Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 22

I saw 4 new birds today and I'm up to 120! Pretty good, eh? I thought so, I still have 4 months of birding and fall migration to go. But, my friend Lupe has 130! Dang, more birding is in order!

This was the easiest bird of the day; Lupe pointed out this Lazuli Bunting right behind the visitor's center. Later I saw a Black-Headed Grosbeak off the patio, and a Rufous Hummingbird at the feeder.

This Black Tern was on Pond 8. Pond 8 was a great pond today. It was quite low with mudflats and rocky islands, and was packed with shorebirds. I saw dowitchers, Wilson's Phalaropes, Least and Western Sandpipers, American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts, several Northern Shovelers, and a Willet was seen there, too. I also saw a Bullock's Oriole on Pond 1, and got a great look at a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. On Pond 9 I saw a Least Bittern, Snowy Egrets, and Black-Crowned Night-Herons. It was the most productive day birding I've had in a while.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

August 8

I saw a solitary Solitary Sandpiper today. (A little bird humor for you!) I also figured out that I have somehow managed to fill up an 8 MG card with pictures of birds and my kids! So no pictures today. But it was really nice at the Bird Preserve; it was surprisingly cool in the morning and there were mudflats on Pond 1. That's were I saw the little loner, and a lot of other birds, including Wilson's Phalaropes, Green Herons, a Great Blue Heron, Great and Snowy Egrets, Western and Least Sandpipers, Killdeer and a handful of others.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 1, catching up again

Here's a bird for you ladies! These are Wilson's Phalaropes feeding. They spin like tops to create a vortex that stirs up their food. Not only are they fun to watch, they are very unusual because they have reversed sex roles. The females are larger and more brightly colored than the males and do the courting, and the males incubate the eggs and care for the chicks. Kind of an interesting bird. I saw these on August 1.

Sorry I have a bad case of brain fry. It's not heat stroke or heat exhaustion, it's just a general feeling of blah and a lack of energy and enthusiasm. I've been going to blog for weeks, but I haven't. But I do have several "new" birds to add to my list, so I'll get cracking.

On July 17, I saw this Common Nighthawk. It caught me by surprise; I usually see them very early in the morning, but I saw this one late in the afternoon as I was leaving. He was pretty cooperative and let me get a good look.

Then on July 18, I saw three birds that I was a little surprised that I hadn't seen earlier in the year: a Kestrel, Great Blue Heron, and a Cattle Egret.

On July 24, I saw a Eurasian Collared Dove, just outside the visitor's center. I tried to take a picture, but it did not cooperate and flew away when I opened the back door. Rude!

On July 25, I had a Great Horned Owl. I was was walking with a group and I was so surprised to see it fly out of a group of trees near the intersection between pond 4, 7 and 5 and over into the tamarisk on Pond 4, that I just stuttered for a minute before I got out "Owl!"

Also on July 25, I got great looks at this Long-billed Curlew. He was in Pond 8, but my approach startled him and he flew over the fence into the area behind the Bird Preserve. But he must have felt safe behind the fence, because he let me take several pictures of him.

Finally, on August 1, my friend Lupe and I observed an Osprey flying over the ponds.

Summer is always quieter at the Bird Preserve, but I am always amazed at the variety that can be found even when it is an oven outside. The staff is still recording about 60 to 70 different species every week, and I usually see 20-30 in a hour's birding. Here are few other birds that I have seen lately.

Check out the yellow legs on this Least Sandpiper.

I thought this Green Heron looked rather regal.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 11, and a catch-up post

I'm back from my blog-cation, with 4 new life birds from my real vacation, and 1 "new" bird from the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.

We went to Idaho and Utah to visit our families, and while we were in Idaho we went to Yellowstone National Park. My parents took us to LaHardie Rapids and we saw a MALE HARLEQUIN DUCK! (Oh, sorry, I'll calm down now.) I was really excited, it was a beautiful bird and as you can see was hanging out in some crazy water. I also added Clark's Nutcracker and a Gray Jay to my life list in Yellowstone, I'm sure I've seen them before camping in Yellowstone with my family, but I wasn't birding back then.

I also saw my first Gray Catbird in Idaho. I was poking around along the canal bank that runs down the back of my parents back yard when I thought I heard a cat mewing. I went to investigate and found not a cat, but a catbird! Pretty good when you get a life bird in your parents back yard!

