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.

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