Friday, November 30, 2012

One of These Ducks is NOT Like the Others!


1. ducks-kab Ducks in the fishing pond at Gilbert Water Ranch 11-12-12

I found these ducks in the Fishing Pond on the west side of Gilbert Water ranch. At first glance they all appeared to be Ring-necked ducks but as I looked closer I realized they were not all the same. The black and silver ducks with the white rings around their bills and the white “spur” on their flanks are the male ring-necked ducks. The brown ducks with the white eye ring and the white patch at the base of the bill are the female Ring-necked Ducks, but just look at that male duck 2nd from the right. He looks a bit different, doesn’t he?

2. facetoface-kab Here they are face to face. Can you see the difference in their bodies?

The black and silver male on the left is the Ring-necked duck, the black and silver duck on the right it the Lesser Scaup. Both species are diving ducks, which means they dive beneath the water for food, unlike the more familiar mallards, which are dabbling ducks that paddle about in shallow water to feed. Notice how the ring-necked duck has the black continuing along his back while the scaup is silver there. Also, the scaup has a solid blue-gray bill while the Ring-necked duck has a blue bill ringed with white. The brown ring around the neck for which the bird is actually named is rarely visible. But what caught my eye at first was the shape of the heads. I noticed that the scaup’s head was a different shape before I noticed anything else. It is what made me start to look at other details of the ducks.

3. lesser scaup-kab Lesser Scaup

Once I realized this duck was a scaup, I then had to decide if it was the Greater or Lesser Scaup. Yes, bird identification is not easy! The Greater and Lesser scaup have pretty much the same plumage pattern and to differentiate between the two one must look at the shape of the head, the sheen on the head feathers, and the nail on the tip of the beak. The Greater scaup has a steeper forehead and a higher peak in the front of the head that slopes off towards the back. the Lesser’s head is higher at the back of the skull. The Greater Scaup has a greenish sheen to its feathers while the lesser has a purple sheen. To me this photo does not show the head shape of the Lesser as well. this head shape actually looks more rectangular to me but everything else about this bird points to Lesser Scaup, including the fact that the Greater Scaup is whiter along the sides than the Lesser.

4. ring-necked duck-kab Ring-necked Duck (male)


5. lesser scaup-kab Lesser Scaup (male)

One of the things the bird guides point out is that the nail on the beak of the Lesser scaup is straight while the nail on the beak of the Greater Scaup flares out at the tip. In the photo above the nail appears to be straight to me. Greater scaup favor the coast while lesser scaup are more often seen inland in winter. But, Greater Scaup have been seen in Arizona before.

6. ringnecked duck-kab Ring-necked Duck (male)

Finding these ducks provided a fun challenge to the end of our day of birding at Gilbert Water Ranch. I have never birded the Fishing Pond before and found it a great place to get close to the birds. This was only my third time birding this preserve which is also know as the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch. If you are ever in Phoenix I would highly recommend this place as a premier birding location in all seasons, but in the summer I would recommend getting there very early as it gets very hot very fast!

7. annas hummingbird-kab Female Anna’s Hummingbird

(Seen in the scrub near the Fishing Pond.)


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gilbert Water Ranch

1. dream bird-kab Great Egret 11-12-12
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.
2. Chris r-kabAs 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!
3. NOMO-kab As we headed down one of the trails we were greeted by a Northern Mockingbird warming itself in the early rays of sunshine.
4. mud flats-kab We headed for the eastern ponds where we found blackbirds taking an early morning bath!
5. NOPI-kab 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.
6. dowithcher-kab Near the napping ducks we found our first long-billed dowitcher.

7. dowitchers-kab Soon we found more!
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!
8. N pintail-kab I think the male Northern Pintail is one of the handsomest ducks around.

9. snowy-kab Snowy Egrets put on quite the show as well!

10. BN stilt-kab Black-necked Stilts were everywhere,

11. osprey-kab But this Osprey eating a fish was most impressive!

12. osprey-kab Osprey at Gilbert Water Ranch 11-12-12

13. GBHE-kab You can pretty much count on seeing a Great Blue Heron here.
We saw several.
14. ruffled-kab 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!
15. peep species-kab Peeps,

16. peep sp-kab peeps,

17. peep speceis-kab and more peeps!
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.
18. anna's hummingbird-kab So, on to easier species, like this male Anna’s Hummingbird we found in a thicket along one of the paths.
19. BCN heron-kab We also found a roosting Black-crowned Night Heron…

20. green heron-kab …and a hunting Green Heron!

21. footprints-kab 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!

22. WC sparrow-kab White-crowned Sparrow showing off his crown.
We saw and heard White-crowned sparrows everywhere!
23. mouse-kab This little mouse was not at all shy about coming out on the path.

24. inca dove-kabChris 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!
25. ducks-kab One of these ducks is not like the others! Can you tell which one?
More on that tomorrow!
26. coot-kab American Coot
We also saw coots everywhere.
27. snipe-kabCamouflaged Wilson’s Snipe
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.
28. Eusrasian collared dove-kab Near the parking lot again I found this Eurasian Collared Dove.

29. fly away-kab When it flew away I knew it was time for me to fly as well.
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.
30. coyote-kab 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!
31. sunset-kab Sunset at Dave White Golf Course in Casa Grande, AZ 11-12-12

Birds seen at Gilbert Water Ranch on November 12, 2012
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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Don’t get your Feathers in a Fluff!

1. stilts-kab Black-necked Stilts at Gilbert Water Ranch 11-12-12
A couple of weeks ago Chris Rohrer and I went birding at Gilbert Water Ranch near Phoenix, AZ.
2. searching-kab While we were there we searched everywhere for birds.
We found so many! And we kept on birding!
We chased birds in Tucson and found a Western Grebe at Lakeside Park on November 14, and a Common Loon at the Silverbell recharge basins on November 16th! If I am turning Chris into an eBirder, he is turning me into a chaser! What can I say? It’s keeping me young, but I don’t get much else done!

3. fly away-kab Great Blue heron at Gilbert Water Ranch 11-12-12
Then, over the Thanksgiving Holiday Gus and I flew off to the Salton Sea.
(Actually, we drove and I counted birds all the way there and back again!)
However, this has left little time for blogging!
4. fluff-kab Snowy Egret at Gilbert Water Ranch 11-12-12
But, don’t get your feathers in a fluff! I’m working on new blog posts right now! and There Will be Birds! (and stories too!)
5. ring necked duck-kab Ring-necked Duck at Gilbert Water Ranch 11-12-12
So, relax and take a little paddle around the pond. I’ll be back soon!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Feathered Snow

1. snowqoose-kab Snow Goose at Bosque del Apache 11-5-2012


2. snow-kab 

Who Knew Snow

Who knew snow would come on black-tipped wings

And fall from a clear blue sky?

Who knew snow could sing

In a honking, rasping voice,

Calling through the air to each feathered body?

Who knew snow could fly?

But I watched it fall on a golden day

As it sailed across the sky

I saw it settle on liquid blue

Thick and ponderous, yet graceful and light,

And unmelting,

Snow geese on water.

~Kathie Adams Brown (November 20, 2012)


3. snow-kab 

Here’s a little snow to get you in the holiday mood!


4. snow geese-kab 

5. snow on water-kab 

6. bosque del apache-kab 

7. snow panarama-kab 

8. blue goose-kab 

9. snow goose-kab 

10. snow family-kab 

11. grinning-kab 

12. adult and immature-kab 

13. snow geese-kab 

14. more snow-kab 

15. nap time-kab Nap time!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

(Enjoy your nap!)