Sunday, November 27, 2016

Winter Has Come

It is now a quieter time of birding here in Arizona. This is not to say that there isn't any great birding.  Far from it!  But with most people distracted by the holidays, many public and natural areas have less human traffic thanks in part for their need to shop. 

Great deal on Friskies Pate!
For birders, we just need to keep our eyes on the road for erratic driving.  I already have had someone dent my car from the Black Friday madness.  All I wanted was some pate for my cats!:) We, of course, forgot it was Black Friday and by that time, it was too late for us to escape. 

Lesser Scaup
The cooler temps and storms begin to usher in a new group of wintering ducks, cranes and raptors. 

Birders change their focus from mountain tops to water areas. We begin to head to local watering ponds to search for such rarities as Long-tailed Ducks or Horned Grebes. Maybe even a rare gull?

Cooper's Hawk
Some birds that are naturally difficult to see during the summer become a bit more visible as they feed from seed that has fallen to the ground. 

One of my favorite bird groups, the sparrows, begin to arrive back in great numbers.  This Brewer's Sparrow(below) is so plain and yet I think it's a gorgeous bird. 

Brewer's Sparrow
We also begin to scour the ag fields in places like Avra Valley or the infamous Santa Cruz Flats.  When I first began birding, these places were intimidating to me because their areas were so vast.  Today, it's all second nature. 

A random Osprey at the sod farm of Tweedy and Pretzer roads
As we comb the sod farms, groves of pecan trees, cattle ranches, drainage areas and barren desert expanses, we discover that all of our regular wintering guests such as the Mountain Plovers and Crested Caracaras have come back. 

Northern Harrier
We also note that there are several hundred Lark Buntings feeding from the miles of sorgum along the stretches of dirt roads.  

Crested Caracara

Cotton trucks cover us in layers of dust as we try to get a fix on the nearly invisible Mountain Plovers zig-zagging on the sod farms.  They are perfectly camouflaged as they feed from the lingering green vegetation. 

Mountain Plover
 As we exit the Santa Cruz Flats, we stop at Arizona City Lake.  Over the years, I have tried to figure out this strange community.  It is built around an artificial lake. The homes all looked rather nice at one time, but there appears to be some wear and tear now.  The fountain at the center of the lake no longer sprays regularly and now acts more like a desert island for cormorants, gulls and pelicans.  Yes, this is a great birding hotspot. 

A rare Horned Grebe. Normally rare, but this year it seems like there are more Horned Grebes than the similar looking  winter molts of the Eared species
 It's a fantastic spot for lots of rarities such as this Horned Grebe above.  Every time I see the now defunct fountain, I imagine it's where the residents bury their dead.  

The Arizona City Lake fountain used to look like this.....but not anymore.  Now it just sits like an ancient pyramid where they bury their dead. 
Well.  I do have an active imagination. The truth? It was too costly for them to run all this water all the time. Plus it's a waste of water. If residents individually want the fountain to run, they can pay for it themselves and will sporadically do so.  But I think, burial ground makes it more interesting:)

Yes, winter has finally arrived here in Arizona.  Joggers can jog.  Bikers can bike. Birders can bird. And everyone can smile and not worry about dying from heat exhaustion after 15 minutes of outside exposure:) Birders can sleep in late until 7 AM(when the sun rises) and bird until 5(when the sun sets). With a little more than a month to go before the year ends, Las Aventuras will try to make it to the 500 bird mark.  I'll leave you all with some recent visits to three of the places we visited this past week.  

Count 1. The Avra Valley area

Snow Goose in Blue Molt
Count 2.  The Santa Cruz Flats

A stunning male Vermilion Flycatcher
Count 3.  Arizona City Lake

Until next time........


  1. Wonderful bird photos and sightings Chris - so glad your Winter has arrived and temperatures have dropped! I refused to go out anywhere near shops on the dreaded "Black Friday" - even did a food shop at the supermarket a day early to avoid going there!!

    1. I hate the holidays and crowds of crazy people. I don't know about you but I get claustrophobic!

  2. Well, you had bad luck with shopping. Birds are beautiful despite the winter. Last charmed me. Regards.

  3. Birding over shopping every day. Any excuse to get outside it good.

  4. Wonderful shots of birds. Nice variety.

  5. It's interesting Chris when you say that birding in difficult places has become second nature. That is one of the secrets of birding, to stay focused and really search spots that intially look birdless; there are birds there hiding away as you show with the brown sparrow jobs and the blend-in plover.

    Good mix of photos today. Especdailly like the harrier and caracara.

    Good luck with that shopping. Me, I'll stick to online buying thanks.

  6. Hola Chris!!! Beautiful series of photos.. Cheers

  7. Amazing captures,stunning birds.


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