Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chatting Up A Storm at Hassayampa

The Hassayampa River Preserve is one of Maricopa County's best riparian corridors.  I love to visit this place, and there are always good things to be seen here.  This includes breeding Gray and Red-shouldered Hawks and Tropical Kingbirds, and a handful of other birds.

Despite the fact Hassayampa is home to a lot of birds, most of those birds are very hard to photograph.  The habitat here is thick and dense, and the birds have plenty of cover.  Today, I arrived and noticed from the start that the Yellow-breasted Chats are back in full force.  The Yellow-breasted Chat is "classified" as a warbler, but it acts like a thrasher or a catbird, and sounds like everything in the book.  It's an odd bird, but is very cool.  Chats are very chatty, and they are also very elusive.  They don't come out in the open much, and are often difficult to view yet alone get photographs.  Luckily today, I had a few Yellow-breasted Chats who were very cooperative for my camera.  This was by far my highlight of the day today.

The Yellow-breasted Chat is clearly the largest, and strangest "Wood Warbler".  What's weird about it?  It sings at night, it's large, it's bill is tanager thick, and it's tail is way too long.  It has the voice of a thrasher, and it's just freaking weird.  It's over 7 inches in length and it's wingspan is nearly a foot.  That is one weird bird, and one weird warbler.  It's also very cool at the same time!

There were a few other photo highlights during the day.  Although a poor few photos, I got to see my first Lawrence's Goldfinch of the year.

Yellow Warblers were very numerous, perhaps the most numerous bird at Hassayampa.  They sing away in the top of the cottonwoods.  They are hard to photograph!

The Bell's Vireo is another common bird that stays hidden.  They are hard to photograph also, why did I find myself photographing so many true hardcores today?  This bird was even banded too, probably right at the Preserve grounds.

The female Vermilion Flycatcher is a lot more easy to photograph, and was one of four Vermilions I saw during my trip.

I then made the average Common Yellowthroat look like a Yellowthroat robot.  I had my flash on and setting on automatic, a recipe and proof of a disastrous photograph.

I then stumbled upon these red-phased Coachwhips on top of each other.  I think they were making snake love.  Now, this snake is usually shy, but not these ones.  It's usually a struggle to get a good look at one of these suckers.  

At Hassayampa, other highlights that weren't photographed were Gray and Red-shouldered Hawks, a female Broad-billed Hummingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Canyon Wren, Cedar Waxwings, MacGillivray's and Townsend's Warblers, and Hooded Oriole.  Plenty of Summer Tanagers also.  Hassayampa is a neat place that is always fun to bird, 44 species in all.


  1. Nice work withe the Chats!
    That's definitely a tough photo project, nicely done!

    1. Thanks Laurence,

      Aren't the chats just bizarre through. They have a bit of everything in them it seems. But yet, they are a warbler. Remember Mark's Yellow-breasted Chat joke? Ha ha ha!!!