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

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

Ring-necked Pheasants (5 Photos)

I realize it’s common for male and female birds of the same species often have different colors, but Ring-necked Pheasants take this to an extreme. A transplant from Asia, the males have an amazing diversity of colors. I think the understated beauty of the hens is highly underrated. Photos taken in April of 2017.DSC_5127DSC_5139



Orchard Orioles (7 Photos)

On a trip to Folly Island, SC I had to get 30 feet off the ground for decent photographs of Orchard Orioles. Once elevated, the yellow and olive female was easy to photograph. She preferred to preen and sun on exposed branches. In the lower right photo, she shows off her specialized tongue, useful in gathering nectar.

The chestnut colored male spent almost all his time hiding in the canopy. When he did finally come into the open, he was so far away the quality of photos suffered. Still, a beautiful bird.