Sorry for this belated report, but I visited birding hotspots southwest of Phoenix yesterday on October 17th, 2013. It was a good day to be out birding with beautiful weather on top of it. I visited the Thrasher Spot west of Buckeye, the Arlington Wildlife Area, Gillespie Dam, and Tres Rios Overbank Wetlands. The Greater Roadrunner was also everywhere during the day, surely a good day whenever that takes place.
My first stop was a two hour search through the Thrasher Spot, primarily to search for Sagebrush and in my hopes Bell's Sparrows. If one is wondering what these birds are, they were recently split from Sage Sparrow into two species. Shortly after I started birding, I found a Sage Sparrow species and the first one ironically was a nice BELL'S SPARROW. It was an extreme individual, and had a thick, dark malar that contrasted with it's gray head. It's back wasn't streaked either. The more expected SAGEBRUSH SPARROW was very abundant and seemed to be everywhere. I'll estimate 25-30 birds. In the mix of the Sagebrush Sparrows, I managed to find one more Bell's Sparrow. Although Sagebrush Sparrow was the dominant force of the two birds, it was great to find both of them. I got photos of both birds, visit my blog at the link at the bottom of my report if interested in seeing them. In learning about these two species, I read David Vander Pluym's excellent article on these two species and what identification factors to look for when in the field. David explains it better any time and anywhere than I ever could. Check out his article at the link below:
Bell's Sparrow # 1
This shot is poor, but the thick dark malar that contrasts with the head is very evident.
When the bird turned, it's back is shown. The back that has little streaking is another field mark on Bell's, although it is more of a supporting field mark (Some Sagebrush Sparrows don't have much streaking on back)
This shot shows the malar darkness and thickness well, but the lighting isn't so great.
Bell's Sparrow # 2
Le Conte's Thrasher
Who was patrolling the Thrasher Spot?
A Bendire's Thrasher!
The Thrasher Spot
The awesome Greater Roadrunner!
Gillespie Dam held a nice and up close look at a WESTERN GREBE, as well as hearing another LEAST BITTERN.
This Western Grebe at Gillespie put on quite the show!
I got to Tres Rios Wetlands at 1 P.M., and still had a pleasant walk with 66 species recorded even at a later time in the day. Highlights included the 3 BROWN PELICANS perched together on a structure, calling LEAST BITTERNS, a kettle of BLACK VULTURES, numerous OSPREYS, PEREGRINE FALCON, SORAS and VIRGINIA RAILS, 5 GREATER ROADRUNNERS, 2 BELTED KINGFISHERS, and 2 CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS. Another good day to be out in the field.
Cassin's Kingbird (only my second for Tres Rios)
Big Birds: Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, and Neotropic Cormorant
And....How about a few more for the road?