Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fun at the nearby Glendale Recharge Ponds

The Glendale Recharge Ponds is a location that I am very fortunate is very close to home.  It takes me 15 minutes to get to this location.  Now this isn't a good looking place by any means, but the ponds work out to the birders advantage if they have different and variable water levels throughout the year.  In winter, it's great if they are deep to attract high waterfall numbers, and in spring and fall, it's nice to have shallow water levels to attract abundant shorebird numbers.  Over the last few weeks, I have visited the Glendale Recharge Ponds quite a few times.  There have been 19 shorebird species so far during those visits, a good number for a location in Arizona.  The Glendale Recharge Ponds are one of Maricopa County's best birding locations throughout the year due to their large size and ability to attract large numbers of waterbirds.  It's the second best location in Arizona for viewing shorebirds, as Willcox is easily the best.

Over the last few weeks, I've had a few good highlights at Glendale, and I was able to capture some of them on camera.  One of those highlights was finding a Marbled Godwit (two actually).  I don't see this species in Maricopa County in the fall as much as I do in the spring, although they still do pass through in the fall.  In this picture, a Marbled Godwit is foraging with a few Long-billed Dowitchers.

American Avocets are always a sight to see, whether in or not in breeding plumage.  These noisy birds have been quite numerous at Glendale lately and have also molted in their non-breeding plumage for the most part.  There are a few individuals who don't want to go out of breeding plumage quite yet.  This photo makes for somewhat of a compare and contrast picture between the two plumages.

My favorite find out here during these few weeks of scanning and birding for shorebirds was finding two Baird's Sandpipers that were very cooperative and close to the shore.  This is a species I haven't been able to photograph very well until these two birds showed up in front of me.  The Baird's Sandpiper is a species that breeds in coastal tundra way far north in North America.  It never ceases to amaze me that these birds have flown miles and miles south from their northern ranges to be at these ponds during migration.  The Baird's Sandpiper is a larger "peep" sandpiper, and they have very long wings whose primaries project well beyond their tail-tip.  In the series of photos below, the long primary projection past the tail is very evident.  Due to the birds long wings, it gives the Baird's Sandpiper a very "slender" look in it's appearance.  

This is a Least Sandpiper, and it is the smallest shorebird in the world.

The Least Sandpiper is 6" in length, and the Baird's Sandpiper is 7.5" in length.  The Baird's Sandpiper is a pretty small bird too, but when it flies side-by-side with a Least, it looks like a giant.

It's pretty remarkable to see our smallest sandpiper being looked down upon by our largest sandpiper.  Size difference among species is what make families such as shorebirds a very exciting one!

This is one of my favorite shorebirds.  It's weird but very awesome, and it usually makes it's presence known by it's loud call.  Sound the alarm, Long-billed Curlew!

In my visits, a single Long-billed Curlew has made an appearance on three different occasions.  I've heard it every time before I have caught sight of it.  

Here is the difference between a Killdeer and Semipalmated Plover (insert words.....)

Speaking of Semipalmated, I also found a bird I've been looking for this year finally only a couple of days ago at the pond.  And that is the Semipalmated Sandpiper.  These birds can be tough to identify sometimes from the similar Western Sandpiper, unless the bill on the Semipalmated is very short like this one.  Otherwise, there is a lot of overlap in the two species' bill sizes.  Gosh, the fun of birding id's.  

Here is a comparison with a nearby Western Sandpiper.

On one of the days, I was photographing two Lesser Yellowlegs.  Little did I know until I got home, I got photobombed by a third Lesser Yellowlegs.  Too bad my camera didn't focus in the one in-flight.

Willets are always nice to find at the Glendale Recharge Ponds, especially when one gets to see them fly.  The bird stayed perched this time, but they have one of the coolest wing displays in North America.

One day also saw about 15 Red-necked Phalaropes out on one of the basins.  This bird was rather close compared to the other ones.

The Glendale Recharge Ponds had a lot more shorebirds during this time frame than what I was able to photograph, way more!  Shorebird tend to stick far from the paths a majority of the time while foraging in the middle of the huge basins.  When water habitat is good along the path, they may be anywhere close also.  Thanks to the birds in this post, who gave it more flavor than I expected I would have tasted.  I'll probably head out to Glendale a lot over the month of September.  Another post similar to this may come next month also.  


  1. Good variety of shorebirds here, Tommy, but that Curlew takes the cake! I need more than one out of this bunch you've shown, but I find going to look at shorebirds such a chore because of the ID questions and that our shorebird spot is a good distance away.

    1. Thanks, Josh! The Curlew does take the cake, it's such a neat bird. I was out there again today and he briefly came in for awhile. Shorebird identification can be very challenging, my problem right now has been shorter billed Western Sandpipers versus longer billed Semipalmated Sandpipers. And of course trying to separate different species by their age and what molt they are going through. Too bad your shorebird spot is a good distance away!

  2. Awesome post and photos Mr. Tommy!!!
    Ah I missed the SESA when I last went out to the ponds that would have been a lifer! The LBCU is awesome I love there call, when I was in Happy Jack I heard one calling after a big storm and I saw it as it flew over, and there was only a small pond, it must have been lost!

    1. Thanks Caleb! The Curlews are awesome, that is really awesome to find one up there in Happy Jack, well done!