Wednesday, December 3, 2014

American Robin at Desert Botanical Garden

In many places Robins are a dime a dozen, but not so much here in Phoenix.  So the Garden's out-of-town guests were quite amused at seeing us Phoenicians get so excited over seeing a single male American Robin on the Monday Morning Bird Walk at Desert Botanical Garden.  He was first heard by the alert ears of a few experienced birders, then he sprang up high in a tree along the Wildflower Trail to sun himself, or maybe just to show off his handsome rufous chest.  Later on into the bird walk five American Robins were seen flying overhead.

Not to be out-done by a Robin, the female Northern Cardinal put on a nice show for us along the Plants & People Trail, swooping in and out of the drinking fountain for a few sips of water.  No lowly pond water for this diva!

Four Gilded Flickers were seen on this week's bird walk.  The prior week's walk was highlighted by the appearance of two Red-Shafted Flickers.

No Great Horned Owls were seen in the Cottonwoods, but one Hermit Thrush was seen and heard near the Owl's usual hangout.  (I opted to photograph the birders and not the bird!)

A young Greater Roadrunner joined us at the end of the walk at the Ullman Terrace to supervise our compilation of the bird walk bird list.

The Harris's Antelope Squirrel also joined us on the terrace, seemingly unconcerned over the danger of becoming the roadrunner's lunch.

If You Go:  Remember, it's Luminaria time at the Garden and there will be early closures!  The Garden will close at 4 p.m. with last admission at 3 p.m. each evening of Luminaria to prepare for the event. Early closure dates are:  December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 – 23, 26 – 30.  The Garden will also close at 4 p.m. with last admissions at 3 p.m. on December 24, 2014.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Few Winter Show-offs at Fountain Hills Lake

A bad shot of a beautiful pair of Hooded Mergansers on the north island of Fountain Hills Lake,
at 10:00am on November 12, 2014.  Photo by Peggy Thomas.

  After a loooonnnnngggggg unwanted hiatus from birding, I'm finally baaaccckkkk!  It was rough not getting a birding-fix for months on end.  I must admit that I developed a serious case of bird-envy and had to stop reading the AZNM Listserve in order to preserve my sanity.  My occasional forays into FaceBook's Birding--Arizona and Southwest page were agonizing, and brief looks at bird blogs were unbearable.  I thought I could live vicariously through the birding adventures of such prolific birders as Gordon Karre, Tommy D., and Laurence Butler, but that led me to fantasize about the possibility of teleportation, and then to a serious investigation into the latest advances in hover-craft technology (a gal can dream!).

Another bad shot of Hooded Mergansers on the north island of Fountain Hills Lake,
at 10:00am on November 12, 2014.  Photo by Peggy Thomas.
This morning while scanning flocks of mainly Ruddy Ducks and American Wigeons at Fountain Hills Lake (near the island at the lake's north end) a few of our flashier waterfowl suddenly appeared.  Mixed in with the Wigeons were 3 gorgeous pairs of Hooded Mergansers!  After taking a few far-off photos I began heading back to my van.  Then I spotted 2 flashes of bright white out by the fountain.  Too far off for a photo were a beautiful pair of male Buffleheads

One of several Horned Grebes (CORRECTION
- EARED GREBE) at Fountain Hills Lake,
10:30am on November 12, 2014.  Photo by Peggy Thomas

Yessss, fall is here, heralded in by our wintering ducks.  Now I just need to see a few White-crowned Sparrows in my yard for my November birding to be complete.

Hope to see many of you out in the field, forest, park, or roadside soon!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Yet Another Backyard First!

The parade of spring migrants passing through my backyard continues as this young female Bullock's Oriole graced my mesquite tree on Saturday, May 17th, 2014.

At first glance I thought I had another Vireo or a Kingbird,
but the yellow tail threw me off.

The mesquite tree has been the favorite of all the new yard-birds this spring, with the palo verde tree coming in a close second.  I'm convinced, NATIVE TREES are the way to go!
Did you know that you can get 2 free native trees from Salt River Project if you are a customer and attend one of their workshops?!  Check it out HERE. :-)

Photos by Peggy Thomas

Sunday, May 18, 2014

BigBird Backyard Bird Sit

Wilson's Warbler in mesquite tree, May 13 2014, Mesa AZ.
Photo by Saija Lehtonen.

Last week photographer Jeff Stemshorn (a.k.a. BigBird) and his girlfriend, Wynn Ronstadt, were coming through town so we decided to have a BigBird Bird Sit at my place in Mesa. Saija Lehtonen and Annie Hummel Pancrazio also joined in on the backyard shenanigans. I've been having some good luck with migrants coming through my yard (warblers, flycatchers, vireos, grosbeaks) so we were hoping for a good turnout. Sure enough we had a hard-to-photograph Wilson's Warbler stop by.   Thankfully Saija was able to get an ID shot of the flittering flash of yellow feathers (which is what MY photos of the Wilson's looked like).

