Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Starting September and The Rest of Fall

In Arizona birding, I love it when the fall season comes around.  Migration is usually in force and the potential for finding numerous migrants and unusual species increases in relative comparison to the hot, nasty, and seemingly long-lasting summer months.  I'm talking about the Phoenix area that is, and any other low elevation areas to be found in Arizona.  We've had some record rainfall in the state to start September off, and I was hoping that some rare birds would be blown in.  With a key trip in a couple days and after getting back from my first exploration of Graham County, the funds have been tight and I've made a commitment to keep things more local and low budget.  

The Glendale Recharge Ponds spoil me as a birder.  I can be there in only 15 minutes after leaving my house.  For a location so close to home with so many recorded bird species in it's fine tenure, I go there a lot and I've worked up quite a list for my five-plus years of birding the spot.  Recently, I was stoked to look in the surroundings of the ponds to see a new location bird, a Burrowing Owl!

As I got home that day and e-Birded my sightings into eBird, I checked up on my total for Glendale Recharge Ponds, and it was 199.  So now, I have only one more bird to go at Glendale to reach 200.  I wonder what it will be?  Probably a migrant in the riparian area.  There's plenty of holes to fill with potential birds that could migrate through the riparian habitats.  Back to the birds, birders at the Glendale Recharge Ponds are often greeted by raptors in the A.M., and they are commonly American Kestrels and Ospreys.

Shorebirds have been around in high numbers and in good force lately.  Most of the expected species have arrived at the ponds at some point, and there are a few that I am still waiting for.  One of the neat shorebirds has been the Semipalmated Plover, and they have been commonly foraging on mudflats with peeps.

Looking in dense flocks of Long-billed Dowitchers carefully will at times result in finding the odd and awesome Stilt Sandpiper.  This Calidris is more of a mix between a Yellowlegs and Dowitcher than anything.  The Stilt is one of my favorite shorebirds. and they look very different in their non-breeding plumage they are in right now as opposed to their breeding plumage.  

Shorebirds often remain distant for the camera, but some may be close to the path for a decent photo, like the ones above.  The American Avocet is one that usually remains cooperative time in and time out.

When the local Peregrine decides to make his daily run, he spooks every shorebird and duck in the Recharge Ponds.  It looks like a cloudy mess of birds when the Falcon arrives.  

When I arrived in the morning today at the Ponds, I ran into Jeff Ritz and he found a couple Soras by the parking area.  There is a canal by the parking area that has marsh habitat in it, which is good during the year for Soras and Virginia Rails.

I also had the thrill of an up-close encounter with a Green Heron along a canal that goes between the Basins.  He was muddy footed and grumpy at first, but then cooperatively posed for photographs.

One of the better sightings came from my first Black Tern of 2014.

I headed out west to other locations including the Arlington Valley in search of birds.  I was hoping I would find a vagrant due to the recent storms in one of the many ponds in the area.  The ponds were vagrantless, but one has to get their butt out there to try after big storms like this.  Although there weren't any rarities around, I did have some cool sightings.  It's cool to see three different white Egrets in one camera view.  Great, Snowy, and Cattle, chilling like bros.  

The Great left before I could get closer, but Cattle and Snowy stuck around.  The Cattle Egret is uncommon while the other two are very common.  It's not too often I see them up close.

A flock of about 350 White-faced Ibis were also present, but they were scared away by this Peregrine Falcon.  The Ibis were very close to me when they took off, and it is quite amazing to be in the middle of a high density of them while they are in flight.

Concluding, fall has gotten off to a decent start.  There are always many highlights every fall throughout Arizona.  Hopefully many of those highlights will fall in the lenses of my binoculars and camera...


  1. Awesome post and photos Mr. Tommy!!! Awe that BLTE and STSA are not on my year list YET!!! That photo with the three amigos is awesome, it's hard getting all three of them in the same view!

    1. Thanks Caleb! You've still got time to get those birds on your year list, the Stilts are coming through in pretty good numbers right now. I was very happy with the Egret observation; photo opportunities like that are rarely present!

  2. Loaded. That's what this post is. Good grief, where do I begin? New patch bird (I absolutely love them Burrowers), a clear, unobstructed picture of a Sora, Peregrine Falcon crushes, a Peregrine Falcon chasing cool shorebirds, and that awesome egret picture which will be sought by any future publishers of birding field guides as a comparison photo.

    I was shorebirding a couple weeks ago and looking at some Stilt Sandpipers. I was hoping they would actually be a Dowitcher sp. as I've not seen one. My buddy taught me that the Stilts look like a sandpiper but feed like a dowitcher - a great clue to deal with their shifty plumages.

    1. Thanks Josh! The rewards of patch birding can be some of the best. I haven't freaked out at the sight of a Burrowing Owl in a long time. I never get sick of seeing Burrowers, but I see them very often and to get one at Glendale was something special that I didn't think would happen. The Sora and Peregrines were quite friendly to me. I was shocked at the sight of the Egrets and whipped out my camera as fast as I could. It was a very rewarding thing to see and certainly something I will have trouble seeing again.

      Stilt Sandpipers are awesome, I love how they have multiple characteristics. Whenever you get your first Dowitcher, you'll enjoy it, they are awesome as well!

  3. Loving the grumpy Green Heron. There's so much character in that photo of him trudging away :)

    1. Thanks Emily! Green Herons are awesome, they are quite the characters.