Now for the bird that really counts on this blog: I saw an Indigo Bunting at the Bird Preserve! What a great bird! It's not on the checklist at the BVP, so it was pretty exciting to see. It was especially fun because the last few times I've been to the Bird Preserve, I haven't seen any "new" species and things get pretty quiet during the summer. However, there are still lots of babies at the Bird Preserve and they are always fun to watch.

This baby killdeer was scurrying away from me. I thought it was cute even if it wasn't in focus.

Here's a little quail family running across the road.

A pied grebe and babies, there are six in all.

An eared grebe carrying its baby on its back.
This pair of avocets was exchanging nest-sitting duties. The avocet in the rear had just come from the water, where I observed it feeding, drinking and dipping its belly feathers in the water. As it approached the nest it shook the water off its feet, and then lowered itself onto its nest. You can't really see them in the photo, but it looked like there were two eggs and one barely hatched chick. Its mate then went to feed and drink and dip its belly in the water, and then it returned and shook off its feet and lowered itself onto the nest. The water from their feathers evaporates off the eggs and helps keep them cool.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

May 29

A life bird, four "new" species for the year, and some other cool stuff! Not a bad day of birding!

The first "new" bird I saw was the Least Bittern which I spooked out of some vegetation on the bank of Pond 9 first thing in the morning. He flew into the next clump of rushes and before I had the chance to get the camera on him he had disappeared.

Eurasian Wigeon, left, and a Ruddy Duck.

Later that day I saw my lifebird, a Eurasian Wigeon, also on Pond 9. A new life bird is pretty exciting, that makes two for this year.

A White-faced Ibis walking past a nesting American Avocet on Pond 9.

There was also a flock of Brewer's Sparrows flitting from bush to bush along the edge of Pond 9. And I finally found a White-faced Ibis! I can't believe it took this long!

I also saw this male (note the blue on his throat) Desert Spiny Lizard near Pond 7. He was doing "push-ups" on the rock. I later read on the Internet that it is a territorial display.

A Killdeer pretending to be injured.

A Killdeer nest.

A Killdeer cooling its eggs.

Then a couple of Killdeer and a Roadrunner put on a real show for me. I arrived just in time to see two Killdeer run off a Roadrunner from their nest. Then one of the parents pretended to have a broken wing to lead me away from their nest. I backed off, but before I left I saw the killdeer that was sitting on the nest do an interesting thing that I had just read about that morning in a birding magazine. She went over to the edge of the pond, wet her belly feathers and came back and crouched over her eggs. Apparently as the water evaporates it cools the eggs. I read that Killdeer eggs are only viable to 108 degrees. This nest was out in the open and the only protection from the southern Nevada heat was what the parents could provide with their bodies. Amazing that they can pull it off.

Why did the Turkey Vulture cross the road?

And finally, I saw a Turkey Vulture running around on the ground. I think he had been feeding on a dead coot that was nearby. Not something you see every day.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

May 22

Wahoo! I saw a life bird Saturday at the Bird Preserve! That doesn't happen very often. It was a Yellow-breasted Chat. I even got a picture. All in all I added 5 "new" birds to my list for the year: the Chat, a Western Kingbird, a Hooded Oriole, Blue Grosbeaks, and Western Grebes. The chat perched on that tamarisk in Pond 4 for a few minutes before diving down into the brush and disappearing.

This Hooded Oriole started out my day. It was in the trees near the rear of the Visitors Center.

These two Western Grebes were on Pond 8. They were courting and it was fun to watch them. I didn't get to see them running on the water, but they were doing a synchronized head bobbing display.
I also thought this bright orange dragon fly was really neat. It was resting on a reed near Pond 9.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May 9

The white-faced ibis are hiding from me! I know they are there, but every time I go looking for them they disappear! I think it is so funny that I can't find a bird that is so common at the Bird Preserve.

But I did have a good day birding and added another five species to my list. In my first picture you can see a Yellow Warbler, complete with reddish streaks on his breast. I also saw a Common Yellowthroat, but he really made me work for my sighting. I could hear him down in the reeds, but it took two tries and about 30 minutes of watching to get one quick glimpse! I also saw more Wilson's Warblers.

A Northern Mockingbird near Pond 4.

I added a couple of birds that are all over in my neighborhood, but I rarely see them at the Bird Preserve: a Rock Dove (pigeon), and a pair of Northern Mockingbirds.

A Western Wood Peewee in the parking lot.

