I had several enjoyable highlights during my morning today that I was able to capture on camera. When I arrived at Tres Rios, the temperature was cool and it was partly cloudy. Rain didn't cross my mind, but a storm blew in quickly and I made it back to my truck before I got drenched by the pour down. Before that took place, I noticed an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk sitting motionless and waiting for prey in dense brush.
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is one that I always enjoy seeing. The reason is because it's North America's smallest hawk. Their abilities as bird hunters really are amazing despite the small size of this bird. Sometimes I forget that I'm even observing a hawk due to the small size of this raptor. This Sharp-shinned Hawk at Tres Rios today was sitting motionless and very close by when I luckily caught sight of it. Sharp-shinned Hawks belong to a genus of hawks called Accipiter, and they are the smallest of the three such species found in North America. This "Sharpie" today was waiting for an unfortunate passerine to devour until I scared it off. I was also about twenty feet away when I first caught sight of the bird. If it weren't for the branches in the way, then I would have a killer Sharpie photo.
When the rain came, I quickly hiked back to the truck. Before and after going to the Overbank Wetlands, I went to a nearby dairy pond in midst of the many farms near the Tres Rios area. I was able to see Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks yesterday in this pond, and I went in hopes that the Fulvous Whistling-Ducks would maybe find their way to it. When I went before Tres Rios, there weren't any Whistling-Ducks to be seen. However on the visit after Tres Rios, I pulled up to see a flock of 12 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in the pond. Yesterday most of the ducks were bedded down in pond-side grass and weren't showing very well. This time, the ducks were completely visible, and I was happy with the result. I haven't spent quality time with this neat-looking duck up close in a long time!
As a result of me trying to get closer to the ducks, they luckily flew over to a closer side of the pond. In flight, the Black-bellied has a distinctive white "wing-stripe" that the Fulvous will never show.
The ducks were then closer-than-before, and I decided to go out and enjoy them and photograph them despite the rain coming down.
Here is a shot of all twelve....
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are hit-or-miss most of the time when birding in Maricopa County, and Tres Rios is the best place to observe them. It has been well over a year since I have really had good looks at one like I have had today. Not bad for a farm slop pond, eh?
On the way home, I had luck with a bird that is usually very shy and out of good camera range. I looked up on a pole wire to see a pretty female Belted Kingfisher sitting there. On the south side of a traffic-limited 115th Avenue, I pulled a u-turn and photographed this Kingfisher. She wasn't very nervous of my presence, luckily.
The Belted Kingfisher is widespread in North America, and is the only kingfisher with that geographical range. The others that have been found in North America have limited ranges or are vagrant. One of my favorite world bird families is the kingfisher family. Seeing one of them on a regular basis is something I am lucky to have!
The Fulvous Whistling-Duck hopes have led me to hang around Tres Rios a lot lately, including the last two days. Tomorrow morning sounds like a similar forecast, but hopefully there won't be any rain in the mix. I hope to come away with this duck in the next few weeks, but at least I have awesome birds to watch and photograph in the meantime.