Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Be the Roadrunner - an update on my Little Big Year

Greater Roadrunner

The past four months have been very exciting and rewarding, and I know there's more to come!  Actually, ever since I started birding just a few years ago my world changed - it gave me wings and I'm flying high.  Being out in nature discovering and learning about birds brings me so much joy that sometimes I feel like I'm about to burst.  Yes, I LOVE birding!

My Little Big Year at the Glendale Recharge Ponds is coming along better than I expected.  More seasoned birders would be well beyond where I'm at, but I'm very happy with what I've accomplished so for.  Besides, this isn't a competition with others - it's my own personal goal.  I talked about it briefly in a previous post and more info is in the tab titled "My Little Big Year - Birding GRP 2016", but I'll expand a little more here.

For non-birders who are wondering what the heck am I doing, and what is a "Big Year", here's the short version.  Obviously birders love birds, and we are constantly working on our Life List (basically a record of how many species seen in our lifetime).  A Big Year (BY) is simply an informal competition to identify the most species in a calendar year.  There are different types of BY's, but they're all done by geographical location.  For instance you can do a BY by country, state, county, hotspot, backyard, etc.  So for this year I chose the Glendale Recharge Ponds (GRP) - an excellent birding hotspot.

Because I'm not able to bird as much as I want (at this time), I set my little goal for 150 species, which is very doable at the GRP.  I hope to exceed that goal, but will be completely satisfied with whatever I end up with.  As of today, I have 107 species - only 43 more to go!  I won't be able to work on it hardly at all during the summer, so I'm trying to get in what I can until our lovely heat kicks in and then resume in the Fall.

Yesterday I saw the Greater Roadrunner (above pic) at the GRP, as well as many other species, plus two more lifers!  I love and admire this bird.  Do you know that the roadrunner can outrun a human? Wile E. Coyote never had a chance!  And if you're into this kind of thing (I am) the roadrunner symbolizes courage, strength and endurance.

Be the Roadrunner.

Peace and happy birding!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

It's my "tern" now - and a sad turn of events

Last Saturday while birding at the Glendale Recharge Ponds Mark & I ran into Tommy D and he told us there was a Forster's Tern in Pond 3.  Awesome!  At the time, we were on the east side of pond 1 making our way over to the north side so I could show Mark the Burrowing Owl, and then go up to the bike path to check out the riparian area.  After a pleasant conversation with Tommy and admiring the two bald eagles in a large tree, Mark & I continued on our path and veered over back to pond 3.  We looked and looked, but guess it wasn't our turn to see it - the tern was no where in sight.   

Over the rest of the weekend I received several eBird Rare Bird Alerts of the Forster's Tern at the Glendale Recharge Ponds.  I wanted to see that tern so bad, but wasn't able to get back up there at that time.  Monday morning came and there it was again.  Another alert email of the tern.  I decided to start in the studio earlier than usual and then head up there.  I'm only about 20 minutes away, so it was doable, considering what all I had on my plate for that day.

Back tracking a bit, I did get to see a tern on April 27th at the GRP - Caspian Tern (lifer).  There were actually 3 of those very large terns together flying between ponds 3 and 4.  The photo is not great, but the experience was pretty darn cool!

Caspian Tern - Glendale Recharge Ponds

Back to Monday.  While driving to the GRP all I could think about was finding that tern.  I only had an hour to spare that morning, so it wasn't going to be my usual scan and count.  When I arrived, there were 4 other vehicles there.  I parked on the west side of the parking bridge, got out, grabbed my gear, threw on my floppy hat and headed straight over to pond 3. 

I usually look down and over the bridge on both sides, but because I had tern on the brain and no time to spare, I didn't.  Thankfully, I didn't.  More about this after my quick morning birding. 

Arrived at pond 3 and spotted 3 Semipalimated Plovers.  Started scanning for the tern - nope.  Made my way down the path and ran into Steve, a fellow birder.  By this time there was another SEPL that joined the other 3 - awesome!  I asked if he seen the Forster's Tern - yep, earlier that morning in pond 3 and then it flew off towards the canal.  Of course it did.  Well, I wasn't giving up so we bid farewell and on my way I went.

I did see several species on my way, but I was on a mission.  I arrived to about the middle of pond 6 and started scanning.  No tern.  Maybe it just wasn't my turn to see it yet.  I then looked over in pond 1 which had very low water in spots when something caught my eye.  What a surprise - a Long-billed Curlew - a lifer for me!

Long-billed Curlew
While the rest of the photos are not that great either, I'm a birder first and an amateur photographer second - but I surely try.

