Given the the recent theme of Florida posts, I should first clarify that this post will feature no Limpkins--that was one of the few waders I failed to find in FL; more's the pity. At any rate, These last several weeks in Arizona have been slowly churning by, with my surgery date on June 17th creakily approaching. I'll be getting two ligaments (ACL and MCL) along with my meniscus repaired in my right knee, and a cartilage tear fixed in my right shoulder. All this is to say I'll be pretty lopsided for the next four months, and just like summer television...there might be some re-runs on the ol' blog.
At any rate, I've still been able to shuffle outside now and again for some low-key birding at some of Phoenix's flatter sites, and I've been fortunate in this regard to be recently joined by another Phoenix area birder, Will, and a birdingpal.com contact from Indiana, Alex.
As one might expect, the summer doldrums are going on in the lowlands around town. The waterfowl are long gone, as are portions of the waders and songbirds. In their place, Kingbirds, Tanagers, Grosbeaks, and some Buntings have moved in, but many of these species require more rugged terrain access. There's a lot of great stuff to see farther south, like Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers and Varied Buntings, but with limited mobility that's off the table, and alas it's still just a bit early for the Cuckoos to be arriving in force. But hey, I've worked in restaurants before, so I've got practice appreciating the regulars.
The Gilbert Water Ranch is hosting plenty of Stilts and Avocets right now, which have added to their already considerable visual appeal by surrounding themselves with chicks.
Where there is water, there are Snowy Egrets. Where there is snow, there are not Snowy Egrets. At both Gilbert and Tres Rios this species has been showing in good numbers, and their commonality does not detract from their elegance.
They don't hunt with the same flare as a Reddish Egret, nor with the power of a Great Blue Heron, but watching their point-and-peck foraging is still pretty entertaining. Especially in the summer when the waterfowl are depleted, let it snow!
One species that responds very well to the heat is the Least Bittern. In my last two visits to Tres Rios it was already in the 90° range by 6am, but the warmth and subsequent humidity around the wetlands really seems to motivate these birds. They stir and fly between their bulrush clumps very regularly, and on both visits I've been able to record visually about a half-dozen separate birds.
Sometimes they even forget how to bittern, and just stand out in the open. It's not like any predators are sticking around in this searing stupor.
Far less elusive than the Least Bitterns are the denizens of Burrower's Row, about which there's a post up over at BIF right now. Go check it out!
Although the number of visible owls seems down from last year, there's been at least one successful hatching. Apart from that noticeable cow-lick, this fellow is well on his way.