Monday, June 1, 2015

Urban Leisure

Great-tailed Grackle
Phoenix.  It's a city full of heat, buildings, highways and people. It's also home to many conventions which includes the Phoenix Comicon.  And it's the only time of year when I stop to take a break from birding.  Well kinda.  


Cast members from Battlestar Galactica, Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, entertain the crowds with their personal stories.
Some birders have the strength to switch off their birding powers. Meaning they can focus on the wedding, meeting or conversation in which they are presently engaged.  I do not have that control.  While eating breakfast with my brother and friends, I watch little House Sparrows "steal" food from around our tables.  It's amazing how these little birds work their way around people in the deadly heat. And yet somehow they do. 


House Sparrow on the prowl
In fact, the older part of downtown Phoenix really isn't a great place to bird at all. It's amazing that ANY birds can survive the heat.  But wherever dirty humans are; there be birds that thrive from our carelessness. Convention centers bring in hordes of people all year round creating an endless supply of food scraps.  Enter the Great-tailed Grackles, Rock Pigeons, Doves, House Sparrows and........well that's about it:)  Or so I thought.



Out of curiosity and a much needed break from the crowds, I grabbed my gear and headed a block away to a little green oasis in the center of town.  Without a car, I decided to go to the only spot with a tiny grove of trees. Above is the map that details just how much concrete surrounds the hotel.  However, if you take a closer look, there is just a tad bit of green indicating trees, shade, water and.....lawn. This is a perfect migrant trap. Thanks to the skyscraper buildings surrounding this area, shade protects this oasis from the scorching afternoon temps.  On this day, the temp was 105 degrees.  


Looking at a map from on top is helpful, but it doesn't always give the "at level" scale.  Here is the space from ground level.  Why are these pics important?  Let's take a look. Starting from bottom left you'll notice an Anna's Hummingbird feeding from a Penta garden.  Pentas and Coral Fountains(vertical upper right) make great hummingbird plants.  And indeed they were used by both Anna's and Black-chinned Hummers. Also note there is water, grass and tree cover.  When all of these things are present, special types of birds can be found.



Normally this time of year, American Robins can be found at higher altitudes around canyons and mountain tops. BUT on this day, I heard a thrush calling in the concrete jungle.  I traced the song to a tree and discovered a pair of Robins!  Never in a million years did I expect to find these birds here.  It didn't look like they were in any rush to leave the area as they fed in the narrow and shaded grass strips of the park. This kinda stuff blows my mind away.  I've seen the robin thousands of times but this sighting was pretty special.  

the male American Robin
The heat eventually got to this human and it was back to the convention center.  There I hung out with my brother(dressed in the Batman outfit he created) and watched people get excited while having their pictures taken next to him.  He does an amazing job with all that latex stuff.  



It was also great hanging out with my buds Gabi, Justin, Nick and Brian.  Of course, anything that has science fiction mixed up with birds has my full attention.  I purchased several creative pieces of art which include this irritated looking Chewbacca below.  Or as several friends have called him.....Jaybacca:)  I'm not sure where I'll hang these pics, but I'm glad I purchased them:) Whenever you see art that speaks to you, purchase it!  I saw this painting and kept returning to it.....which meant.....buy it!:)


Darrell Driver Fine Art
Also of important note this week, I added a new bird, the Abert's Towhee, to my yard list bringing the total to 42 bird species. Not bad for being in the middle of the city.  AND, I was asked to write an article for Bird Watcher's Digest!  There's always something exciting happening in the bird world and I'm glad to share it with you all. 


And finally, here are some images from the Phoenix area.  Every year, it's tradition to visit the Mute Swans on our way home.  These Mute Swans have attempted to nest over the past two years.  Each time, they have failed. 


juvenile Harris's Hawk
 Maybe coyotes or hawks were to blame for their empty nests?  This time around it looks like there was some human intervention.  They are loved by quite a few people and it looks like they are treated very well. 


The male kept a close eye on me....and I him:)  While this pic below isn't great, it shows that mom and dad are new parents to FIVE goslings!  Congrats!  I like to keep my distance from any type of nest, but it was fun hanging out with the flock for awhile. 