Long-billed Curlew

He was all by himself in that section of the pond.  While keeping my eye on him, I would scan all about looking for the tern.  Still nothing.  Looked at the time and realized I was just about at my time limit, so I started back down the path and figured I would check pond 3 one more time before leaving.  I only took a few steps when...

There he was - the Forster's Tern - right above me!  I do believe I heard him say "it's your turn Rocki!"  Okay, so maybe that's not exactly what I heard, but it was close ;)

I went over my time limit a bit watching him fish, which was the coolest thing ever!  I'll let the following photos do most of the talking and pick up from there.

Fishing in the canal

spotted a meal while hovering

aerial acrobats

getting ready to plunge into the water



I'm not sure which was more exciting - seeing the tern (lifer) or watching his acrobatic skills.  I think they both score a 10!  As much as I didn't want to leave, it was time for me to head back to the car and get home to finish my work.  I took about 40-50 steps when...

two Forster's Terns

Two of them at once flew past me!  Yep, it was my "tern" to see not only one, but TWO Forster's Terns.  I didn't blink.  I did a 180 to go see where they were headed.  They ended up fishing in the canal for a little bit and then flew off.  Kind of hard to see, but they are in the middle of the photo.  What a very cool experience!

Walking back to the car I could feel the huge smile on my face. I think it's permanent actually.  I was almost to the bridge when I noticed a few SRP employees hanging out there, no other cars but an older vehicle on the east side opposite of mine.  No other birders or anyone else, just me.  I put all my gear away then decided to sit in my car and enter my eBird checklist before I left.  I turned on the ac, grabbed my snack and began entering.  A few moments later two police vehicles and a fire truck pulled up.  Then a third police vehicle.  They all walked over to the east fence of the front entrance, looked down and I knew by the expression on their faces that it wasn't good.  I snapped the below pic and then called Mark.  A few moments later a police officer walked over to my car and needed to speak with me.  In short, this part was a lot of questions - which I basically knew nothing.

I won't go into all the details, but there was a sad thing that happened to someone (not caused by a crime, it was later told to me by a fellow birder who spoke with the victims family member that it was self-inflicted).  The body was directly under the bridge on the east side - opposite of where I was parked.  If you've never been to the GRP, the bridge is not a huge thing, its just a small parking area above the canal.  Behind where I'm parked is the entrance into the ponds.  Two more police vehicles pulled up (now a total of 5) which completely blocked me in.  After being interviewed by the police I was told to wait again, this time for the detectives to arrive.  I explained politely of course that I had no info at all as I was birding (had to explain what that was), but was told I had to wait since I was there when they arrived.  A few bystanders showed up and I called Mark to fill him in that I was still there.  The officer finally said I could leave and if the detectives had any questions they would call me. They guided me off the bridge between their cars then put up the yellow tape to block off the bridge.

I drove to the park at the end of the street, pulled in and sat there quietly.  I wasn't freaking out, just shaken and unnerved.  After a fun and exciting hour of birding with two cool lifers, it ended this way. Realizing that fellow birders go to the GRP, I posted brief info in the birding group so they would know that it was currently barricaded so that they wouldn't waste a trip.  I sat there a few more minutes to gather myself then drove home.  I understand the heartache of this tragedy, and my heart goes out to the victim and his family with hope they will be able to find peace. 

Originally I was going to leave this out, but it was part of my morning experience and I felt the need to share it.  Life is very precious, take care of those you love both near and far. 


Monday, April 25, 2016

Burrowing Owl, thanks to Tommy D!

Saturday I headed back to the Glendale Recharge Ponds and had another great birding day!  I arrived at 7:45am and was able to see quite a few birds and 3 more lifers!  I'll start a little backwards here as the last hour was pretty exciting!

I met some wonderful birders, Melissa and Tommy D who was so kind and a joy to bird with for a little while.  Me, Melissa and Tommy were at pond 3 when he found a Solitary Sandpiper.  By the time I got a lock on him he was in the air and flying about.  We all watched him with hopes that he would land back in the pond area, but nope - over into the riparian area he flew.  So it was decided we were going to head over there to try and find him.  This was lifer #1 for the day. 

Burrowing Owl

We had to back track a little to get to the opening of the bike/walking path, and we talked along the way.  It came up that I've never seen the Burrowing Owl here (in nature that is) and Tommy offered to show me where they were.  As you can see, there's my lifer #2 for the day!

Burrowing Owl

There were actually 2 of them, the second one is apparently a little shy and only gave me a brief performance.  That was more than I could ask for and was ever so thankful to Tommy for his kindness - he's truly an awesome guy!