Brown-headed Cowbird, May 13 2014, Mesa AZ. Photo by Jeff Stemshorn.

Also in the mix of course, were White-Winged Doves, a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves, Mourning Doves,  Inca Doves, Gambel's Quail, Curve-billed Thrashers, Abert's Towhees, Northern Mockingbirds, Great-tailed Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, House Finches, House Sparrows, Lesser Goldfinch, Anna's Hummingbirds and Black-chinned Hummingbirds.

Ash-throated Flycatcher in mesquite tree, May 13 2014, Mesa AZ. 
Photo by Peggy Thomas

Later the Ash-throated Flycatcher came by, performing aerobatics as he caught flies high in the mesquite tree.

Verdin at orange, May 13 2014, Mesa AZ. Photo by Saija Lehtonen.

Western Tanager in Palo Verde tree, May 13 2014, Mesa AZ.
Photo by Peggy Thomas.

 The Western Tanager stayed out of camera range during the bird sit, but reappeared later just long enough for an ID shot.

White-winged Dove, May 13 2014, Mesa AZ.  Photo by Jeff Stemshorn.

As the temperatures soar over the summer, we'll be having more Bird Sits, from the cool comfort of my kitchen, photographing through the bay windows.  Care to join us?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ban Barbed-Hook Fishing at Gilbert Water Ranch

An x-ray of a deceased bird from Gilbert Water
Ranch with a barbed fishing hook embedded
in its trachea.

Many of us are regular birders at Gilbert Water Ranch and have seen birds injured or killed by fishing line and fishing hooks.  It is an awful sight, and leaves us feeling sad, frustrated, and angered by our inability to help the birds.  This Thursday is your chance to be a voice for our feathered friends

The Gilbert Town Council will vote this week on a proposal to limit fishing at the Gilbert Water Ranch to catch-and-release in order to mitigate injuries to birds from barbed hooks. The Town expects a large group of opponents to attend the meeting, even though the proposed change will expand catch-for-keeps fishing to two other parks. We need birders/photographers/naturalists to come out in support of catch-and-release.   The proposal will be discussed at  the Town Council this Thursday May 15th at 7:00 pm.  The Council chambers are located at Municipal Building I, 50 E Civic Center Drive, Gilbert, Arizona 85296.

Please come out and help GWR Park Ranger Jennie Rambo inform the Council of the need for this change. You do NOT have to be a citizen of Gilbert to attend or to speak, just a frequenter of the Water Ranch. When you get to the council meeting be sure to fill out one of the comment cards where you can mark yes or no on the proposed change and also indicate whether you would like to get up and speak in front of the council.  Your vote and comments will be entered into the record.  Any photographic evidence you may have would help greatly in showing the Council the severity of injuries caused by barbed hooks.

If you can't make it to the town Council meeting this Thursday but would still like to voice your concerns or give first-hand accounts of birds injured by fishing hooks at Gilbert Water Ranch, please call or write to:

Rod Buchanan, Director of Parks and Recreation
Phone: 480-503-6280

Directions to Gilbert City Council Chambers :  Take Gilbert Rd. south past Warner Rd., turn left (east) on Civic Center Dr., look for Municipal Building I, at 50 E Civic Center Drive.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Oriole Madness at Desert Botanical Garden!

It was absolute Oriole madness last week along the Wildflower Trail at Desert Botanical Garden! 
High up in the ironwood trees four female and two male Bullock's Orioles exercised their acrobatic skills as they foraged on the yummy blossoms from every conceivable angle.

Other birds of interest seen at the Garden last week include a Hooded Oriole, a Black-Headed Grosbeak, a Chipping Sparrow, nine Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, two migrating Warbling Vireos, and several warblers including Lucy's, MacGillivray's, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, Townsend's, and Wilson's. To stay up-to-date on bird sightings at Desert Botanical Garden, see Diana Herron's DBG Birdwalk Birdlists page.

Remember it's summer hours at the Desert Botanical Garden, it opens now at 7:00 a.m. through October 1st, and for members only the Garden opens at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Photos by Peggy Thomas

Friday, May 9, 2014

Another Yard First - a Black-headed Grosbeak!

This is a backyard first for me!  The only other places I've seen Black-headed Grosbeaks is at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Pinal Mountain, and Mount Ord.

The Ash-throated Flycatcher continues to frequent my yard, also favoring the mesquite tree and the birdbath.

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

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