Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Completing the Big 5 Search at Base and Meridian

Here we are, in Phoenix, Arizona.  It's very hot, and any local birding results in being done by 9 A.M., a time in which I can't stand the heat any longer.  I went back out to Baseline and Meridian Wildlife Area again today, in pursuit of those awesome birds.  Those five awesome birds that I have nicknamed the "B and M Big 5" have all presented themselves to me except for one of them.  I was hoping to land that final bird today.  The monsoons are here also, which results in some amazing cloud formations.

I had some awesome company today!  I was joined by Caleb Strand and Joe Ford.  The three of us combined for an awesome team, and we were bound to find some cool birds, and I was feeling that our chances were good to find that wanted B & M target of mine.  Caleb is a luck charm when it comes to finding that species, I'll get to the species later in the post.  At 14 years of age, Caleb is already an outstanding and talented birder.  When I birded with Caleb today, I felt like I was birding with someone who has been doing this for years, not someone who was 14.  He knew every single bird call we heard as well, which he told me he figured out by watching birds sing and by following them around.  That is the making of an awesome field birder.  Caleb and Joe bird together a lot, and they have discovered a lot of cool things.  Here is a picture of my birding friends.

As usual, things started out good.  We heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo calling a quickly got Joe his first look at a Virginia Rail.  It was the continuing juvenile Rail that has been seen.

We then got very good looks of a female Least Bittern in the same area.  I've been photographing this bird a lot lately, and today, this bird let us venture up very close.

We then went to search for visuals of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  After a good attempt, we weren't able to hear anymore of them yet alone see any more of them.  During the Cuckoo search, we did find one of the area's Barn Owls, as well as this day flying Lesser Nighthawk.

We then made that last target into our final search.  We had been birding for about three hours, and it was starting to become to hot for our comfort levels.  In the last attempt at a good bird, Caleb and I spied the target at the same time down in the reeds lining the Gila River.  Can you see a bird down in there?

If you can see it, great, I'm sure you can.  It's the big Clapper Rail.  I have had luck with this bird on previous visits to this Wildlife Area, but have yet to in a couple of years.  It was good to look down and see the Clapper Rail walking through the reeds.  Seeing the Clapper Rail also completed my search for the Baseline and Meridian Wildlife Area Big 5!  Now with limited and still distant views, Caleb and I wanted more Clapper Rail action.  In the pond that this bird was frequenting, there is luckily an opening along the pond where one can get down to the water and still see most of the pond.  Caleb and I went down while Joe stayed up high on the river overlook.  Joe saw the bird walk across the clearing before Caleb and I got there.  But then, we got lucky, as the Clapper Rail (or another Clapper Rail) decided to walk right by us!

While the first shot above came out good, it was one of those situations where I knew I could crush the bird or let my nerves take over with pressure.  The nerves took over and I wasn't able to get the bird in focus as well.  But oh well, the first picture is perfect for me, and the experience was fantastic!!  Caleb is definitely the Clapper Rail magnet. 

Here's a more typical Clapper Rail shot!  

I now have all of the B and M's photographed and seen for the summer.  What fun it has been, I love birding this place!  Thank you Caleb and Joe for the awesome birding morning, I had a great time birding with both of you.  We had a lot to celebrate with our sightings so it had to call for a celebration picture!

Here is one more shot of the monsoon clouds over the Gila River.  Awesome!!


  1. That's Awesome! Congrats on completing the B & M quest, and getting that Clapper Rail in the open. You rock that bird every year!

    1. Thanks Laurence! I got lucky today, I had Caleb with me, the Clapper Rail magnet.

  2. Great job on the Clapper Rail - very cool. I understand what you mean about letting the nerves take over. It seems whenever I have a life bird or rare bird on the line, I choke and turn up marginal photos at best.

    1. Thanks Josh! The nerves definitely took over this time, but the bird was so close that the shots at least came out somewhat decent! I guess we can just say, Maybe next time, right?