At the extensive marshes of Yuma East Wetlands, there are a lot of birds to search through. If a good one shows up, it is a challenge to relocate it. That's what I thought would be a challenge when a young White Ibis showed up there a few weeks ago. Despite the fact I hadn't chased it anywhere close to the time it was first discovered, the bird continued in the area and was being seen by most of the observers that had set out to look for it. The day before Christmas Eve, I texted my friend Magill Weber and I asked her if she would be interested in coming down to Yuma with me and looking for it. A quick reply from Magill two minutes later resulted in a quick yes and we made plans to head to the Yuma East Wetlands and get there at the crack of dawn. It took just under three hours to reach the Wetlands from Phoenix on the Christmas Eve of 2013--not bad at all!! When we arrived at the Wetlands, I could tell it was a massive area. The White Ibis was out there, and we had a maximum of four hours to try and find it. I felt like our stakes were good. White Ibis was going to be a lifer for me, if Magill and I could nail it down. It is extremely rare in Arizona. The Wetlands had an abundance of birds and wetlands from the start, as we started to make a list of over 60 species in the time frame.
As we made our way through the Wetlands, birds were abundant. This included Ospreys, Yellow-rumped Warblers, WHITE-FACED Ibis, Hooded Mergansers, and plenty of these Northern Harrier birds..
At about 8:30, we had reached the more-than-often-seen haunts of the White Ibis. It was usually foraging with White-faced Ibis and Snowy Egrets. Plenty of them were around in the spots. As we started to walk through trails that line the marshes, a group of ibis and egrets flew up out of fear of an approaching Osprey, who wasn't even after them. Magill and I both caught sight of a bird with a brown back, white underparts and wings, and a long ibis-like orange bill. It was our White Ibis!! And we had a good view in flight of the bird. It flew deep into the Wetlands, and we couldn't chase it any further. Our looks were good however. After a few hours of birding, we scanned the higher overlooks of the area, hoping to see the Ibis more. Magill has seen thousands of them, but this was still her first for Arizona, and of course, my life bird. Luck hit us again as the Ibis then flew south through the Wetlands, which gave us more extended views. This was our last time seeing it. My pictures are awful, but it does show a White Ibis! This species is one I have always wanted to see ever since I have started birding.
With the sighting of the White Ibis, our trip was a great success. On our way back though, at a McDonald's stop in Gila Bend, we got word that someone reported a female Long-tailed Duck at the Glendale Recharge Ponds. We we shocked, "What! A Long-tailed Duck!". It was reported by visiting birder Dick Porter, and the eBird report Magill and I saw seemed like a good sighting and description. We immediately headed to Glendale and got there within an hour and as fast as we could. The Long-tailed Duck was another potential life bird, and another bird I have always wanted to see. As we got to Glendale, we headed over to the likely pond we thought it was going to be in, Basin 5. When we approached the pond, I could see that there was a high amount of waterfowl on the water. There was one duck that stuck out immediately, which was close to our side of the shore, which had a lot of white on it. I quickly got the scope on it, and it was....
The Long-tailed Duck!
It was my second lifebird in a day, which is pretty rare for me in Arizona as my list is getting higher. I was stoked, and it was also the second life bird of the day that is dominated by the color white. It was a White Birding Christmas indeed, and these two life gifts were all I could've asked for. The Long-tailed Duck male is very striking, but the females like the one shown above are very beautiful too. Magill and I spent 30 minutes watching the Long-tailed Duck before we took off to go to family Christmas parties.
One of my favorite birding days of this wonderful 2013, by far! Merry Christmas!