Monday, January 31, 2011

Birds at the Phoenix Zoo

I think its the birds that really run this place...

 Click on images to ENLARGE
The peacocks seem to roam freely and are just gorgeous!

Happy wading in his "pea soup" pond.

Gotta love that face!

White Pelican, one of 6 at the zoo that were rescued from the Gulf oil spill.

Lined up and waiting to make their escape.

Monday, January 24, 2011

ASU Research Park

A great group of gals showed up for this Desert Rivers Audubon field trip with Kathe Anderson.  We met at the south end of ASU Research Park (Warner Rd. and S. River Parkway, just west of the 101 freeway). It was a c-c-c-cold morning and my b-b-b-batteries were near dead, but I managed to get a shot of the Cooper's Hawk we encountered at the start of our walk, still holding her recent kill.  Later we had beautiful views of an Osprey flying low right over us.  We didn't see much in the way of ducks - a few Mallards/domestic, Ring-necked Ducks, and Lesser Scaup.  One Pied-billed Grebe was mixed in with alot of Coots.  A lone Green Heron crouched by the chilly shoreline.  My favorite were the Belted Kingfishers swooping down and around and then diving into the water.  We followed the sidewalks that surround all three ponds at ASU Research Park.  Some parts are steep, so anyone using a manual wheelchair will need a good set of muscles and an even better set of brakes!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fine Dining With the Green Heron

The menu was somewhat limited...

but very fresh...

and quite filling...

overall it was...

a hair-raising experience!
Photo series taken at Gilbert Water Ranch.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Phoenix Area Aquatic Bird Survey

On Saturday, Jan.15th, Tammy Baker, Jesse Cuilty, and I headed out to count waterfowl at Tempe Town Lake for the Phoenix Area Aquatic Bird Survey, organized by Troy Corman at Arizona Game and Fish.  Jesse has done bird counts before, and has taken Birding I and More Birding with Cynthia Donald at DBG more times than I can count.  Tammy Baker is an avid outdoorswoman and has a great eye for sighting birds of prey, no matter how high they are soaring.  Its as if she has raptor-radar!  I was the one with the fancy scope for seeing all the tiny Ruddy Ducks clear across the lake. 

Our assigned area included Tempe Town Lake, the downstream ponds, and the small marsh area at Curry and Miller roads.  It did not include the east dam where lately 3 Brown Pelicans have been hanging out, but we still had fun watching 2 of them fly low across the lake, just inches above the water! The east dam was counted by the team that was assigned to Tempe Marsh.

Lower ponds downstream from west dam of Tempe Town Lake

Aerial view of marsh area at Curry and Miller.

We scouted out the marsh, lake, and downstream ponds on the Tuesday and Friday before the count.  We made contact with some friendly City of Tempe workers to let them know we would be surveying the ponds behind their workyards.  While scouting the marsh area at Curry and Miller we encountered a naked homeless man camped out in the southern-most reeds, so we asked a patroling Tempe police officer to relocate him for the day of our count. 

So on Saturday we had our game plan set.  We met at Tempe Center for the Arts, birded the west dam and its downstream ponds to Priest.  There wasn't much there but a few Double-crested Cormorants, American Coots, over 30 Green-winged Teals, and 1 Great Blue Heron.  Then we headed to the marshes to bird while it was still early in the morning.  We had more Coots, a few Mallards, Gadwall, Pied-billed Grebes, and a beautiful pair of Cinnamon Teal.  Taking the cement path down to the lake, we saw a few Spotted Sandpipers and Black-necked Stilts in the shallow waters north of the bridge, and many Ruddy Ducks under the bridge and at the east dam area.  Aside from a few Eared Grebes, Northern Pintails, and Northern Shovelers, it was mainly Ruddy Ducks and Coots scattered over the lake.  A pair of Osprey put on a good show diving for fish, dropping, and re-catching them. 

