Riparian Preserve Revisited

Although we visit the Valley of the Sun yearly, we had only once explored the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ. A 110-acre nature preserve and educational facility, the Riparian Preserve has several shallow basins that attract all sorts of wildlife.

This year, it was time for a second visit.

In February, the waders and waterfowl created one group of birds. The others were “land-aves,” or birds that prefer drinking water over getting wet. These photos are of the later.

We found the ever-popular Verdin.

Verdin RP 2018

Black-chinned Hummingbirds seemed quite fond of the area.

Black-chinned Hummingbird RP 0Black-chinned Hummingbird

Sparrows and their relatives were abundant. These included Albert’s Towhees…

Albert's Towhee 1

Song Sparrows…

Song Sparrow RP

As well as White-crowned Sparrows, usually in pairs.

White-crowned Sparrow male 1White-crowned Sparrow female 1

Gamble’s Quail are a personal favorite in the desert. Highly social, very colorful and rather talkative, I’m amazed at the patches of desert where Gamble’s thrive.


Eurasian Collard Dove are now rather common in the desert.

Eurasian Collard Dove

But not as common as it’s cousin, the Mourning Dove.

Mourning Dove 3

Holbert Trail Hike

Yes, I know. South Mountain Park in Phoenix lacks the memorable profile of Camelback Mountain or colorful history of the Superstition Mountains.

What it lacks in branding, South Mountain Park makes up for in pure size. The largest municipal park in the United States, it consists of three mountains. It covers more than 16,000 acres with 51 acres of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

My last day in Phoenix this winter, I hiked the Holbert Trail in South Mountain Park. A five mile round trip, it gains close to 1,300 feet in elevation.

While the elevation change got the heart rate up (especially dragging along camera equipment), there were no severe drop offs that caused the heart to race.


The “summit” of the Holbert Trail is not one of the most picturesque in Phoenix.

IMG_0131IMG_0138The trip down revealed some quality vistas and petroglyphs.

Lesser Goldfinch

I’ve spent a good deal of time in Arizona the past twenty years, but failed to photograph several common Sonoran Desert birds. This winter, I went in search of the local aves. I still haven’t photographed a Phainopepla. I did finally photograph a Lesser Goldfinch.

Lesser Goldfinch 2
Lesser Goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinch 1
Lesser Goldfinch

After some research, I failed to discover why this bird is called the “Lesser” Goldfinch. So, I’ll speculate. I’m thinking the name comes from comparisons of the Lesser Goldfinch to the American Goldfinch. The American is more widespread. The male American Goldfinch, in full breeding plumage, is also more striking than the Lesser Goldfinch. If anyone knows the definitive answer, please summarize it in the comments.

Arizona Cardinal (two photos)

Desert Card 2Northern Cardinals are popular in America, honored as the state bird in seven states. These photos were taken with a friend at the base of Tonto National Monument near Globe, AZ. We agreed they were the most uniquely colored Cardinals we had ever seen, different from the Cardinals in the Midwest. This male was photographed on a cloudy day. I’m guessing it has something to do with minerals absorbed into plants.

Desert Card 1