Oh and no we didn't find the Solitary Sandpiper, but we did see several other birds along the way:  Red-tailed Hawk being harassed by an American Kestrel, Lazuli Bunting, Gambel's Quail and...


Adorable little ducklings!  Aren't they the cutest?  This made us all smile big time!

Red-winged Blackbird

Back to the beginning.  I typically park on the parking bridge and am greeted by several Red-winged Blackbirds.  They are the coolest birds and, I know I've said it many times, but I love their song!

Western Grebe

This Western Grebe was in pond 4, which by the way was the only pond with full water.  Pond 3 had water, but quite low in many parts.  Pond 6 had shallow water and vegetation and the remaining ponds still dry.


You always know when the adorable Killdeer are around - their calls are unmistakable and, I think, are quite entertaining.

Neotropic Cormorants

It was pretty much snooze time for the Neotropic Cormorants, except for this one who still needed a little wing drying time.

Western Sandpiper

Spring is such a wonderful time for everyone, especially the birds.  Just look at the beautiful breeding plumage on those Western Sandpipers!

Where's Waldo
Can you find the Horned Lark?  Trust me, he's there and made me work for that not so great shot. 
Horned Lark

I cropped the pic and while it's not great at all, you can see his little horns - too cute!

Birds at the Glendale Recharge Ponds - pond 6

That is current pond 6 with a variety of birds:  Great Egret, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Heron (BiF in middle), American Coots, Long-billed Dowitchers & Black-necked Stilts (upper right hand corner) and several others.

Long-billed Dowitchers

Speaking of Long-billed Dowitchers... there are 182 in that photo, along with Black-necked Stilts.

Snowy Egret

The Snowy Egret makes such a lovely model, especially in the wind.  What a beauty!

Great Egret and Snowy Egret

The ever so graceful Great Egret and a crouching Snowy Egret sharing a spot in pond 6.

Indigo Bunting
At the end of my 3 hour birding day while walking to my car along the walking path, I saw 3 Indigo Buntings in the riparian area across from pond 4.  My 3rd lifer for the day.

Indigo Bunting

Despite my not so great shot, this is one gorgeous bird!  See, we do have colorful birds here in the desert - and many many more.

Semipalimated Plover, Western and Least Sandpipers

At the end of the day, I saw hundreds of birds which consisted of 41 species (3 were lifers which was a nice addition to my Little Big Year).  After reviewing my photos I discovered that there was a Semipalimated Plover in pond 3 among all the Least and Western Sandpipers.  I saw him a couple weeks ago, but it was still pretty cool to find him in this shot.  Can you find him?  Here's a little hint... he almost didn't make it in this shot.

Here's my ebird checklist with the rest of the birds I saw:

Peace and happy birding!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Birding is my Disneyland - and My Little Big Year

Birding at the Glendale Recharge Ponds is like being a kid going to Disneyland for the very first time - and you want to go there again and again and...

Semipalimated Plover

Last Sunday it was back to the Glendale Recharge Ponds, my favorite birding place - and I FINALLY found the reported Semipalimated Plover!  I think I smiled for hours on end :)  

I'll let the photos do most of the talking this time, but want to mention that I decided to add another tab to my blog titled: 2016 Birding at Glendale Recharge Ponds.  In short, I'm sharing My Little Big Year adventure and that section explains more - if you're interested.     

Red-winged Blackbird Display

The Red-winged Blackbird is in hubby's top five (mine too) and he was pretty stoked to see over 100 of them all singing to him.

Red-winged Blackbird in field

Black-necked Stilt and Wilson's Phalarope
The Black-necked Stilts were plentiful and this one hung out with a Wilson's Phalarope.

Great Horned Owl - Peek-a-boo!

The young Great Horned Owl and I had fun playing peek-a-boo.

Snowy Egrets

The wind picked up pretty good as you can tell by the Snowy Egrets wild hairdo.

Western and Least Sandpipers

There were more Western Sandpipers than I had seen before, and of course tons of Least Sandpipers.

Wilson's Phalarope

Happy to see the ongoing Wilson's Phalaropes (8 this time) - and were riding the waves.

Long-billed Dowitchers

Gorgeous breeding plumage on these Long-billed dowitchers who were busy foraging.

Birds at the Glendale Recharge Ponds

There were a variety of species as usual, which is one reason I love this place.  In this not so great shot are just a few of the species seen that day:  American Coots, Neotropic & Double-crested Cormorants, Cinnamon Teals, Eared Grebes, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers and Snowy Egrets. 

