These walks are held once a month, the fee is only $6 per car, and the sunsets are beautiful! 
As listed on the Usery Mountain Regional Park website - Animal "Hide and Seek" Flashlight Walk - See nocturnal animals of the desert on a 1-mile walk along the Merkle Trail. The well-manicured Merkle Trail offers universal access and the hard-smooth surface of this trail will accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. Please bring water and a flashlight. No dogs, please. Location: Area 6.  For dates and times of future Flashlight Walks at Usery, check their website

We did manage to see scorpions, a big gnarly centipede, a few praying mantis, Arizona's largest moth - the Hawk Moth, and on the way out of the park, a great display of Lesser Nighthawks feeding on bugs under the street lights!

For a more detailed review of the wheelchair accessibility of the Merkle Trail at Usery, see the eMagazine - Accessing Arizona.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Warbler Walk Without Warblers

NOT a Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)
Is it an Olive-sided Flycatcher or a dark shot of an Ash-throated Flycatcher?

The May 1st Warbler Walk at Rio Salado was not completely warblerless.  We could hear them,  and caught a few glimpses of a warbler butt here and there.  The only halfway decent photo I got, seen above, was of a Black Phoebe.  And NO, I have not resorted to birding from within the federal pen, this was taken in the parking lot at Rio Salado.
Do you have an event, bird walk, meeting, or nature walk that belongs on this calendar? Please send info to

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