Saturday, September 8, 2012

Red Herring or a Reddish Egret?

The end of August and early September is a strange time of year for birding in Phoenix. The usual birding patches are often under-populated, but there's and increased possibility to find vagrants at any little golf course pond or park around the city. After seeing a Roseate Spoonbill in Glendale a few weeks ago, I made other trips to the Desert Botanical Gardens, Tres Rios Wetlands, and Recharge Ponds, seeing little of note. Last week I dipped on a juvenile Purple Gallinule in Gilbert, but found myself back in the same area this week looking for a wayward Reddish Egret. After the Gallinule bust I was hesitant to chase another bird out there. It would be in the evening again, it would be buggy, it was overcast, and I didn't want to be late for dinner. Birding under the pressure of a time constraint is always lamentable, especially in the evening, when every wasted minute could cost you dearly, but nonetheless I saddled up and rode out to Gilbert on a red herring for a Reddish Egret.

The Reddish Egret was seen at some office complex ponds a mile east of the Gilbert Water Ranch--funny to see an uncommon vagrant so close to this famous vagrant trap, but not in it. I got an idea of the area thanks to a great, informative post from Peggy Thomas. At first look, the signs were not promising. the cul-de-sac of the pond where the Egret was last seen was deserted but for some manky mallards and a few Coots. Sinking into the mud with every step, I wandered along the western bank of the pond with a lingering pessimism, shooing away flies and looking without any real expectation. Before too long the waterway opened up  the willow trees thinned out. I was standing on the edge of a golf course. Exploring this liminal riparian are took me out of the mosquitos, and the wildlife sightings started to increase as well. A glimmer of Reddish hope was restored, and I switched into Hardcore Peripatetic Birding Mode (oh yeah, we've all been there huh?), using super sleuth skills and the scientific method to find the Reddish Egret.

Are you a Reddish Egret?


No, you are not a Reddish Egret...

Are you a Reddish Egret?


No, you are not a Reddish Egret...

Are you a Reddish Egret?



No, you are not a Reddish Egret...

Are you a Reddish Egret?



No, you are not a Reddish Egret...

Are any of you guys Reddish Egrets?



No, you are not Reddish Egrets...

I had not found the bird but with more sightings I was feeling better about the trip. The narrow, muddy causeway started to widen and the water started to pick up speed. I continued on the back excess of the golf green, moving farther away from the office buildings and the stagnant ponds behind them. Sightings of waders and waterfowl continued, and some distant silhouettes looked very promising.

Are any of you Reddish Egrets?
Yes! One of you is a Reddish Egret!

Ta-Da!


Like the Roseate Spoonbill, this was another new Life-list bird, and one I was not planning on seeing in Arizona. I watched this magnificently graceful bird wade in and out of the shade, careful not to encroach too closely as it plucked fish and frogs from the water features with seemingly little care for how disrespectful he was being of Field Guide range maps.


This Egret, like so many young Egrets before him, was banded in Sonora Mexico on June 11th. It'll be fun to see where else this intrepid traveler turns up this year, and if he decides to hang around the Phoenix area for a while, well, that's fine too.


On the muddy slog back to the car, I was treated to fly-by views of an American Kestrel, Turkey Vultures, Belted Kingfisher (a species of which I do not believe I will ever get a decent photograph), and this Great Horned Owl. The swampy little nook turned out to be a pretty great birding patch, one that I will incorporate into future visits to the area.

28 comments:

  1. Congrats on the egret! Glad you found him, and that owl shot is pretty sweet as well..

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    1. Thanks Jen. Hope you got some good stuff this weekend too.

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  2. Hmmmm, Roseate Spoonbill, Purple Gallinule, Reddish Egret....its starting to sound a little Florida birdish there:) Congrats on another lifer! Reddish Egrets are such entertaining birds to watch!

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    1. Does it though Tammy! It's bitter sweet though. I'm finally getting chances for these tropic waders, but they're still tantalizingly far away. At any rate, the real problem is that now I have less to complain about against you Florida birders with your amazing shorebirds...what a conundrum.

      Thanks for stopping by

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  3. You have a hit the goldmine. I was laughing because your post reminded me of the Dark Knight line, "Do you know Harvey Dent? Do you know where Harvey Dent is?" That is one cool find...and that shot is fabuloso! Muy bien hecho!

    All of these pics are incredible Laurence. Nicely done!

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    1. Thanks Chris!

      It's always a risk, but it's great when these vagrant work out.

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  4. Laurence, you are one intrepid birder! Good for you! I admire your dedication and zeal and your willingness to suffer for the cause! Great shots and I just have one question...Are you my Mother? Snork! ;-)

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    1. Ha! Thanks Kathie. I mean, maybe I exaggerate sometimes too...

      I'm not sure if I can fulfill that role Kathie, what I will try my very hardest : )

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    2. Laurence, I was hopping you would get the reference to the Dr. Suess book, "Are you my Mother?" It's about a little bird that falls out of its nest and then walks around asking everyone and everything, "Are you my Mother?" Your post made me think of that. The "snork" part is what the giant steam shovel says when the little bird asks it if it is its mother! Really, you need to read more! LOL!

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  5. Buenas capturas de las Ardeidas.Saludos

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  6. Congrats! I enjoyed taking this excursion with you. Glad you hit the jackpot before running out of daylight!

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    1. Thanks for sharing my jackpot with me Ken : )

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  7. Big congrats on another lifer Laurence! Reddish Egrets are ever so much fun to see and photograph, especially when they are doing the Drunke Sailor dance!

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    1. Thanks Mia. Alas, it was way too cloudy and late in the day for decent shots, but this bird was still great to observe.

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  8. fun post! :) love all the night-herons you saw. i'd be thrilled to see a redish egret.

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    1. Thanks TWGirl,

      I didn't play it up much in the post, but that was actually just as fun as finding the Reddish Egret--all those Night Herons having a little skulking meeting there at the water's edge. Shoulders shrugged and eyes red...they're a suspicious bunch.

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  9. p.s. your fence description made me smile - a bunch of wilderness held back - especially when it is my neighbors' cattle being held back from my hay pasture. :)

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    1. Your post made me smile too. I love wooden fences, like I said. They make nice perches and bring structure to open spaces without really limiting their expanse.

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  10. Haha, finally found your egret. Very cool.

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    1. Yes indeedy. Thanks for stopping by northiest.

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  11. That's my favorite egret, by far. They got spunk. I love to watch them run around as they feed. Congrats on the find!

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    1. Thanks Scott. They're definitely more animated than most of the other heron group.

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  12. Nice! Do you read Dr. Seuss books? "Are You My Mother?" Ha great birds, and awesome photo of the owl in flight, too.

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    1. No No...No...no

      Yeah I don't know why that came to mind with the Reddish Egret. Maybe there was something in that gangly bird that reminded me of...me.

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    2. Moe, I read Dr. Suess!Great stuff!

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  13. This post made me laugh aloud especially as I'm from Australia and am only familiar with the Reddish Egret from seeing images on Mia's site. Thank you for posting :)

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    1. Thanks Kim! it's great to have a visitor from the land down under. I'm afraid my images don't compare with Mia's, but I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

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