Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 21

A bold little American Pipit. It was just a few feet away from me.

A Cinnamon Teal, one of my favorite ducks.

I saw 39 species today, with one "new" species for the year: Red-winged Blackbirds. It's kind of funny that after I left the Bird Preserve last week I stopped at Wal-Mart on my way home and there were a dozen in the parking lot, but hey, I'm counting birds at the preserve, not at Wal-Mart.

A pair of Verdin were building this nest just outside of the visitors center. I'll have to check on their progress next week. It was kind of fun to watch them. They'd fly off and then come back with nest materials, and then spend quite a while weaving things in and arranging them just so. And then they'd fly off again and fly back with more materials a few minutes later. I was surprised at how much progress they had made between the time I came and when I left. I am sure I could not make anything using just my mouth.

I also saw this Black-tailed Jack Rabbit come get a drink from pond 9.

Here's a picture of him racing away after he noticed me watching him. I liked it because you can see his black tail and ear tips.

Here's a picture of a Desert Cottontail for comparison with the jack rabbit. He was getting a drink on Pond 3. When he noticed me watching him, he froze and tried to become invisible.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 14

I had a blast today at the Bird Preserve. Today was the Great Backyard Bird Count, and my friend Lupe and I spent the day counting birds. We teamed up for our GBBC count and came up with 43 species between the two of us. I had 37 species for the day with 3 "new" species for the year. I have been looking for American Wigeons for the last month and a half, and today I finally found one on Pond 9 (the rest of them are mooching bread at Sunset Park in the pond with the Redheads).

My first American Wigeon of the year at the BVP.

Then I found this very accomodating Ruby-crowned Kinglet. He let me get pretty close and take several pictures. I think his eye is kind of freaky-looking in this picture, the angle and the white eye-ring make it look unnaturally large to me. But I bet he looks even freakier to the little bugs he was eating.
A Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

About this time I started hearing that people had seen Virginia Rails on Pond 1 and Pond 3. So I started to look for them. No luck. But later that afternoon, Lupe tipped me off to one on the peninsula on Pond 7. I was on the path above that pond and on a higher elevation and it let me watch it for several minutes while it fed along the shore. I wasn't very close so this next picture is blown up quite a bit on the computer.

This was one of several Virginia Rails sightings today at the preserve.

After I picked up the rail, I decided to make one last run by Pond 9. As I was heading back in, I saw some movement in the corner of Pond 6. There is a little bit of beach there in the corner and I saw a Sora feeding in the water. I was only 20 feet or so away but it didn't seem to mind me watching.

A Sora feeding in Pond 6.

As I was watching it feed in the water ANOTHER Sora came out about 15 feet further down. It stuck to the reeds. As I was watching the two Soras, a couple from Salt Lake came over to see what I was watching, and as I was pointing out the Sora, another Virginia Rail came out of the reeds briefly. We continued to watch the first Sora for several minutes, and during that time in that same little corner, we saw a Greater Yellowlegs, a Bewick's Wren, a Song Sparrow, and a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. I had apparently stumbled on the busiest spot in the preserve. I was really excited to have seen 2 Virginia Rails, and 2 Soras in such a short space of time. Combined with the American Coots and the Common Moorhens I saw today, I saw every Rail, Gallinule, and Coot on the preserve's checklist today.

Monday, February 9, 2009

February 7

It was very rainy on Saturday, but I still had a pretty good day with 39 species, 5 new. I saw a Double-crested Cormorant fly over the ponds early in the morning, right before it started raining. I could hear Killdeer calling all morning, but it took me a long time to finally find a pair of them. Swallows seem to enjoy rain and the bugs that go with it, and I saw about a half dozen Tree Swallows zipping around. A Cassin's Kingbird was near the visitor's center in the morning. And I found 3 Western Sandpipers hanging out on the peninsula on pond 7.

A male Costa's Hummingbird in a Palo Verde tree.

Because of the rain I didn't take a lot of pictures, but I took a few from the patio. There was a male Costa's Hummingbird who was energetically defending one of the feeders. Every time another hummingbird (a female Costa's, I think) came near he would just chase it off. The funny thing was he didn't seem to mind sharing the feeder with this Verdin.

A male Costa's Hummingbird and Verdin meet for lunch.
I can't believe I managed to get a photo of this!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

January 31

Saturday was nice and sunny at the Bird Preserve. There were lots of Green-winged Teal out, many of them whistling and displaying. Here's a short video of a large group of males displaying for just a couple of females. The males seem to flare their head feathers and stretch up into kind of a head-nod-tail-bob move. Towards the end of the video you can see a pair of Wood Ducks sail by in the background.

I added three birds to my year-to-date list: a Crissal Thrasher, Marsh Wren, and a Common Goldeneye. The Crissal Thrasher was half-way up a bush, tentatively singing. He probably knew it really isn't spring even though it felt like it. I've heard Marsh Wrens several times, but Saturday I saw one working its way along the reeds on one of the ponds. I was excited to find the Common Goldeneye. I've been trying to make sure I get as many of the waterfowl as I can while they are here; so when some friends tipped me off that they'd seen a Goldeneye on Pond 9, I went and looked for the duck first thing. I was with a couple of other birders and we couldn't find it anywhere, but we did get a fly by from a falcon. Later that day, I was on my way in to the visitors center and saw it really quickly between dives. I waited a minute for it to surface and got a better look, several pictures of the wake it left as it dove, and one kind of bad picture. I watched it for a few minutes and decided that we couldn't find it earlier because it was spending most of its time under water.

A Common Goldeneye between dives.

I ended up with 32 species for the day. I also saw a very fat and sassy looking coyote, a white-tailed antelope squirrel, and a small western fence lizard (I think -- I'm not really herpetologist material). I didn't see any shorebirds, although I heard others had seen a Greater Yellowlegs and a few peeps. The Northern Harriers were very active today, flying low over the ponds and appearing to drop down on prey several times. I also saw an Orange-Crowned Warbler, lots of Abert's Towhees, a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers, and no White-Crowned Sparrows.