Monday, January 23, 2017

Winter Birding in Maricopa County

Sometimes, while waiting for the next challenge, we occupy our time with important surveys.

Over the weekend, I grabbed a golf cart and joined friends Gordon and Joe for the Greater Phoenix waterbird count.  Gordon lead our team for this annual Arizona Game and Fish event.  

Gordon and Joe count waterbirds on the golf course
We drove golf carts and counted all the wintering waterbirds at all the watering holes......and that was A LOT! I could not believe how many golf courses are found in the Phoenix area!  

Hooded Merganser
Phoenix is an amazing place to bird in the winter.  There are thousands of ducks that find safety within the urban limits of this huge city. 

I'm not a big fan of birding here in the summer though.  It's really hot with a lot of roads and sidewalks absorbing the 110+ temps.  At night those same roads and sidewalks keep the night temps very warm by releasing the heat.  So casually walking around Phoenix in the winter is a real treat.   

Our count took the full day and along the way, we saw some great birds.  It was overcast, windy and COLD!  

I like to help out when I can.  Gordon's trek was fun and had us outdoors exploring new locations.  

It also gives us something to do while we wait for our next great trek to the North.  

Green-tailed Towhee
 So if you are coming to Arizona for the winter, you will find lots of wintering ducks hanging out in our urban parks.  During the summer in Wisconsin, I was shocked by how frightened the birds were of us.  They tend to hide better and keep their distance far far away from people. I think it has a lot to do with hunting in the Northern States.  Ducks aren't dummies.  Luckily for them, they've found safety within our urban water areas.  And they definitely aren't shy of the people here. 

The day after our count, we went to another watering hole and found a rare Cackling Goose(Richardson's subspecies) hanging out with some Canada Geese.  Look carefully at the photo.  While they all look the same, one of the geese is smaller and has a short bill. 

Cackling Goose to the lower left of this picture
I love those kinds of ID challenges in the field. 

drake Green-winged Teal
Most ducks aren't shy in our area, but the Green-winged Teal can be tricky at times.  This drake, however, decided to swim up to me.  It doesn't happen often:)

Northern Shoveler
It's also interesting to note the differences between the drake(male) and hen(female) of the duck and merganser species.  Here is a male Common Merganser below. 

male Common Merganser
And here is the female(below). Very different looking!

A thank you to Gordon for setting up our count, leading our team and driving and to Joe for helping out. Our adventures will continue next week.......


  1. Bravo!
    Your Nr 6 picture is such a treat.

    1. Thanks Therese:) Or I should say Merci!:)

  2. I definitely noticed the same thing with waterfowl back in Carolina this winter. They would not tolerate any sort of approach, and sometimes when I would point my camera at them while they were in flight, they would veer and change direction. It was a bit sad overall, not that I'm condemning the hunting either, but just not something I wanted to be privy to.

    Awesome Hoodies!!

    1. It's strange to observe. Yeah, the hunting is ok. In fact, I think that survey helps AZ Game and Fish figure out with species is ok to hunt. So I guess we birders were helping out hunters? Glad to see you back out in the field again!

  3. Ducks of the first pictures captivated me, they are very pretty. Others also like me, of course. Regards.

  4. Lovely captures and great refection of the birds. I love how you have edited the last shot

  5. Great photos and birds - super reflections in the water :)

  6. Belle série, magnifique ;-)
    Céline & Philippe


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