If given the choice between Disneyland or birding, I would choose birding every single time.  In fact, if I had the ability to bird daily, I would.  Okay, maybe every other day... nope, daily for sure.  I tell hubby all the time: birding gives me wings - and I'm flying high!

Peace and happy birding!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Another GREAT birding day at the Glendale Recharge Ponds

Great Horned Owlet

Yesterday morning I went back out to the Glendale Recharge Ponds to hopefully see the Franklin's Gull that was on the eBird email alert (I love eBird!).  And I was bound and determined to find the Great Horned Owls that have also been reported.

I parked on the bridge and walked over to pond 4, which was still full of water as was pond 3 (1 & 6 had shallow water and 2 & 5 still dry as a bone).  Anyway, it was 9:00 am and I was just getting started when another birder walked up and we chatted for a bit.  I mentioned how I was looking for the Great Horned Owl and he directed me to where they were.  I was very thankful and then had to laugh at myself because I literally passed them by each time I was there! 

So I headed in that direction and sure enough, there were two owlets in the nest!  The adults were not present, most likely off getting breakfast for everyone.  I stood there in awe as this was the very first time seeing a Great Horned Owl in nature - a lifer!  To say I was giddy would be an understatement.  It was time to move on and find the Franklin's Gull.

Pair of Franklin's Gulls

I didn't find a Franklin's Gull... I found 2!  They were in pond 1 on the opposite side.  It was a bit of a stretch to get a quality shot with my Canon Powershot SX50, but at least I was able to get a few good enough shots to ID. (can hardly wait to get my DSLR... next year

Franklin's Gull

Another birder who joined in let me look through his scope (I don't carry mine when I'm on my own as it's too much for me to carry with everything else).  It was a beautiful sight - another lifer!

Wilson's Phalarope and American Coot

The continuing Wilson's Palaropes were in pond 4, but this time there were 7 (saw 4 on Saturday).  They are such busy birds and it was a pleasure to see them again. 

Red-winged Blackbird

Listening to the Red-winged Blackbirds upon arrival and throughout several areas of the recharge ponds is absolutely delightful.  This is my hubby's second favorite bird (Bald Eagle is his #1) and what made him fall in love with birding.

Great Egret

I spent 2 hours there and saw hundreds of birds that consisted of a variety of 41 species, which included 3 lifers: Great Horned Owl, Franklin's Gull and a Horned Lark.  Here's the rest of them:
Gadwall, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Gambel's Quail, Pied-billed Grebe, Eared Grebe, Neotropic & Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Northern Harrier, American Coot, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, American Kestrel, Black Phoebe, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Cliff Swallow, American Pipet, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch and House Sparrow.

This location is such a fun place to bird, but not during summer (for me at least) which seems to be creeping in.  Hopefully I can get a few more trips in before the heat kicks in.

Peace and happy birding!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Wilson's Phalarope - Rare Bird at the Glendale Recharge Ponds

Wilson's Phalarope in breeding plumage

Yes, long time no blog.  I've simply been quite busy with work and trying to keep up with all my other social media sites, plus birding, and volunteering at a rescue & rehabilitation facility for wild and exotic birds... anyway, you get the idea. I'm going to try real hard to blog at least a couple times a month or more.  I have much to catch up on here.

Yesterday morning I went to the Glendale Recharge Ponds, one of my top favorite birding spots, and wasn't disappointed!  Besides many of my favorites, like the Bald Eagle (adult and juvenile), Killdeer, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Ducks, Belted Kingfisher, Red-winged Blackbird (the list goes on) I also saw another rarity!  This location is known for rare birds and that is just one reason I love this place!

Above is the Wilson's Phalarope and I saw 4 of these rare birds.  They were absolutely gorgeous in their breeding plumage and enjoyable to watch.  This was another lifer for me!

Western Grebe Couple in breeding plumage

This adorable Western Grebe couple was also there looking so elegant in their breeding plumage.  Don't you just love their red eyes!

American Avocets in breeding plumage

And the American Avocets were another treat to watch.  When I was there last week I saw only 1, but yesterday there were several.  Among these beauties I also saw Western Sandpipers along side the Least Sandpipers, a couple Lesser Yellowlegs, 4 Ring-billed Gulls and many more. 

Mallard with his ducklings

The main highlights of the day was seeing the rare Wilson's Phalarope, watching the Bald Eagle soaring above pond 4, and watching the adorable Mallard family.  The ducklings were just way too cute!  Wish my photos came out better, but I was off my photo taking game.  I'm obviously not a professional photographer, but I do try my best.  Besides, my main objective here are the birds - great photos are a bonus. 
Peace and happy birding!