Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Gila County: Eastern Bluebirds

On December 15th, I did another day full of Gila County Birding, likely my last day in 2017 in Gila County.  Hopefully much more birding in this awesome county will follow in 2018.

I visited an RV park near the Bar X Crossing Road area that I like to bird along Tonto Creek.  I had a huge highlight when I found a small flock of four Eastern Bluebirds.  The flock came to my attention when I heard their distinctive "tur-a-lee" calls.  After following the sounds, I got to see and photograph these awesome birds.  It was my 274th lifer for Gila County, and my 266th for 2017.  Also, it appears to officially be a first Gila County record.  There has been an invasion of Eastern Bluebirds into Arizona this year, most of which likely belong to the nominate eastern race.  The Mexican race of southeastern Arizona and Mexico isn't known to migrate, and isn't as bright as the nominate eastern race.  I consider myself lucky to have found these birds, which is one of the best I have been able to find in Gila County.

Here are some photographs of the Eastern Bluebirds!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Story of An Owl and A Goose

In Maricopa County, things can really get hyped up in a short amount of time.  Examples of a short amount of time can be over the course of a few days, and it can even be over the course of a few hours.  Maricopa County has exploded this year with more and more birders taking up interest in birding the region.  In this case, I got lucky to have two great experiences.  Let me tell you a short story of an owl and a goose.

On November 21st, someone located a Northern Saw-whet Owl at Gilbert Water Ranch during the day.  The owl was on a day roost and stayed in that day roost for hours.  Word didn't get out about the owl until much later in the day.  I didn't think too much of it to the fact that I was going to chase it.  On November 22nd, I had to work and didn't get off of work until 2 P.M.  I was thinking about driving to the very northwestern tip of Maricopa County to the agricultural farm fields of Aguila to check for Short-eared Owls once dusk would arrive.  Knowing it would be a long shot, I wasn't overly excited about the potential trip to Aguila.  And then news came to the listserv from Lindsay Story, and she had been shown the Northern Saw-whet Owl at Gilbert Water Ranch.  Lindsay told the birding community about the owl's perch, and right then and there, I made up my mind that I was going to go see an epic owl that was a sure thing rather than another epic owl that would only be a remote change of finding it at best.  After work, I drove through heavy Thanksgiving traffic and arrived at Gilbert Water Ranch around 3 P.M.  I went to the spot and found plenty of birders, and also, the Northern Saw-whet Owl itself.  The Saw-whet Owl was epic, and it was the first time I've ever gotten to see one of them in the day time.  Because I love to collect owl experiences, this one was one that was a great addition to the collection.  Here is a selection of photographs of this owl, enjoy..

The Northern Saw-whet Owl was seen by many for one more day after I got to see it, which was on Thanksgiving Day, at Gilbert Water Ranch.  Then November 25th came around.  It didn't look to have birding included in it at all.  With birding, things can change in seconds.  I was walking out the door of my home and on my way to responsibility when I got a phone call.  It was Melanie Herring, when I saw that she was calling me, I knew that she had something good.  Melanie has found a lot of rare birds, and this time, she was calling me to tell me that she had a Brant at Glendale Recharge Ponds.  I couldn't believe it!  A Brant!  The birding listserv was acting funky, and her attempted posts weren't going through.  She called me and I relayed the message.  Now, let's go back to my responsibility I had to attend.  For the first time in my birding, I called the responsibility off for 40 minutes and said I would be late.  And it didn't matter in the long run, there was a Brant at Glendale Recharge Ponds!  Brant is one in Arizona that doesn't stick around long after it shows up, and I didn't want to take any chances.  I sped to Glendale Recharge Ponds, ran up to basins 1 and 2 where the Brant was discovered by Melanie, I found Melanie and the Brant, thanked Melanie and enjoyed the Brant for a whole five minutes, sprinted back to my truck, and then I went to responsibility thirty minutes late.  It didn't matter, I had an epic new addition to my Maricopa County birding as well as my Arizona lifer.  Prior to this day, I had seen Brant a few times in southern California, where they are much more home in their preferred coastal habitat.  This one, at my patch at Glendale Recharge Ponds, will have a lasting effect...

Good thing that I went and saw the Brant that day.  I went back the next day in hopes of getting longer and more relaxing looks that weren't rushed.  I got there early too, and it left a minute before I got to where it was being seen by a few who got there earlier than me.  And it wasn't seen again.