Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sunset Birds and Song Sparrows

Last week I made the rash decision to dash and see a vagrant Purple Gallinule at the Gilbert Water Ranch on Sunday evening. This immature bird had been spotted off and on at one of the GWR ponds for the last few days and would've been another sweet lifer after the Glendale Spoonbill. So, putting off work and other responsibilities I drove out to Gilbert, with my optimism fading alongside the sun. This was one of those, "I know this is a dumb idea, but I'm doing it anyway. Why am I doing it anyway? I don't know, but you're here now so stop talking to yourself and look for the Gallinule! You're a jerk. No, you're a jerk!" moments. The Gallinule didn't show that evening, for me or the other few birders around. To add insult to injury, there were mosquitos EVERYWHERE. I hadn't really thought about that being a problem, but with all the standing water at the GWR...it was bad.

Anyway, while dipping on the Gallinule I did get to enjoy another Arizona sunset and photograph some of the usual suspects in their shallow basins. The reflective water and technicolored light seemed to turn everything upside down. I may also have been in a state of mild delirium due to severe blood loss.

These Long-billed Dowitchers were tucking in for the night, caring not a wit about any nearby Gallinules or Nihilist Mosquitos (as in, they might've been carrying West Nile virus).


No Gallinules here...


This White-faced Ibis, an ancient and learned creature, was probably the highlight of the evening. They're just cool birds. With his timeless wisdom, he probably definitely knew where the Gallinule was, but would not say.


In order to see the Gallinule, I'd have to find a good spot and wait. This is easier said than done in general, and with the bugs around, I wasn't feeling very sanguine--though I do enjoy a good double entendre.

While sitting in my squalid state, a Song Sparrow hopped by very close, like close enough that I could've touched him. He kept me company for a few minutes before passing on. It was too dark out to take any reasonable photos, but it was a nice gesture from the Song Sparrow ambassador. It reminded me also that I had seen the different regional subspecies of Song Sparrows too, except for Pacific-Northwest, which was a neat realization. Below are three photos. One Song Sparrow is from the Pacific Coast, one is from the Southwest, and one is Eastern-race. Can you place all three?




14 comments:

  1. I am glad I am not the only one that does what you described in the first paragraph.

    As for the sparrows... Argh. The eastern ones always look so freaking bright white to me while ours always look dirty. I can't remember what they looked like in AZ, but I imagine somewhere in between.

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    1. I assume that you're referring to the 'chasing after a Gallinule' doing in the first paragraph. That's the only part I can remember anyway...

      Yes, your pacific coast Song Sparrows are dirty, with dirty little sparrows minds and hearts as black as coal. The southwestern species are perhaps the dullest of all.

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  2. lovely light in those shorebird shots! gorgeous reflections!!

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    1. Thank you TWG,

      Twas' a small consolation : )

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  3. YES!!! I'm glad I'm not the only one who does this. I run towards to the water of the wetlands as the sun is setting knowing that it's probably futile....but it's still always an incredible site with the sun setting. I wondered if you'd go for the Gallinule. They are amazing birds. I've only seen them in Panama and they are absolutely stunning. When I found out that they make their way every once and awhile I was shocked. Surely it means death for these birds.....or maybe not. But my question is....what will happen to this juvenile....how did he get there?....will he make it back? We had one here in Tucson but the bird was on his last days and died. This is just a young one. Hope you find him. Love your pics. The Ibis are always stunners. Nothing futile about running out of work and birding. I've been teaching 17 years and I am only now able to leave work at work....even the grading stays at work now. Hope you can achieve this goal as well:)

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    1. Thanks Chris.

      It'd be great to leave work at work. Unfortunately, I'm still fine tuning my curriculum and grading and all that without a clear end in sight.

      I don't know what becomes of these vagrant. Usually they seem to just move on after a few days after they've fattened up and gotten their bearings.

      It'll be interesting to see this winter if any of the vagrant waterfowl returns, like the Eurasian Teal to Tempe Town Lake of the Eurasian Wigeon to the Biltmore Golf Course (fingers crossed for that one, which is like the only notable rarity I've been the first to find, and thus it holds a special place).

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  4. Gorgeous lighting and lovely shots of the birds. I love the white face ibis. I wish I had more time off work, to go birding. Great post, have a wonderful day.

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  5. I'm glad to know I am not the only one who talks to myself about my bird chasing ways. :-) Or curses at myself.

    You may have dipped on the Gallinule but you were there.. soaking up nature. That is always a good thing (except for those blood-sucking mosquitoes)!

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    1. I'm sure the great wide ether is full of personal conversations that bird nerds have had with themselves, floating now out into space and beyond the stars.

      It's a good point you make--even dipping on a bird is still a great experience, because you're out soaking up exposure to the beautiful natural world. As you mention, the mosquitos were also soaking me up quite a bit.

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  6. Love the sunset pictures. Sorry to hear about all the insects. That is a bit discouraging! I got bit up by chiggers (I think) this past week while walking my grandson in the grass at the park! Yikes! Sorry you missed the gallinule. That would've been quite the find! I chased a vagrant juvenile wood stork at the water ranch when I lived here before. It was my first visit there.

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    1. Win some lose some eh Kathie?

      It was a fun reminder how I take the Phoenix climate for granted--never expecting swarms of bugs or heavy rain. Curious state we live in. I hope you're settling in. If you've already got your feeders up, then things must be going well : )

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  7. Songs sparrows in the Midwest are some of my favorites. All of the melospiza sparrows are pretty cool, but the Song Sparrow has such a great song and is pretty common. Even with the sun setting you still got some great pics.

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    1. Thanks Moe. Finding Sparrows is one of birding's great subtle pleasures, one I haven't been able to indulge as much lately.

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