I saw this flycatcher in the parking lot and took a whole bunch of pictures because I knew I'd have to consult a field guide to ID him. I am pretty positive he's a Western Wood Peewee, but shoot me a comment if you think I'm wrong. My friend Lupe and I conferred with Sibley, and decided that his lack of an obvious eye-ring, his two wingbars (the upper weaker than the lower one), his long wings and primary projection, and his dusky vest, seemed to narrow it down.

Western Wood Peewee from the front.

I also got some nice shots of this Black-chinned Hummingbird resting beneath the shade of the patio awning. All-in-all a good day at the Bird Preserve.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

May 2

I took my boys birding on Saturday. Actually, I should say I took my kids lizard-ing, bunny-ing, bee-ing, ant-ing, and, lastly, birding. My husband had to work so I took my kids to the Bird Preserve so that we could all get out. They had fun, I got sunburned but they didn't, I felt like a good mommy, and, yes, I even saw two new species! Pretty good for birding with kids who were more interested in finding the perfect stick than in seeing any birds.

I do have to brag a little and say that my 6-year-old can now identify Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Ruddy Ducks, pigeons and grackles. He might not be the next birding prodigy, but I think that's pretty good for a kindergartner.

As for my new birds? I saw a starling on the wires above the visitors' center as we were coming in. (I know, it's just a starling, but it's still a new species for the year.) I also got a couple of quick looks at a pair of Bullock's Orioles in the trees along the out side of Pond 3. The male was stunning: bright orange and black! I tried to get a picture, but he was not cooperating (and by that point, neither were my kids). I also enjoyed watching a couple of Wilson's warblers flitting around in a tree while we sat on a bench and had a snack (gluten-free granola). The only bloggable picture I got was this female (no blue on its belly) zebra-tailed lizard.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 25

I added 5 more species to my list on Saturday: This Spotted Sandpiper, which was feeding on the beach of Pond 1, a Wilson's Phalarope on Pond 9, and in the trees around the visitors' center, I found a Wilson's Warbler, a Nashville Warbler, and a couple of House Sparrows. (It's kind of funny that it took me this long to see a House Sparrow, but you don't see them that often at the Bird Preserve.) That brings my year-to-date total at the Bird Preserve to 90. And I have to admit that I'm feeling pretty good about that.

Usually you can identify phalaropes because they spin while they swim. But since this one was wading and not swimming, it took me a few seconds to realize that I was looking at a Wilson's Phalarope.
This male Ruddy Duck was taking a nap on the edge of Pond 9. I thought he might be hurt so I approached him to check (I wasn't as close as it looks, that picture is still zoomed in). Anyway, he was just annoyed that I was disturbing his nap. He hissed at me a couple of times and then swam away. When I came back around the pond he was resting in the same spot.

I also saw a couple of Great Egrets in breeding plumage on Pond 9. Check out his feathers!

The Crissal Thrashers were teed up and singing. If you look closely you can see his down-curved bill. The first time I heard one sing, I did a double take because I was so suprised that such a beautiful song could come out of that bill!

The cacti are blooming and I couldn't resist this yellow blossom against the purple and green of the pad. I love the macro setting on my camera. Speaking of my camera, I posted this later than usual because I couldn't find the USB cable for my camera; my husband was cleaning up after me.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 18

Black-crowned Night Heron on Pond 4.

It was not a good day for birds. Well, I suppose that the birds had a good day, because it was sunny and about 80 degrees. But the only new bird I saw was a Brown-headed Cowbird (I know, I know -- scourge of the songbirds) and the bird I missed was a Eurasian Collared Dove (I know, I know -- it's introduced). But I had a fun day anyway. I saw the largest group of Black-Crowned Night Herons that I've seen so far this year. There were about a dozen of them that came in to roost in the tamarisk on Pond 4.

A Queen butterfly on quail brush.

It's a good thing my friend Lupe was around Saturday. She's actually the one who found the cowbird, and then she identified this butterfly for me (a Queen butterfly) and then she found this cool snake. If she hadn't been there, you'd be looking at pictures of coots!

Red Racer in front of the visitors' center.

I'm not a snake girl, but I believe this is a young red racer (Western Coachwhip). If you know differently leave me a comment. Actually, if anyone besides my mom is reading this, leave me a comment! Happy birding -- even on the days you end up looking at butterflies and snakes!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

April 11

Wow! Look at that cinnamon underwing! I was lucky enough to catch this Marbled Godwit just as it stretched its wings. That peachy color is one of the diagnostic characteristics of this bird. I think it is just stunning. There were three Marbled Godwits on Pond 9 on Saturday. I had to pass by the pond a couple of times before I caught them feeding and not just resting with their bills under their wings. It was worth the effort, I got a great look, and added another species to my list of "new" birds for the year. Besides the Marbled Godwits, I added 3 other "new" species.

