Monday, January 12, 2009

Ducks in the Desert?

With a map from the rental car company , some directions from a phone call to the Tucson Audubon Society and LOTS of determination, we found the most unlikely place here in Arizona. Part of the challange was overcoming the closure of most exit and entrance ramps on I-10 in downtown Tucson!
The Sweetwater Wetland is a sewer treatment pond, which attracts hundreds of ducks and other birds. I never would have thought of looking for ducks and water fowl in the Arizona desert, but we have always had good luck birding at water treatment ponds. We saw more varieties of ducks here than I normally would see in Kentucky or Indiana. Northern Shovelers were the most common, although we also saw:

American Widgeon, Mallard , Northern Pintail** , American Black Duck , Blue Winged Teal , Cinnamon Teal**, Green Winged Teal , Bufflehead (female) , Ruddy Duck (female)
As the sun set, a noisy flock of Red Winged Blackbirds, Yellow Headed Blackbirds and Brewer's Blackbirds sailed in for the evening and perched like bright yellow flowers.

A family of Harris Hawks lives nearby, and apparently views this territory as their own. We saw one hawk perched on a power pole, then saw it actually fighting (talons extended and everything) with a falcon! How's that for an exciting first day birding!
A bird resembling a Phoebe, but a bit larger, perched on a branch above the water, darting out for a bug and returning to wait for the next one. Turns out to be a Black Phoebe. We also got a quick glimpse of a Gambel's Quail and an Anna's Hummingbird. At first I thought it was a Costa, but closer examination of the field guide changed my mind.

24 species we could identify and 8 new additions to the life list. And there was afternoon, and there was evening of the first day. And it was good...

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