Monday, September 18, 2017

A Pink Martini

Black-necked Stilts
Craving something sweet, I went shopping at the outdoor market.

Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge
So much eye candy everywhere.

Brewer's Sparrow
And it was cool and breezy!

The nice temps encouraged me to explore more.

Common ground-dove
It was nice to be able to linger around and look at things.

Giant Mesquite Bugs
In fact, the weather was SO nice that I didn't feel like rushing home right away. 

Lark Sparrow
It was hard to remember why I came to the outdoor market in the first place.

Wilson's Warbler
Keep her moving.

Clay-colored Sparrow
I went down the martini aisle.  I looked right.

There's nothing better than a pink martini.  But it's all about getting the balance right and choosing a good vodka.

Swaison's Hawk

Most martinis are dry but this one had to be sweet.

As I walked further down the liquor aisle, I spotted my Triple Sec.  Now for the cranberry juice....

One. Two. Three shakes and voila!

Roseate Spoonbills
Pink Martini made.  So glad I went to the market!

Nothing better than a cool pink drink to celebrate the beginning of fall weather. 

The Roseate Spoonbills are rare for the state of Arizona.  For more on the birds discovered on this day in the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge, click here.  Until next time.....

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Catalina Highway

Sometimes you just have to get away.

Western Bluebird
I took a drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon on that Catalina Highway.

Turkey Vulture
For several early hours, I just took in the cooler temps and enjoyed feeling cold.

And while I stood alone in the forest.....

......I watched the birds actively feed all around me.

White-breasted Nuthatch
There were many young ones following their parents from branch to branch and from tree to tree.

Yellow-eyed Junco
The end of summer is near.  Soon the young ones will be leaving with their parents.

Western Wood-Pewee
Characters, like this Northern Flicker, may choose to winter on Mt. Lemmon over the winter OR head on down to the warmer temps of Tucson.

Northern Flicker
Others, like this Pygmy Nuthatch below, will remain here.

Pygmy Nuthatch
Hawks are moving through the area now. Many are heading south passing through the Catalinas.

Red-tailed Hawk
After this crazy summer, things are starting to get back to normal again. With temps cooling down below 100 degrees, I'm feeling my energy come back.  It's not easy getting trapped inside your home for more than a week over the course of 2 or 3 months. More adventures coming soon.....

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Las Aventuras: Arizona Waterfowl

Greetings everyone! With fall migration upon us and wintering birds arriving,  I'll be writing a series of posts on Arizona birds. I'll discuss the common or rare occurrences of these birds in the state of Arizona. So if you come to Arizona, what should you expect to find as a birder?  Part one of this blog series focuses the AZ waterfowl. 

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks.  While not a super rare duck for the lower half of the US, one needs to be in the right areas to find them.  In Texas, they are everywhere. But if you're in Arizona, where and when can you expect to find them?  They are really common during our summer months here in Southern Arizona during monsoon season.  In places like Rio Rico or Amado, you'll often find them with little babies.  Phoenix has a small population that lives there year round.  During our winter months, they are difficult to find as they do slightly migrate south into Mexico.  On occasion, I have seen a group in February or March when they are considered "rare" for the state. This is often a duck birders search for here in Arizona.  

My first record of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks in Costa Rica
Several ducks I always keep my eyes open for during our migration and winter months are the Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Baikal Teal, Garganey, Harlequin Duck and Tufted Ducks. These are considered EXCELLENT birds and the gems of the AZ birding community. This year, the Fulvous Whistling-Ducks were seen in the city of Glendale at a Recharge Pond.  

A Long-tailed Duck shows up at the Glendale Recharge Pond in Phoenix and stays for quite awhile!
Speaking of rare AZ appearances, the Long-tailed Duck.   This duck is very common in Wisconsin. I'm so used to finding them in icy waters along our Lake Michigan piers.  So for one to appear in Arizona?!? Yes, it does rarely happen. This is one of my favorite ducks to observe in the wild.  During the months of December and January, AZ listers should keep an eye out for this bird.  Long-tailed Ducks are NOT common at all here but a few do stop and recharge for a day or more around the lakes and recharge ponds.  With this Long-tailed Duck, he stayed for about a month!

