Thursday, March 31, 2011


Zebra butterfly at Desert Botanical Garden's
Butterfly Pavilion, March 30th 2011
We are only 1 week into spring and tomorrow's forecast is 97 degrees!  Ahh, don't you just love Arizona?!  Last month our plants froze, and next month we'll be frying eggs on the sidewalk.  So get out and enjoy the weather before your tires melt into the asphalt - see my blog's SPRING EVENTS page.  There's alot going on - wildflower walks, butterfly walks, learn your lizards hikes, and more.  Check it out!
Click on image below to see a slideshow of recent wildflower photos, taken mainly at Desert Botanical Garden and Gilbert Water Ranch.  Yes, I know thats 'cheating' but we didn't get much rain this year, what's a gal to do?!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Verdins Gone Wild!

At first it looked like a quaint little spring scenario at Desert Botanical Garden's Monday morning bird walk - two cute little Verdin sharing space with an adorable Round-tailed Ground Squirrel...

But the Verdin weren't in any mood for sharing.

Our lovely little pair turned into kamikazes, repeatedly dive-bombing the squirrel.

Verdin coming in for a head-butt!

Our poor squirrel got biffed, ouch!

For the latest list of birds seen at DBG, go to DBG Birdwalks Website.

To see the latest photos by DBG Volunteer Photographer
 Jeff Stemshorn go to the DBG Facebook page.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Globe Mallow in Bloom

The flowers stood still for me today...

The birds did not...


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Big Sit at Gilbert Water Ranch

Northern Shoveler unimpressed by Avocets in their breeding plumage.
Sunday morning was The Big Sit fundraiser for the Riparian Institute at GWR.  Led by Kathe Anderson,  our goal was to see as many species as possible while staying in one spot.  Kathe doesn't mess around when it comes to the rules of "Sitting", she actually marked out the area we were confined to, and we only included sightings from within that boundary.

Kathe Anderson marks out the boundaries of our Big Sit.
We had a great group of birders and an even greater group of birds!  A male Anna's perched nearby the whole time keeping an eye on the odd group of humans huddled together in the cold.  Lots of Northern rough-winged Swallows swooped overhead.  Most, but not all, American Avocets were showing off their breeding plumage.  Aerial highlights included an Osprey, a Cooper's Hawk, and an obviously molting Peregrine Falcon (sporting matching bare patches on the trailing edge of both wings).  Ann Givey, a great birder and DBG docent / volunteer, spotted the bird of the day - a beautiful Blue-gray Gnatcatcher!  My photo really doesn't do this bird justice.  His blue tones, black tail, and white eye-ring stood out dramatically on this cold gray morning.  I need to learn how to use a camera! 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila carulea) look at that white eye-ring!
 All of us birders benefit greatly from just the mere existence of the Gilbert Riparian Preserve (a.k.a. Gilbert Water Ranch) so we really should do whatever we can to help support it.  The Institute is always in need of funds and volunteers, to make a donation or to check out volunteer opportunities go to - or - come on out to the Feathered Friends Festival this Saturday, March 26th from 9 am - 2 pm.

The Feathered Friends Festival - Over 40 booths will host wildlife exhibitors and educational activities including games and crafts about insects, plants, water, reptiles, birds, and more. There will be food, music, birding experiences, and tours of the preserve as well. All ages are welcome. Donations are requested - $2 per person or $8 for families of 4 or more. See pics of the 2010 Festival HERE.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Biggest Bird This Year

Harris Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)

Just as I headed out the driveway on Wednesday for parts unknown, right before me was a huge bird perched high in an old tree.  He stood his ground for quite a bit as my resident Northern Mockingbird (a.k.a. Bossy) repeatedly dive-bombed him. 

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

Apparently Bossy thinks he is as big and bad as a Harris Hawk.  Maybe I should change his name to Bad-Ass.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Allison Shock - Three Star Owl

Three Star Owl - Functional and sculptural clay work with a natural history.

I don’t consider myself a wildlife artist, but an observer
who takes notes in clay. - Allison Shock

I just can't get enough of Allison Shock's blog and her beautiful creations in clay.  And I'm not sure which I like more - the Blog or the Creations.  I love them both.  Here are some of my favorite categories at the Three Star Owl Blog:

Spot the Bird -

Allison's Field Trips -  I can feel like a world traveler without ever leaving the house!

Cool Bugs -
Mostly cool, but also grosses me out, yet I keep going back for more... what's wrong with me?

Its time for me to stop oggling and to start buying - so I'm trying to catch up with Allison. Her next 2 gigs include -

Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival - Cottonwood Arizona, 28 Apr – 1 May 2011, in Dead Horse Ranch State Park. AKA “Birdy Verde” — come have fun under the Big Top!

Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival, Sierra Vista AZ, 3 – 7 Aug 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

New DBG - Birdwalks Website!