There were 2 Bonaparte's Gulls on Pond 1. Gull ID is difficult and I am definitely not an expert at it, but there were several other experienced birders there and the other gull had an obvious dark ear spot, and this one seems to be transitioning into first summer plumage. It also has a slender, straight and pointed mandible, whereas a young Franklin's would have a stockier, less pointed mandible.

I found several Cliff Swallows on the lines near the visitors center, but it was a hazy day and the light was so bad I wasn't able to photograph anything but silhouettes.

I also saw my first Black-necked Stilts of the year. There were several on Pond 9, and they have been observed several times at the preserve over the last few weeks. I think they are very appropriately named.
The first of the cactus blossoms were open Saturday. If you look closely you can see a pollen-covered bee busily working away. Blossoms are beginning to appear on the Palo Verde trees, Red Yucca plants and penstemons.

Monday, April 6, 2009

April 6

Oh, I had fun today! Today was the first day of Spring Break, and the first chance I've had to bird for a couple of weeks. Our whole family was waylaid by a really nasty cold, and between taking care of sick babies and then catching the cold from them I just haven't been able to get out for about three weeks. But today I saw some really exciting "new" birds.

My friend called me last week to tell me she had seen a Long-tailed Duck at the Bird Preserve. Unfortunately, I couldn't go out and since I hadn't heard any more I assumed that it had left. But today another, or possibly the same, Long-tailed Duck was seen on Pond 6. It took a couple of tries to find it, but I eventually did and even got a picture. (I did have to blow it up on the computer, though.) I was especially excited because it is rarely seen at the Bird Preserve. It's only the second one I've seen at the Bird Preserve in 8 years. This male was kind of difficult to observe because he kept diving, but he is really stunning. They don't show well in my photo, but he has a long black feathers that come out of his tale.

And as if one rare bird wasn't enough, I saw a juvenile Golden Eagle! It has been several years since I saw one at the Bird Preserve. I was so surprised that I forgot to even try to take a picture and before I knew it he was gone. I also saw two other "new" birds: a Turkey Vulture, and a Black-chinned Hummingbird.

I also saw this family of Canada Geese, there were 5 goslings. It looked like they were walking down the road and then the goslings needed to take a break. I had mixed feelings at seeing these little ones; geese have started nesting at the Bird Preserve just in the last few years, and the goslings usually don't survive. Geese are vegetarian grazers, and while the adults can get by on the tough desert plants, the goslings haven't been as fortunate. While I wouldn't want to see the Bird Preserve taken over by geese, my mom instincts were kicking in and I wanted to go over and gather them up and find them a nice green lawn. (Of course their parents probably would have pecked my head off if I had done that.)

I saw several Mallards with babies in tow. This little guy was teeny. His mother had her babies foraging near the beach on Pond 1 and they were so tiny that they must have hatched very recently. They are so cute, and it always amazes me how tough they are. They just hatch and a few hours later they are swimming around, foraging for their own dinner.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

March 14

I saw 35 species total and three "new" species Saturday: a Yellow-headed Blackbird on Pond 9, several groups of Savannah Sparrows, and a very scruffy juvenile Barn Swallow on the wires above the visitor's center. It was a beautiful sunny day and spring was in the air. All around the preserve you can see nest building and birds trying to attract a mate or pairing off.

This is the scruffiest looking Barn Swallow that I've ever seen. But I was excited to see it, because it was my first of the year. From the length of the tail, I'd say it is a juvenile.

A Tree Swallow. Kind of funny that it is sitting on wire and not in a tree.

This American Coot was precariously perched in a tree about 10 feet above the water. I watched it for a few moments hoping that, coots being coots, it might fall into the pond. No luck there.

The male Cinnamon Teals are absolutely brilliant. I caught this guy mid-splash.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

March 7

A male Ruddy Duck on Pond 1.

I did not have a lot of time to bird on Saturday, literally just minutes. So I didn't find any new species or even keep track of how many species I saw (too bad, because I heard people were seeing snipe and spotted sandpipers). But I did see my first blue-billed Ruddy Duck of the season. He was even displaying and slapping his chin on the water. Duck love is in the air.

Verdin's nest near visitor's center after 3 weeks of construction.

I also checked on the Verdin's nest and it looks like they've done some more building. I didn't see any Verdin working on the nest.