Here's our tally -

17 Gadwalls
15 Mallards
2 Cinnamon Teals (in the marsh)
4 Northern Shovelers
3 Northern Pintails
32 Green-winged Teal (downstream ponds)
69 Ruddy Ducks
3 Pied-billed Grebes
3 Eared Grebes
41 Double-crested Cormorants (mostly by west dam)
3 Great Blue Heron
1 Green Heron
111 American Coots
6 Black-necked Stilts
2 Spotted Sandpipers
3 Osprey

If you are interested in volunteering to help with a bird count, contact your local Audubon chapter for information.  In Arizona, contact Arizona Field Ornithologists at , or Arizona Dept. of Fish and Game at .  Each December there are Christmas Bird Counts that need volunteers, in January there's the Phoenix Area Aquatic Bird Count, and the Peach-faced Lovebird Count this Saturday, 7:30am to 10::00am.  In February, everyone can join in and do the Great Backyard Bird Count, from the 18th to the 21st.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hawks in da Hood!

Small hawk lurking over a bougainvillea full of terrified House Sparrows, Jan. 11, 2011, Mesa, AZ.
I'm not that great at identifying hawks, but I've certainly seen alot of them this winter, stalking the sparrows and even dive bombing our Rock Squirrels.  So far, I'm fairly certain we've had a Cooper's Hawk, a Peregrine Falcon, an American Kestrel, and now the above Sharp-shinned Hawk.  He kept hopping all around the bougainvillea and diving into it trying to nab a sparrow.  Eventually he gave up and perched midway up a pine tree waiting for another opportunity.  In the photo below you can see how small he is in relation to the curb, and the cement block.  Given his small size and coloring I think he's an immature male Sharp-shinned.  Anyone have another guess?

Another hawk on January 18th--  Now I'm not sure if the above hawk is a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned.  This hawk was seen on tne 18th, further up a nearby tree,  and appeared larger than the one seen previously.  So, is it the same hawk or a new one, is it a Cooper's or a Sharp-shinned?  Hard to tell.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Eurasian Teal Takes a Wrong Turn

Eurasian Teal at Tempe Marsh, Jan. 14th, 2011
We can't all be good at directions, but it sure helps, especially if you're a duck!  Somewhere along the way during migration this Eurasian Teal turned right when he should have turned left, or visa versa.  Either way, lucky for us birders he's decided to mix it up with a small group of Green-winged Teals at Tempe Marsh (Tempe Marketplace).  What distinguishes him from the Green-winged Teals is his lack of a vertical white shoulder bar, and that he has a more prominent horizontal white scapular-stripe.  Photo below shows the comparison.

Green-winged Teal on left, Eurasian Teal second from right, at Tempe Marsh, Jan. 14th, 2011.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My New Toy - a Viewing Scope

At Gilbert Water Ranch trying out my new custom built viewing scope from Photon Instrument.
 I'm finally back to blogging after a nearly 2 month absence.  Where have I been??  Out exploring my favorite birding areas, agog over what I can now see!  Its a whole new bird world out there now that I can see soooo far, and in so much detail!  I never was able to master using binoculars so I have been birding just by naked eye, and using a 12x optical zoom digital camera to get close-up views.  But I often couldn't ID the birds I was seeing while in the field with certainty - I had to download my images to my laptop to get a decent look at key field markings.  So in November my friend Josh, at Wild Birds Unlimited, referred me to Warren Kutok at Photon Instrument in Mesa, Arizona.  What a lucky day that was for me, to discover such a great hidden treasure here in Mesa.  Warren Kutok has helped build and repair observatory telescopes all over the world, and now he's putting together a custom built viewing scope that mounts to my wheelchair!  I went into his shop and met with him on a Thursday, and by Saturday my scope was ready.  Amazing!  I've been off wandering around with my scope ever since.  I really need to stop by Photon Instrument and thank Warren for opening up a whole new world for me.  I'm one happy birder!
Do you have an event, bird walk, meeting, or nature walk that belongs on this calendar? Please send info to

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