Things are really hoppin now at DBG, as warblers and other migrants start to appear.  This Monday morning's bird walk, led by birder extraordinaire Diana Herron, was filled with surprises.  I saw my first Lincoln's Sparrow in the wildflower garden, and Phainopepla were popping up here and there.  We caught glimpses of a Brown Thrasher near the closed Herb Garden, then suffered Warbler's-neck craning our heads upward to see the various Warblers high in the cottonwood trees, had a Green Heron pose nicely for us in a tree over the pond, saw flashes of bright yellow and black as a Bullock's Oriole whizzed by, then a Pyrrhuloxia showed up on the Terrace as we compiled our bird lists!

To keep up on what is being seen this spring at Desert Botanical Garden - see the new DBG - Birdwalks website by William and Diana Herron.  You'll find complete lists of birds seen on the DBG Saturday and Monday Morning Birdwalks.  There's a lot of other great info there too - on bird  books, binoculars, and even some advice on how to make it onto the list of best-dressed-birders.  Be sure to read the Birding Etiquette page.  As the excitement of spring-time birding builds, we could all use a few reminders on birdwalk protocol.  The URL for DBG Birdwalks Website :

For some great bird photos see Jeff Stemshorn's work at Birds in the Garden 2011 on Facebook!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Birding the Verde

I wonder if this chair doubles as a flotation device...
I've been wanting to check out more birding sites listed in Michael Rupp's Bird's Eye Guide to 101 Birding Sites: Phoenix, so on March 2nd I headed up to the Verde River Box Bar Recreation Site.  Any place where I can actually get my wheelchair down to the waters edge is a place worth visiting in my book.  And I did make it down to the water at Box Bar Rec. site.  But overall the area isn't all that wheelchair friendly, you will get stuck at some point, whether your in a powered chair or manual, you'll need some help. The site does have a lot of shade though, so it might be a nice place to go in the early morning hours on days when its too hot to go birding in the desert. Among the cottonwood/willow/desert scrub habitat I had a nice long stare-down with a Coopers Hawk. Birds seen at Box Bar included Gila Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Phainopepla, Cooper's Hawk, Black Phoebe, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Raven, Anna's Hummingbird, Verdin, Abert's Towhee, and Belted Kingfisher.  For more details see Jack Holloway's excellent "Avian Sites" website.  You will need to buy a Tonto Day Pass, check for a vendor here .

We also checked out the Rio Verde Ranch, which turned out to be much more wheelchair friendly.  It was great to roll out onto all the cool shady grass, with Phainopepla everywhere among the mesquite and palo verde trees.  A rustic fence lines the property with views of the Verde River below, and a mid-canopy view into the cottonwood/willow habitat.  Great for seeing birds that populate the mid and upper canopy - warblers, sparrows, flycatchers.  Double click on image below to see an enlarged view of the slide-show.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bajada Nature Trail in Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve

A packrat nest at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
The Bajada Trail is a half-mile loop interpretive trail, uber ADA accessible, in the beautiful McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  The Preserve has the lush Sonoran desert flora and fauna that I love - saguaros, prickly pear, teddy bear cholla (not as cuddly as it sounds), ocotillo, barrel cactus,  and creosote shrubs that give the desert that wonderful sweet smell after a monsoon storm.  Cactus Wren, Hummingbirds, and Gila Woodpeckers can be heard everywhere.  But on this morning the area is abuzz with people on their morning power-walks.  Unless I count chicks-with-cellphones as a new avian species, my bird count is quite low.  Here's a list of what you might see in the Sonoran Preserve, at less busy times:  Turkey Vulture, Red-Tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Mourning Dove, White-Winged Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Western Screech Owl, Common Poorwill,Gila Woodpecker,Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Verdin, Bewick's Wren, Rock Wren, Loggerhead Shrike, Bendire's Thrasher, Curve-Billed Thrasher, Phainopepla, Northern Cardinal, Bell's Vireo, Lucy's Warbler, Abert's Towhee, Ground Dove, Annas Hummingbird, Broadbilled Hummingbird, Great-Tailed Grackle, Harris' Hawk, Gambel's Quail, Great-Homed Owl, Elf Owl, Burrowing Owl, and Lesser Nighthawk.

The Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Assoc. will be hosting a nature walk on the Bajada Trail on Saturday, March 26th, from 9 to 11 am, and a landscape photography seminar will be lead by Loren Worthington - photographer/editor for Bring your camera and explore amateur photography!  To register for this free event, please call the AzSCIA at 602-507-4209.  See

The Bajada Nature Trail is in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, near the Gateway Trailhead,  east of Thompson Peak Parkway between Bell Road and Union Hills Drive.  For more trail info go to and be sure to see Accessing Arizona's review of the Bajada Trail.

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

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