Winter ducks - gotta love em'. These beauties are popping up everywhere, each week it seems someone new appears. I've only captured photos of a few. The excitement this week includes the Common (Eurasian) Teal spotted by Magill Weber at Tempe Marketplace,and a pair of Common Goldeneye and 49 Hooded Mergansers spotted by Troy Corman at Fountain Hills Lake.
Some days I'm not sure what is more fascinating - the birds that I see when I'm out birding, or the people that I meet. On a recent trip to Neely Water Ranch in Gilbert, Arizona, it was definitely a person and not a bird that captured my attention. In fact the trip would have been a complete bust had I not had the good fortune to run into Tom Cole right in the parking lot.
It was a bitter cold December day and the site seemed to not be very wheelchair friendly. Then Tom appeared, wanting to know where I got the reindeer antlers and red nose adorning my van. With his binocs, camera, red plaid flannel shirt, slightly graying beard, and mischievous dimpled smile, I felt I had found the closest thing to a birdwatching-Santa!
Tom Cole explaining to us newcomers the
odd layout that now exists at Neely Ranch.
Neely Water Ranch isn't quite what it once was when Tom first started birding here. Several of the recharge ponds have been permanently drained and filled with rows and rows of solar panels. The whole area is enclosed by cyclone fencing, block walls, gravel berms, and iron bars. Old bird blinds offer sterile views of solar panels. While there are birds to be found, (we saw a Northern Harrier, an American Kestrel, Gadwalls, Northern Pintails, a Vermilion Flycatcher, several Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Black Phoebe, and a Says Phoebe) it is in an odd and unnatural setting. A fire station sits on the west side, and huge electrical towers and Schuff Steel adorn the northern border. So unless you like your nature photography to have a strong industrial edge, Neely Ranch is not the place for you.
But if you are in the neighborhood, its worth stopping at Neely Water Ranch just in the off chance that Tom is there.
Click on image below to view slide-show:
Neely Water Ranch is located at Cooper Rd. and the Western Canal, just north of Elliot. Parking is available in the gravel lot to the rear of the fire station parking lot.
Its that time of year already! Christmas Bird Counts have been going on since 1900. But each year more volunteers are needed to perform the counts. You don't have to be an expert birder to join in on the fun, you will be paired with more experienced birders. There are several areas covered across the state, and the counts are performed one calendar day between December 14 and January 5 . Check out the Arizona Christmas Bird Count Schedule 2011-2012 and contact one of the compilers to volunteer. The counts start early and last all day and are usually concluded with a compilation dinner where results are tallied and experiences are shared. A $5 donation to the Audubon is required by each participant. Christmas Counts near the Phoenix area include Tres Rios, Gila River, Salt and Verde River, Carefree, Hassayampa River and Superior.
Want to learn the ropes? On Saturday, December 10th at 9am to 11am, The Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center is offering a special CBC training session to the community. Come down to learn how you can make a difference while enjoying the beauty of the season.
Make Christmas Bird Counts a part of your holiday tradition!