Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mystery Gull at Tempe Town Lake

Photo by Jeff Stemshorn, Tempe Town Lake
Pedestrian Bridge, Nov. 25th, 2011.

For most of us ALL gulls are a mystery when it comes to them.  As someone who spent their childhood near the ocean in southern California, seagulls were our nemeses on the school playground and on the beach - randomly bombing us with guano as they flew off with our lunches, so I tend to avoid them altogether.

But on November 25th while birding the Tempe Town Lake Pedestrian Bridge, I spotted a single bright white bird floating amid a flock of Ruddy Ducks on the lake.  When it took to the sky we could see it was a gull, but what kind?  Is it a Western Gull, or a Ring-billed Gull in non-breeding plumage, or a California Gull in winter plumage... or something else? 

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what type of gull this is?

*** Update as of Dec. 1st ***

Suprisingly, the best ID so far of the Mystery Gull has come from the least experienced birder, my friend Don Price, an avid fisherman:

"Yes. I know this gull! His name is Richard."  Don went on to say  - "Well, I guess you’d say what can make me feel this way? My gull, my gull, my gull… talkin’ ‘bout my gull."

Pure genious.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend Fall Festival

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend by heading out to the Fall Festival at Boyce Thompson Arboretum this Saturday and Sunday. The Pistachio, Sycamore, and Varnish trees are in full fall color, photographers will be holding workshops on how to best photograph fall foliage, and there will be flute music, arts and craft vendors, and hot apple cider!

Sunday morning at 8:30 Kathe Anderson will be leading a bird walk, and if you're lucky you might spot the coatimundi seen on last week's bird walk.  Birds of interest seen recently at the Arboretum include Northern Beardless -Tyrannulet, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Western Bluebirds, American Robins and numerous Hermit Thrushes.

The coatimundi stole the show at last Saturday's Bird Walk
 at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. This fantastic shot was taken
 by photographer Brendon Grice near the Herb Garden.

Click image below to view slide show:


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lessons Learned in the Field

Hoping to get a photo of the Osprey taking off...
looks like he's thinking about it...

Okay, great, he's leaning forward...
any second now he'll take off...
finally I'll get a shot of an Osprey in flight...

Aaaacckkkk!!!  He threw up instead.

This is what landed below the light pole,
indigestible fish parts.

And also on the nice shiny red truck
parked underneath the light pole.


Lessons Learned: 

1.  Owls aren't the only bird of prey that regurgitate the indigestible parts of their prey.

2.  Be careful where you park when birding at Tempe Marketplace.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Birding the Bridge!!!

A great new wheelchair accessible birding spot is now open to the public - Tempe Town Lake Pedestrian Bridge.  It takes you right on top of the west dam (yes, the same dam that burst last year).  There's easy access to the bridge and lots of parking at the Tempe Center for the Arts, on Rio Salado Parkway, east of Priest.

The new pedestrian bridge provides birders with never before seen views down into the habitat below the west dam.  At nearly any given time of day you'll see egrets, heron's, cormorants, grebes, coots, and ducks galore.

The side railings along the bridge have plenty of space for photographers in wheelchairs to get unobstructed shots of the lake and the downstream habitat.  If you point your camera toward the lake and wait patiently, you'll eventually see a big huge egret, heron or cormorant flying right at eye-level.  If you're really lucky, you might even see a Brown Pelican!

As you meander up and down and back and forth along the bridge, ogling at the birds, be careful of cyclists that whiz by at lightning speed, and the occasional skateboarder.

Just minutes from the ASU campus, Mill Avenue, and Tempe Marketplace, this is a convenient spot to get a quick birding fix on your lunch hour.  Birds seen include Osprey, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons (2 juvenile), Neotropic Cormorants, Western Grebes, Pied-billed Grebes, Ruddy Ducks, Mallards, American Coots, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpipers, Black Phoebes, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Verdin (in the parking lot).

Click on image below to see slide show:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Birds of Prey - Another Sign of Fall

Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
 at Rio Salado, Nov.12, 2011.

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
at Tempe Marketplace, Nov. 12, 2011.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
 at Tempe Marketplace, Nov.2, 2011.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Subtle Signs That Fall is Here...

My Rock Squirrel is busy gathering bedding for his winter den...

 White-crowned Sparrows are starting to pop out of the shrubs...

and so are the Gilded Flickers!

(getting the ol' evil-eye from the Curve-billed Thrasher)

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

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