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.