Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wild Wings Rehab

We made him comfy in a box with a warm towel.
Normally when it comes to out-of-nest or seemingly lost baby birds, I like to just let nature take its course (unless its as easy as putting the baby bird back in its nest).  Most often a parent will eventually show up, problem solved.  But this juvenile Gila Woodpecker appeared at my bedroom window around 7 PM, and clung to the screen intermittently pecking and squawking until 7AM.  No Gila mom or pop showed up, so we brought him in, made him a safe little "nest" - cardboard box with a warm towel, and called Wild at Heart bird rescue.  They referred us to Wild Wings Rehab, who specialize in woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and songbirds.

Paul and Gloria Halesworth run Wild Wings Rehab out of their home in Ahwatukee.  For anyone who thinks "oh, wouldn't that be fun to do at my home" - think again.  Its a full time job, and then some, requiring up to 16 hours a day of working with the birds.  I can't imagine nurturing a multitude of woodpeckers, hummingbirds and sparrows simultaneously, inside one home.  They go through so many mealworms that they order them by the barrel!

As we dropped Junior off, Paul did a great job explaining the rehab process.  First Junior would go in an indoor cage with 4 other young Gila Woodpeckers and get fattened up a bit.  Then he would advance to an outside aviary and strengthen his wings, and then eventually be released back into the wild.  Thank you Paul and Gloria for the wonderful work you do!

Junior gazes out the window wondering where mom and pop are.

Bird Rescue Groups:
Arizona Covey - Quail, and small birds
Liberty Wildlife - Hawks, Falcons, Eagles, Owls
Wild at Heart - Owls, Hawks, Falcons, Eagles
Wild Wings Rehab - Hummingbirds, songbirds, woodpeckers

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Moonlight Hike at McDowell Mountain Park

Hikers on the trail at sunset hoping to hear or see nighthawks, bats, or maybe even an owl.

Sonoran Desert Toad

Ahhh, a hike at night!  No sun beating down on you, no hurrying from one bit of shade to the next, with turkey vultures circling overhead waiting for you to drop from heat stroke.  The sun was nearly set as we started out at 7:30 pm, the sky already filling with pink and purple ripples of clouds.  The Nursery Tank Trail is short (1/2 mile to the pond), but still a challenge to anyone in a manual wheelchair or using crutches.  What's nice is at the end of the trail  you are rewarded with a bench to sit on, shade, a rail to lean on, and a view down into the pond / tank. 

There's always something interesting either chirping, buzzing, or croaking down by the pond.  Ranger Amy Ford didn't even hesitate to go down and muck around in the mud to find us a few frogs and toads to ogle over.  Meanwhile there was just enough light to see lesser nighthawks swooping around eating up the bugs swarming over the pond.  Fellow hikers broke out their black light flashlights to illuminate a variety of scorpions along the trail, some big enough to scare the living bee-gee-wees out of me.  We never did see or hear any owls, but before heading back we enjoyed awesome views of a great orange moonrise.  Ranger Amy has promised that there will be another ADA accessible hike in September, so check the McDowell Mountain Park website or my After Dark page for updates.

Night view of the pond / tank at Nursery Tank Trail

Here's a great video clip by Greg Joder of what we might have seen, but didn't - Western Screech Owls...

Click on image below to view video:

Western Screech Owls calling in the Sonoran Dessert.  Copyright g. joder 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Phoenix Bat Cave!

Mexican free-tail bats emerging at sunset from the Phoenix Bat Cave.
Photo c. 2011 Jeff Stemshorn
This is an amazing sight to see!  Every evening at sunset thousands of Mexican free-tail bats emerge from the "Phoenix Bat Cave" near the Biltmore to forage on mosquitos.  There are so many bats, that its nearly a steady stream lasting for a good 20 minutes. The Phoenix Bat Cave is really a 7 mile long underground tunnel which is part of a Maricopa County Flood Control ditch. 

Photo c. 2011 Jeff Stemshorn
Once a month during the summer, Arizona Game and Fish holds a bat workshop at the southwest corner of 24th Street and Biltmore Circle, just south of Lincoln. The next one is Aug. 5th from 7:00pm-9:00pm This one night workshop offers an opportunity to learn more about one of Phoenix’s largest urban bat roosts and the bats that live there.  Participants will be able to view and ask questions about a variety of native animals active at night including: owls, herons, rodents, rattlesnakes, small mammals, and bats.

If you go, park at at the commercial building located at 2400 W. Arizona Biltmore Circle. The building is on the NORTHEAST corner of 24th Street and Arizona Biltmore Circle, just south of Lincoln Dr. The viewing area is on the SOUTHWEST corner of that intersection, south of the Squaw Peak Police Precinct.  For wheelchair users, take the sidewalk south, then 4-wheel it through the gravel to the asphalt path which leads to the viewing area.