Hope you have a great week and stay tuned for more:)  Don't forget to check out Wild Bird Wednesday(upper left link) and Hootin' Anni's Chronicles



22 comments:

  1. WOW! That is a fantastic shots of the Harris Hawk and I love the lighting on the Swans

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    1. Just happened to be the perfect setting for them:) I agree! Beautiful birds!

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  2. I always enjoyed walking in the gardens at the Arizona Center. It's so very well manicured, plenty of places to sit, and seems somewhat quiet compared to other areas of downtown. I'm hoping to return to Phoenix in the next few months. I've been gone almost five years. I'll have to get to know the town all over again! Oh, and by the way, your brother's costume is amazing. Had to believe it wasn't crafted by a professional. Or maybe he is!

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    1. Yes. It's one of my favorite spots to look at in this area. It was fun going as a birder this time to this spot to see what was hanging out. It has taken my brother years to get that costume stuff down but he loves it. It's his way to deal with the stresses of life. I'll let him know you said so. If you come to Phoenix and have a bit of time and want company, let me know. I know how trips can be so no stress. But the offer is there. All my best. Chris

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  3. I love that where ever you are Chi's you're always on the lookout for birds... and you find them! I have a feeling g that Phoenix gets even hotter than Perth and at least we are surrounded by water :)

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    1. I hope so too....but I think that now wherever I will go, I will see it all differently:) I KNOW Phoenix gets hotter than Perth. BUT, I think you might have some humidity there making it just as miserable during the summer:) But there's always the water to cool off:)

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  4. Fantastic urban bird sightings - I always wonder how they survive at the more extreme ends of the temperature scale. Lovely to see the baby swans, too!

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  5. What a great birding adventure you had in the middle of the urban landscape! Your got some terrific shots, and that painting sure is unique!

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  6. Great looking Grackle, but really like the flight shot of the hawk.

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  7. What a lovely oasis in the middle of the city. The water looks so refreshing. It must be a great attraction for urban wildlife. Great shots of the birds, especially the swan family. I like Jaybacca too!

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  8. Bird Watcher's Digest! I am so excited for you! I am happy that you are being noticed in the Birder world! I love the photos, but just thinking about Phoenix makes me have heat stroke! :-) It's been SOOO hot here today (well, the last several days) and I hate it when it gets like this. You go outside in your flip-flops and can feel the tops of your toes sizzling! The Chewbaca art is great! Loved the swan and the goslings, and well, it's all so great. I can't believe I had Abert's Towhees in my yard before you did...that makes me happy to have a meaningful first of any kind! :-) You blow me away with everything else. All my best this week! Your Tucson blogger friend, Marie.

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  9. Hello Chris! I love the Hawk shot, awesome! Great collection of urban birds and photos. The painting is unique. Enjoy your day!

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  10. Another great post Chris - its one of the things I love about birding you can see birds wherever you are. I've watched them wheeling over a football stadium whilst at a football match and blackbirds on the roof of the Globe Theatre London whilst seeing a play.

    Great news about Bird Watcher's Digest - well done :)

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  11. The grackle is amazing. Interesting combo of sci fi and birds too, great fun!

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  12. Oh boy, I'm sure it was 'hot' there in Phoenix.

    Loved this post, the art, the convention, the cool water...and the lovely birds.

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  13. Wonderful shots of birds, a great variety.

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  14. At the opening of your post I really thought you'd skipped birding for a day. Of course i should have known better. A birder never switches off - well hardly ever. Just for one or two things. There's a guy in England who makes a living from being The Urban Birder.

    I like the Blue Jay picture and I really think that's you Chris in the Batman outfit.

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  15. I'm seriously impressed by your brother's Batman outfit, Chris!

    How wonderful to find that little bit of cool paradise in a place that's hotter than Hell! Life is full of surprises, and this seems to have been one of the better ones!

    Best wishes from UK - - - - Richard

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  16. Really enjoyed your post. What a great photo of the hawk! I kinda like the Chewbacca art. The blue eyes keep drawing me in. :)

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