Riparian Preserve Reprise

Hundreds of thousands of people called “snow birds” migrate to Arizona in the winter. In moving to Phoenix, we expected to find real “snow birds” wintering in the Valley of the Sun. We didn’t anticipate shore birds and waders and waterfowl in the desert.

The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ is one of the best places to photograph aves wintering water birds in the Sonoran Desert. The following photos were taken at the preserve in February 2018. My previous post featured land birds from the Preserve.

As so often happens, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs were found together, with the Leaser in the foreground.

Lessder and Great Yellowlegs 2Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs 3Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs 1

Least Sandpipers were plentiful.

Least Sandpiper RP 1Least Sandpiper RP 2Least Sandpiper RP 3

Black-necked Stilts are so perfectly suited for wadding.

Black-necked Duck 0

 

 

There were a number of ducks, but not the variety one might expect in February. We did see the ever-present Ring-necked Ducks.

 

 

And we found Mallards.

Mallard Female RPMallard Male RPI love the coloration of the Green-winged Teal so much I’m consider using the color combination in a website I’m designing.

Green-winged Teal RP 1Green-winged Teal RP 2Northern Shovelers were also present.

Northern Shoveler RP 1Northern Shoveler RP 2Northern Shoveler RP 3_0320

Given they were sleeping the entire time we were there, I had to wonder if the Ruddy Ducks had arrived the previous night.

 

Domestic waterfowl were also found, starting with the unmistakable Muscovy Duck.

Muscovy 1

 

I think is a Pomeranian Goose. If it is another species, I’d appreciate clarification. It was hanging out with domestic ducks.

 

It was good to find Pied-bill Grebes.

 

As it was to see American Coots.

American Coot RP 3

 

A Snowy Egret kept its distance from me.

Snowy Egret RP 3

 

A broader view of one of the shallow ponds at Riparian Preserve. The flock is made up of Least Sandpipers. Green-winged Teal are in the background. I think there are also Cinnamon Teal in the background, but I’m open to correction on that ID. A Mallard and Common Grackle are in the foreground. A Killdeer waded out of range of the camera lens just before I snapped the photo.

Riparian Preserve 2018

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.

DSC_0282

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

Walnut Woods Metro Park

I searched out Walnut Woods Metro Park because of its conifers, not hardwoods. Walnut Woods has a good stand of spruce trees, creating one of the few habitats to attract stray White Crossbills. Visiting in the transition between winter and spring, I was too late for such irregular visitors.

I did find other birds. The ever faithful Northern Cardinals and Song Sparrows, year-round residents, were found in abundance.

DSC_0776DSC_0787

Although this was a frosty March morning, the first migrants had arrived. A Red-winged Blackbird was staking a claim in a wetland. Because they disappear from yards in late summer, it seems like American Robins also migrate. However, they usually quietly slip into nearby woods for the winter, then reappear in early spring. DSC_0795DSC_0782Another year around resident – a Red-tailed Hawk – wheeled above the sections of prairie and marsh.

There was evidence of other animals, but none revealed themselves this chilly morning.

DSC_0839There is no little irony found in the final photo. I went to a walnut grove to find spruce trees and photographed a sycamore. But what I sycamore it was.

IMG_0191

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.

IMG_0109IMG_0113

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.