Green-winged Teal
So what waterfowl can you easily expect to observe in Arizona? During the winter months, birders find lots of wonderful ducks!  And the ducks aren't afraid of you either.  Back in Wisconsin, they tend to stay far away thanks in part to hunting.  They know that people will shoot them.  Here in lovely Arizona, many of the ducks find a safe refuge at our local parks and golf courses. I remember one time a birder told me how shocked she was to have Canvasback come right up to her!   

Anyhow, Canvasback, Redheads, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwall, Bufflehead, Green and Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintail(they still tend to be shy), Cinnamon Teal(this is one people look for here), and Ruddy Ducks are all pretty common.

So what's MORE difficult to find?  To step up your game, you'll have to have patience. You'll comb through the endless American Wigeons and regular ducks to find those "less common" birds.  Take for example this Wood Duck.  They can be tricky, but they are present if you know where to look. 

Wood Duck
However, if you see a Mandarin Duck, don't get too excited. OR DO GET EXCITED!  If you play the ABA game, they don't count here in Arizona.  They are pretty though.  Every single time one pops up, I have to listen to ABA birders talk about how they are escapees from the Phoenix zoo with a small breeding population.  Ok ok, I get it ABA peeps, this duck isn't worth your time.  It's still a bird and it's still worthy of a pic:)

Mandarin Duck
Other ducks NOT countable if you play the ABA game?  Muscovy Ducks.  They are also considered escapees from somewhere.  Apparently people love to eat them.  If you want your Muscovy to count, you'll have to go to Florida to add them to your ABA list. My true experiences with Muscovy Ducks are that they are EXTREMELY shy in the wild.  

Domestic Muscovy Ducks and Muscovy Hybrids are seen occasionally in Arizona
The Scaups.  During our winter months, we have both Lesser and Greater Scaups.  I know both these birds well.  I think my spirit bird is the Greater Scaup.  I found one this year in Tucson for the birder club.  Lesser Scaups are very common here during our winter but Greater Scaups are NOT AS COMMON.  But that's what makes them fun.  With a little patience and confidence, a birder may find one hanging out with the Lessers.  They are considered "rare" here but I would say they aren't as uncommon as many think.  Look for the wide nail on the bill, the rounder head and the wider white area around the bill to help with the ID.  The Greater, as suggested in the name, is also larger than a Lesser Scaup. 

A female Greater Scaup
The Mergansers. There are three species and they all winter here.  The Common Mergansers are common here.  The Hooded Mergansers are fairly common in the right areas.  The rarest merg is the Red-breasted Merganser.  However, they regularly show up every year in the state in deeper waters.  Sometimes they do make a quick and rare appearance at our local watering holes.

Hooded Merganser
The Scoters. Yep. We get all three scoters here.  I was shocked as well.  They also can show up during our winter months and are what I would consider rare.  A birder must check the deepest lakes, many times with a scope, to see these birds. During a winter storm, a Black Scoter was blown into the Tucson area.  A year later, I saw my first Surf and White-winged Scoters up in the Phoenix area. They ARE rare and usually are found in December.  

White-winged Scoter
The Goldeneyes.  Both are fairly common in the right habitat.  They are both regular to the state and can reliably be found in certain areas.  The Common Goldeneye can be quite common.  The Barrow's Goldeneye requires a little patience because they look similar to a Common Goldeneye. SO read up on your field marks!  Generally it is found up in the Lake Havasu area where the bird will winter. 

Common Goldeneye

Wigeons.  And finally, let's talk about our wigeon crew.  American Wigeons flock to Arizona in the THOUSANDS during the winter months. A few do stay during our summer months.  American Wigeons are easily found around our area but it's the Eurasian Wigeon that everyone hopes to spy.  Over the past several years, a Phoenix park and a lake in Willcox have been home to several Eurasian Wigeons.  They can be a regular "rarity" among the thousands of American Wigeons.  The trick here is having a little patience and picking one out from the crowd:)

American and Eurasian Wigeon side by side
Winter birding is fun and relatively easy.  It's made better with a scope and a cup of coffee.  There are MANY more birds that are found alongside our AZ duck crowd and I'll cover those in the next several blog posts.  Our next feature will be geese and swans. As we get into different bird groups, things will get more interesting as theories begin to develop for certain birds.  Until next time....

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Crazy Daisy

Five-striped Sparrow
Every year, I wonder how I'll end up seeing the Five-striped Sparrow in Arizona because somehow I always do. I never plan on searching for the bird but it's the birding community that demands to see this very special sparrow.  So once again this year, birder friends from Wisconsin really needed to end the search for their nemesis sparrow.  It was the last one on their list for the lower 48 of the US.  In Phoenix, my friends take people to see the LeConte's Thrasher.  Down here, it's the Red-faced Warbler and Five-striped Sparrow that people want to see. 

