This blog is mainly about the birds we saw in February. Although the first several photos are actually from January.
We drove up to the Phoenix area on January 24th to bird at the Riparian Preserve at the Gilbert Water Ranch. These American Pelicans were basking in the morning light.
We were glad we went early enough to see them, because they soon flew off. One flew overhead when we exploring other trails. They are very distinctive and comical-looking birds.
There was plenty of shallow water at the Preserve. We saw at least thirty Black-necked Stilts, but this one was the closest. Black-necked stilts walk delicately on their extraordinarily long red legs.
American Avocets can be seen in BC, but when we see them there, they are in breeding plumage with rusty heads and necks. Both males and females have the same plumage, but females’ bills are strongly upturned. The bird in the photo is likely a male avocet since his bill is rather straight.
We also saw over forty Long-billed Dowitchers. They also prefer shallow muddy pools.
The most exotic bird in the Preserve was the Roseate Spoonbill. It sticks around, mostly roosting in the same area. Most of the time it was sleeping. Doug was lucky enough to catch a photo in the few minutes it was awake. Normally spoonbills are found along the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, or along the coast of Florida, so this one was a long way from its regular home.
A Nashville Warbler usually spends its winter in Mexico and farther south, but we suppose this one thought Arizona was a fine place to spend some time. Doug’s camera caught him with a curious expression.
We had reports of sightings of a LeConte’s Thrasher in the salt flats northwest of Tucson. So we went to see if we could see one too. It was a very harsh and arid environment with lots of bare sandy ground interspersed with saltbrush and creosote bushes. Here’s the view with the eastern mountains in the background.
And here’s looking in the other direction, with the western mountains in the background. A whole lot of nothing…and no LeConte’s Thrasher.
But we did see a new kind of sparrow to us (Sagebrush Sparrow) and this Sage Thrasher sang and posed.
We also had a good view of an Ash-throated Flycatcher.
If you look closely at the crook in the saguaro, you can see a tangle of sticks with a Great Horned Owl sitting on top. There were no trees in the area, so the saguaro was the best roosting spot around.
We birded at Madera Canyon a couple of times in February. It’s a much more hospitable environment. This Rufous-backed Robin was enjoying the berries in the pyracantha bush (a non-native shrub that grows to 3 metres or more.) The Rufous-backed Robin is a bit more secretive than the American Robin that we are familiar with in Canada. Notice that along with rufous colouring on its back and wings, it has an all-dark face without white markings around the eye.
This photo shows the berries on the bush really well, but it also shows a bit of the white with black-streaked throat. Not all birds pose for the camera; sometimes they stay hidden in the branches.
At Madera Canyon we can usually count on a Hermit Thrush to perch up on a rock, or in this case a branch.
On our way back to Tucson from Madera Canyon we usually stop at Canoa Ranch Conservation Park. This time there was an Eared Grebe and some Hooded Mergansers. An Eared Grebe doesn’t develop its wispy yellow plumes (which give the impression of ears) until April.
There are at least a hundred sparrows at Canoa. White-crowned sparrows are the most numerous, and are the bigger birds in the photo below. The smaller sparrows in the photo are Brewer’s Sparrows. We’ve also seen Lark, Lincoln’s, Savannah, Song and Rufous-winged Sparrows. Persistent (or lucky) people could spot a couple of Clay-coloured Sparrows among the large flocks, but we have not put in the effort required, especially for a bird we can see very easily in the summer in BC.
Another favourite birding destination is Tubac. At the end of February we were fortunate enough to get good views of a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. It’s a very small bird of just less than 4 1/2 inches or 11 centimetres long. Even though there is “Northern” in its name, it is only found as far north as southeast Arizona.
Also on that same day in Tubac, we saw a yellow-shafted sub-species of Northern Flicker. This photo doesn’t show the yellow undersides of the wings (which we saw when it flew), but the red nape crescent, gray crown and brown face are visible.
These were some of the 143 species that we saw in February 2022. In the next few weeks we will be birding in Costa Rica, so we can assure you that there will be many bird photos to view in the upcoming blogs.