When Chris Rohrer and I arrived at Gilbert Water Ranch early on the morning of November 12 we started seeing birds before we even parked the car. While I have been to Gilbert Water Ranch near Phoenix when I lived here before this was Chris’ first time to visit and my first time being here since my return to Arizona in August. The excitement only mounted as we loaded up our gear and Chris started snapping away at birds before we even left the parking lot.
As I mentioned before, Chris has got me started with “chasing” birds, which means we he keeps track of the Rare Bird Alert and calls me up to go see if we can spot the rarity while it is in town. I, on the other hand, am more of a lister and I submit my lists to eBird. I have gotten Chris interested in eBirding, so now he is starting to carry a pen and a pad like I do and keep track of all the birds he sees. However, it isn’t long before that pad goes away and he is taking pictures!
As we headed down one of the trails we were greeted by a Northern Mockingbird warming itself in the early rays of sunshine.
Northern Pintails were the main species of ducks we saw but if you look closely you will see a few Green-winged teal as well.
In the first 20 minutes of being here we saw 20 species of birds. There were more than that but we couldn’t look and count fast enough!
We saw several.
While the Snowy Egrets are pretty easy for me to identify, it’s identifying peeps that always gets my feathers in a fluff! And there were plenty of them! Peeps are the generic name for small shore birds that pick through the shallows hunting for prey. In winter plumage they are even more challenging and I will be the first to admit that I am a novice at shorebird ID!
I was able to identify a few spotted sandpipers, a few snipes, and some yellowlegs, but the rest are a mystery to me! I know there were probably Least Sandpipers out there as well as a possible Dunlin or two, but I need more practice to be sure.
So, on to easier species, like this male Anna’s Hummingbird we found in a thicket along one of the paths.
On the edge of the same pond where we saw the green heron we found these footprints in the mud. It looks like someone else was hunting here too!
We saw and heard White-crowned sparrows everywhere!
Chris and I were both pleased to find an Inca Dove. They are much smaller than the Mourning dove and have an overall scaly appearance. While juvenile mourning doves can look a bit scaly as well, they will always have those black spots on their wings. And, when a Inca Dove flies it shows its rufous under-wings!
More on that tomorrow!
We also saw coots everywhere.
Before we left we checked out the mudflats again. We spent about 4 hours at Gilbert Water Ranch but saw the majority of the birds during the first hour of our arrival. After that we added species sporadically, sometimes wandering down paths without seeing anything and then, Bingo, a new bird species would show up. In the end I counted 53 species of birds here on this day. Chris counted 55 since he saw 2 species that I didn’t, a Say’s Phoebe and an Orange-crowned warbler.
By now it was early afternoon and Chris and I were both hungry. We got back on the road and headed south before the evening rush hour began. We finally stopped in Casa Grande to grab a bite to eat. There were blackbirds and doves everywhere and we counted birds in the parking lot of the restaurant we ate at, as well as at a gas station where we stopped to refuel. We wanted to see if we could find the monk parakeets that use to be seen in Casa Grande and Chris thought he heard them behind the gas station. So, while I finished pumping gas he rushed off to find them. To our amazement he found an African Gray Parrot and another parrot species on the rooftop of an abandoned building! He said he could hear the monk parakeets but we never saw them. We took a drive on the road past the front of the house and it looked like some kind of wildlife sanctuary. Perhaps the parrots had escaped form there. Either way, we never counted any parrots or parakeets on our eBird count.
Before we left town I drove Chris over to the Dave White Golf course which is another eBird Hotspot. In past years a Northern Jacana has showed up here at one of the ponds. It was one of the first birds Gus and I photographed with our new camera in 2008. I was just new to eBirding then. the sun was just setting as we arrived. There were a few mallards in the ponds, a few Yellow-rumped warblers in the trees, and mourning doves everywhere! We saw a red-tailed hawk land on a snag, and then the coyotes started to howl very close to us. Chris and I turned our heads towards the sound and stood transfixed as first one and then another coyote ambled across the green golf lawn to join the pack on the other side!
- Northern Jacana (2008 blogpost from Sycamore Canyon)
- Gilbert Water Ranch Diaries (Las Adventuras blog)
- Peep Show (Chris’ story)
- Scauping Around (Chris’ story)
|American Widgeon 6||Cinnamon Teal 2||Green-winged Teal 75|
|Mallard 50||Northern Pintail 100||Ring-necked Duck 10|
|Northern Shoveler 100||Lesser Scaup 2||Gambel’s Quail 8|
|Pied-billed Grebe 2||Neotropic cormorant 1||Great Blue Heron 4|
|Great Egret 6||Snowy Egret 10||Green Heron 3|
|Black-crowned Night Heron 1||Turkey Vulture 3||Osprey 2|
|Northern Harrier 1||Cooper’s Hawk 1||Sora 1|
|American Coot 40||Killdeer 10||Black-necked Stilt 20|
|Greater Yellowlegs 1||Least Sandpiper 100||Long-billed dowitcher 50|
|Wilson’s Snipe 6||Eurasian collared-dove 18||White-winged Dove 1|
|Mourning Dove 12||Inca Dove 6||Anna’s Hummingbird 10|
|Costa’s Hummingbird 2||Belted Kingfisher 1||Gila woodpecker 6|
|Northern Flicker 1||American Kestrel 3||Prairie Falcon 1|
|Black Phoebe 3||Northern Rough-winged swallow 6||Verdin 25|
|Northern Mockingbird 8||Curve-billed thrasher 6||European Starling 6|
|Yellow-rumped Warbler 24||Abert’s Towhee 12||White-crowned Sparrow 50|
|Red-winged Blackbird 6||Great-tailed Grackle 36||House Finch 20|
|Lesser Goldfinch 4||House Sparrow 50|