Monday, January 2, 2012

First Birds of 2012

It was a great Christmas Break in New Hampshire, and happy new year too. Alas, I did not see the Snowy Owls or Buntings I was faintly hoping for, but the trip had its share of good birding nonetheless.

It's nice to be back in Arizona, where the temperatures are hanging in the 50s and the birds haven't fled south. Technically, my first bird of the new year was a Great-Tailed Grackle outside of the Phoenix airport. This sighting was then followed up with Starlings, Pigeons, and Mourning Doves on the ride home (I know I know, pretty prodigious stuff). I decided to improve on this start and squeeze in some early birding this morning, before all of the unpacking and cleaning must take effect. It was a brief but dazzling little excursion, and I was delighted to get some more colorful birds and photos to start this new year off properly.

I missed these guys.
I made the short trip down to Encanto Park to see if the Lewis's Woodpecker was still hanging around. He was indeed, and there were also Kinglets, Lovebirds, Flycatchers, Hummingbirds, and some frisky ducks all enjoying the mild weather.
This curious Lewis's Woodpecker, who now seems to definitely be planning a winter-length stay in central Phoenix, is just as skittish as he was last month. However, he has a pretty regular pattern that he flies between a few palm trees and the Encanto oaks. If you can get in the right position, with the sun in your favor, you can get some decent looks before the jig's up and he takes off.

He was still busily gathering and stashing acorns in the palm trees, just barely keeping ahead of the Starlings and Thrashers that were always lurking and poaching nearby. He found enough time in his routine for a brief stretch and a scratch before continuing with his winter preparations.

Watching him scratch away made me start to feel itchy, and I have to admit I inadvertently began scratching my neck too, though I didn't use my foot. I wonder. If a bird yawns, would it make a person yawn as well?

Although he is definitely the most unusual and probably the most colorful bird to be found at Encanto, the Lewis's Woodpecker was not the only highlight. This American Kestrel stopped by for some breakfast. He perched oddly close to a Mockingbird, who also didn't seem to mind. Usually the Mockers squawk and carry on and on until the raptors leave. Perhaps they made a new year's resolution to get along with each other.

Kestrel's are very pretty birds. I wish I had gotten these berries in good focus--aperture too low--it would've made for a nice picture. Unfortunately the bird bolted before I could re-adjust.

There is another solitary and recognizable resident along the oak-side Encanto pond. This Black Phoebe has been hanging out in the same spot since August. And really, why should he move?

One of my resolutions was to bring my Life List total to 300 this year. While I didn't see any new species today, it was a great way to begin a new year of beautiful birding.