For more information about bats, visit the
Bat Conservation and Management website:

My friend Greg Joder, currently working on the SW Willow Flycatcher Project, recently took part in an evening of capturing, studying, then releasing bats with a team of biologists from the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Program (LCR MSCP) bat monitoring project. 

Click on the image below to see the video.
Pallid Bat (Antrozous pallidus). Copyright: g. joder 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mesa's Electric Park Pt. II

This blue budgie (Melopsittacus undulatus) was hanging
 out with the Peach-faced Lovebirds.

Dreamland Villa's Desert Nature Walk (a.k.a. Mesa's Electric Park) is a great little place to go birding in the east valley. The homeowners have done such a wonderful job over the years of creating and maintaining this trail / habitat, that I think it deserves some type of recognition, or symbol of appreciation from birders like me that so enjoy birding here. So, I have applied for it to be recognized as a Bird Habitat by Desert Rivers Audubon. If approved, the HOA will receive a sign to post on the trail, acknowledging their efforts in providing a healthy native habitat for the birds and other wildlife in their Mesa neighborhood.

All of the trees, shrubs, and cacti planted here are native or common to the southwest and are able to survive on their own without any care, there is no irrigation going to the plants.  Yet the area is lush with huge palo verde trees, mesquite trees, ironwood trees, thick stands of chainfruit cholla, teddy bear cholla, and prickly pear.

Sadly, in 2008 about a dozen of these big beautiful palo verde trees were completely chopped down and removed by a company that maintains the high power lines along the trail., see Arizona Republic article.  The homeowners were understandably devastated.

At first I didn't notice the bare spots, but you can see tree stumps here and there along the trail where there are seemingly oddly placed benches with no shade, and baby palo verde's shooting up, as if to be reclaiming their territory. 

Maybe a sign declaring the Dreamland Villa Desert Nature Walk to be an Audubon-approved bird habitat will deter future maintenance companies from chopping down any more trees. 

Inca Dove nesting in chain-fruit cholla along the nature trail in late spring 2011.
For more information, directions, and photos, see my first blog entry about Mesa's Electric Park HERE.

Click on image below to see slide-show:

Monday, July 11, 2011

After the Morning Monsoon

Neotropic Cormorant at Gilbert Water Ranch, July 11, 2011.

Lesser Goldfinches at Gilbert Water Ranch, July 11, 2011.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Coon Bluff Rec. Site on the Salt River

Kayaker startles a Great Egret on the
Salt River at Coon's Bluff.

I wish that was me on the  kayak, it would have been a much smoother ride than the one I took on the "trails" at Coon Bluff.  The area is very sandy and uneven, with lots of critter holes, ant hills, and javelina poop.  I wouldn't recommend Coon Bluff to anyone in a wheelchair unless they have someone willing to push, shove, pull, drag, and hoist their wheelchair around.  Be prepared to be jarred, bounced, torqued, jostled, and possibly catapulted from your wheelchair.

When I finally made it down to the river we did have fun watching 2 Blue Herons and a Great Egret compete for fishing rights, a pair of Green Herons fly up and down the river taunting the Blue Herons, and Black Phoebe's darting down catching flies along the water's edge.

Wild horses came right into the picnic area at Coon Bluff.

Wild horses returning to their herd.

There are plenty of birds to be seen by just sitting among the mesquite trees in the picnic areas and not going down to the water's edge.  Birds seen here included Vermilion Flycatchers, Lucy's Warblers, Brown-headed Cowirds, Abert's Towhees, Raven's, and Turkey Vultures.  I'm sure there was more to be seen, but it was geeting too warm to stay longer.

Speaking of sitting, tomorrow is the Bird Sit at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  Rick Wright and Alison Beringer invite nature lovers to a very different birdwatching experience- a sedentary, peaceful, focused 'bird sit' in the Demonstration Garden from 6:30 to 9:00 am.  Maybe we'll see some of the rare birds spotted there this week -  Tufted Flycatcher, Yellow-Throated Vireo, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Blue Grosbeaks, or Varied Buntings!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

c. 2011 Denny Green
From the sea otters at Moss Landing, California -Have a great Fourth of July!

c. 2011 Denny Green
Try not to get stuck in traffic on your way home...

c. 2011 Denny Green
... and be sure to say a prayer tonight and thank
God for our freedom.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Feeling a Little Squirrely

 A Sunday morning stroll at Desert Botanical Garden with Arizona wildlife photographer Denny Green...

Photo c. 2011 Denny Green

Sunday morning brunch for Round-tailed Ground Squirrels at DBG. 
Photo c. 2011 Denny Green

Photo c. 2011 Denny Green

Photo c. 2011 Denny Green
Click on images to enlarge and see the amazing detail captured by this uber-talented photographer.  I can only dream of being able to take photos like these!

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

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