Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bubbling Pond Birding

Cassin's Kingbird
Our walk leader this morning splits his time between Maine and the Sedona area each year, and today we went to the Bubbling Pond fish hatchery. This will be on the trips for the birding festival, but you can only do so much in four days, so we went here early. As usual, some of the best birding was in the parking lot, next to a row of mulberry trees full of berries. The early sun gave good views of Cedar Waxwings and this Cassin's Kingbird.
American Goldfinch
A bright yellow bird flew in to enjoy the bounty, and Kevin decided it was an American Goldfinch rather than the Lesser Goldfinch which is apparently more common here.
My favorite was the Phainopepla, another life bird for us on this trip. It is considered a "silky flycatcher" and is the only one in its family. The plumage is dark and unpatterned except for striking white patches when they fly. It's hard to tell if this bird is black or some other color, it shines in the sun so much. And look at his red eyes! Too cool!
Bald Eagle
We had really good luck with the raptors this morning, starting with a Bald Eagle, and followed by several Cooper's Hawks.
Zone-Tailed Hawk
As the sun warmed the nearby rocks, a kettle of Turkey Vultures rose into the air circling on warm air thermals. Our leader Kevin advised us not to dismiss the group as "just vultures," since both Black Hawks and Zone-Tailed Hawks will fly with the vultures since they resemble them in the air. We found a Zone Tail Hawk and only got a quick view before it dropped beyond some trees. This hawk has grey flight feathers resembling the silver of the TV, and holds its wings in a V, as the vultures do, but it doesn't have a red head. This allows it to sneak up on prey who don't fear Turkey Vultures. The adult has two grey tail bands in flight.
Common Black-Hawk
Kevin was surprised that we hadn't seen a Black-Hawk this morning, until we headed back towards the parking lot, and found one sitting on a branch. We didn't see him fly off, but he posed nicely as we approached his perch. When it flies, it shows one broad tail band, and has very broad wings, with grey underneath, again resembling the Turkey Vulture. I hope we will find more of each in the next few days.
Red Tailed Hawk
We had good views of both a dark morph Red Tail and this beautiful light morph Red Tail.
Bosque Area
Water is an important resource in Arizona, and the Verde Valley area has abundant water. We walked around the fishery ponds towards a bosque. It looked like a nice grassy meadow, but we found benches around the edge, and Kevin said not to walk into the grass because we would sink in up to our ankles. Cottonwood trees grow next to the river, and some of them are absolutely enormous. A few yards away, the mesquite trees grow, since they can't take wet roots.
Gambel's Quail
I always love the little Gambel's Quail with their topknot feathers. This one called from a tree and Dick was the first to find it.
Great Blue Herons
Great Blue Herons waded in the water, perched in the trees, or stalked silently in the grassy fields looking for prey.
Says Phoebe
Both Say's Phoebe and Black Phoebe chased insects along with an Ash-throated Flycatcher. Kevin heard and saw some warblers I couldn't find.
Summer Tanager
As we were ready to leave for our train ride of the Verde Canyon, I heard a bird sing "picky-tucky-tuck," and sure enough we easily saw a bright red Summer Tanager in a sycamore tree. Overall, I think we saw/heard 37 species in a little over 2.5 hours. Pretty good way to start the day!

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