Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Keeping Hope Alive

A covey of Gambel's Quail
A week went by and I sat behind my desk.  I did my lectures, graded papers and kept thinking about the White-eyed Vireo. It's what any normal middle aged person does, right?:) And then there was THAT report. Trapped behind a desk, I kept muttering the words "purple" over and over. So what could be worse than dipping on a vireo? How about reading a report stating that there was also a Purple Gallinule hiding in the reeds around the same area of the vireo??!!!  This was indeed a RARE bird alert!  But would it stick around the entire week?

After school was out, I went to several places in Tucson and just let my mind unwind.  I'm not sure if it's the stress or the heat, but these days, this birder struggles to maintain his sanity.  Our neighbor was placed into a jail where he should be left for a long time. But we know he'll be back. I've never seen so many people show up at one of these HOA functions! After it was all done, our community developed an action plan against this dangerous man. It has been both mentally and physically exhausting for all the residents here.  But I will not let this all interfere with my passion for the outdoors.  And during a moment of quiet solitude at Sweetwater, a covey of 20 Gambel's Quail surrounded me. 

They scurried around me feeding underneath the mesquite trees. We all spent a moment together in harmony. At one point, I just put the camera down and took it all in.

Granite Basin Lake
Come to find out, I wasn't the only one with the vireo flying around inside my head. Apparently Magill was in the same mind frame.  We are cheeseheads and very stubborn.  So we went back to the Granite Basin Lake in Prescott for both the White-eyed Vireo and Purple Gallinule.  This time, we would not dip. And for the records, there is only one version of "dip" that is good and it involves food. 

A VERY Green Heron
 I moseyed my way up to Phoenix stopping in Chandler to find an American Bittern.  But I ended up watching all the other birds instead!  There were so many flying around the riparian areas of this park.  The Yellow-headed Blackbirds are back and I ended up observing them instead of chasing a rare bird. 

Black-tailed Jackrabbit
There were Black-tailed Jackrabbits everywhere along the path and it was so much fun to observe them hopping...or leaping...around the various cacti. 

Chipping Sparrow
 Afterwards, I met up with Magill and we headed back to Prescott.  This time we discovered that it wasn't a hike that was needed but a bit of strategy and patience.  Actually, a LOT of patience.  People were active around the entire lake with their splashing dogs and crying children. We simply sat on a picnic table overlooking the entire lake with a scope and waited.  Another birder joined in the search and together we had every angle covered.

The secret to finding a rare Purple Gallinule is part luck and part understanding of its habitat requirements(lily pads near reeds).  It sounds simple enough but the bird is also known to be secretive. And rare for Arizona. Oh and purple. During the previous weekend, Magill and Gordon had joked about finding a Purple Gallinule in the area because the lake had all the right requirements. They both had a nerdy birder's laugh that sounded a little like a Sora calling:)  Little did we know.  Anyhow, back to that moment, Jeanine McCabe gave us the bat signal that the bird was visible.  We grabbed our equipment and headed to the area observing this secretive bird using the reeds like a staircase. We were able to watch this bird for a few minutes before a screaming child entered the picture.  Of course.  Another kid showed up and wanted to demonstrate to us how he could throw rocks in the water.  He instead got an education about how it's best to be quiet so you can find purple birds. His Dad didn't seem to mind:)

Purple Gallinule
 While we waited for the Purple Gallinule to show up, we heard the White-eyed Vireo call from across the lake a couple times. I had seen the bird before and am familiar with the call. Instead of chasing the bird for a pic, we just made note of it on our report. I have a pic below of the bird from a trek last year to Corkscrew Swamp in Florida. 

White-eyed Vireo
While they weren't lifers, they were important birds for us to add to our Arizona list.  Sometimes it pays to be stubborn:)  I can now begin my work week with a clear mind. One last story....

I met my first Purple Gallinule back in 2011 in the beautiful town of Gamboa.  I was having a nice drink with my friend on the Changuinola River during a beautiful monsoon storm.  I wasn't a birder at this time in my life but I couldn't help but notice a "purple duck" walking towards us.  It tripped me out.  Was this bird real?  Did I have too much to drink?  My friend, however, said the words, "Purple Gallinule".  While the Lance-tailed Manakin "sparked" my interest into this epic birding adventure,  it was this "purple duck" that helped tip the scale from amateur photographer to amateur birder.  Every life bird has a story.  And every time I see one of those birds from my life list, I remember that first moment observing them.  Here is a video from that special moment. At 1:50, the Purple Gallinule makes an appearance. 

Until next time friends....


  1. WELL You did and I am glad you saw i tLove the video of those special momnets.

  2. I guess that Purple Gallinule sits fairly high on my unwritten 'achievable wish list', Chris. Green Heron and Gambel's Quail, however are on the 'pie-in-the-sky wish list!

    Great finds and captures!

    Best wishes to you both - - - - Richard

  3. we actually had a purple gallinule stop here at our pond one year (before i began blogging.) thankfully my husband was able to snap some photos of it or i'd not have believed him. :)

    love those beautiful quail!!

  4. Hi Chris..Beautiful and varied images .. Regards

  5. Great shots - that PG is very similar to our Purple Swamp Hen; But the PSH is common!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  6. Beautiful images as always Chris and a wonderful account of more of your birding experiences. I love all those special moments and memories that birding creates :)

  7. Absolutely loved the video Chris, you choose the best background music for your vids. Gosh it's hard to believe that you've only been birding for for years, you catch the best shots, thought you'd been birding for many years! I'm happy to hear your horrible neighbour is out of the way, at least for a while! Must admit I was looking forward to spring, not so much summer :)

  8. I bet you could feel your heart beating when you saw them.

  9. I understand your excitement! LUCKY YOU!

  10. Wonderful photos, great that you get the Gallinule.

  11. O Chris! It's so lovely to be BACK! Loved this post with that elusive Purple Gallinule...and how I loved watching the Panama video. I just drifted off with that awesome music into your sweet bird world! sigh.....

  12. Great photos! Especially the Green Heron!!


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