A very bright Warbling Vireo!
Last year in December, I had some sort of sinus infection that affected my hearing loss.  For several months, I wasn't able to hear the lower/softer hoot/chip notes of the birds and I became a little scared. The allergies/sinus infection cleared up and my ears are back to 100 percent again.  The reason I share this story?  Had I not heard the chip notes of the bird, I wouldn't have been able to pinpoint the location of the Five-striped Sparrow on the hillside. My eyes are soooo bad, but my ears act like my binoculars and locating beacons. 

Veined Ctenucha Moth
So as we all searched for birds, we noticed lots of wonderful bugs (and a snake!)  It's fun helping people find their birds and teaching them their calls.  

We did VERY well that day.  We heard and saw all of the Southern Arizona specialties like the Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Elegant Trogon, Sulfur-bellied Flycatchers, Five-striped Sparrow and even heard Montezuma Quail!  

I have to say though, the female Elegant Trogon was SILENT and I would have missed that one completely if it wasn't for Tom's eyes!  Even with his scope, I had a hard time finding the bird.  The female blended in perfectly with her surroundings at a very healthy distance (so for Tom to spot this bird with his binoculars was epic).  

Tiny Checkerspot

We had beautiful weather that day in Box and Florida Canyons.  

If you come to Southern Arizona this time of year, it's hard NOT to notice all the insects.  There are SO MANY strange and beautiful looking bugs. 

Sleepy Orange
 States in the US continue reporting a decline in bee populations.  I'm not sure if that's happening here in Arizona.  But again, I'm not sure if they've done research in the state.  What I can tell you is that I've observed healthy populations of bee species here in Southern Arizona.  I don't see the Sonoran Bumble Bee often, but then again, I'm not looking for it while on my treks.  I try to stay away from the buggier trails like the DeAnza trail this time of year.  I showed Tom and Carol a piece of this awesome trail and now I am regretting it with all the chigger bites:)  Chiggers are the worst!  

As we said our good-byes for the morning, we took a photo remembering the awesome views of the Five-striped Sparrow.  No longer a nemesis for these two amazing birders.  

An awesome moment!  Note to self, hair cut needed and that hat I'm wearing makes me look goofy
As I headed home looking forward to a shower from the suspect chigger attack on my legs, I looked over at the water treatment plant to see if I could spot the rare Brown Pelican.  I saw the bird and I saw a ton of birders there.  The pelican has been at this spot for weeks now. Surely they weren't there for that bird.  I continued down the highway and something inside of me told me to check the listserv.  Sure enough, another common but rare migrant for this time of year, the Sabine's Gull, was hanging out at the Amado WTP.  I high tailed it back to that spot to add this bird to my Pima County list.  

Sabine's Gull

There are several lifetime goals as a birder in general.  First priority, life birds.  Second priority, AZ State birds.  Third priority, Pima County birds. On this day I added Lucifer Hummingbird, Sabine's Gull and Five-striped Sparrow to my Pima County list.  Super exciting!  That doesn't happen very often!

While there, yet another state bird was being reported, the Roseate Spoonbill.  And not just one but TWO!  So Deborah Carney said let's go and I said ok.  I wasn't feeling the drive alone to Willcox after a busy morning out so I am grateful to her for driving and her optimism even after they were reported GONE!  It didn't change the fact that we were heading to Willcox.  It's a beautiful location and the sunsets are incredible.  The smell isn't so good because there is sewage here but if you plug your nose....

After not seeing the spoonbills, I began to watch the birders and just take in the surroundings.  This soft spoken birder took advantage of the cooler breezy weather to walk the grasslands around the "lake".  Just speaking with him made me feel at ease.  

There we stood, Deborah, this kind man and myself watching the White-faced Ibis settle in for the evening.  We watched for Lesser Nighthawks but no luck.  I went over the nighthawk calls with both birders and told them to listen for the "rarer" Common Nighthawk that could be passing through the area. I've had them here in the area before.  I was with Ms. Kathie Brown the first time we heard them so many years ago.  And on this night we were rewarded with a couple loud "PEENTS".  Not a bad way to end the day.  Until next time.....

PS.  This is the best time of year to see our butterflies!  They are everywhere!

Painted Lady