Phoenix area birders and photographer and photograbirders all eagerly await the winterfowl arrivals through December. They bring extra color and flavor to our ponds as well as the occasional rarity--most recently a Long-tailed Duck in Gendale. I was looking forward to the return of one particular bird this year, a juvenile Hooded Merganser that had wintered through his awkward adolescence at the Papago ponds last year. If he returned this year, he'd be in his sexy adult plumage.
Of course, all the usual suspects were out in the nice sunny weather too.
The gang of female Canvasbacks continues to swell this winter, with no males yet anywhere in sight.
Mangy Northern Shovelers have now arrived in force too; many of these birds still need to fully change out of their eclipse clothes.
The Merganser was reported several days ago, and has since attracted constant attention from the Phoenix photogs. It's a gorgeous bird and a pretty unique specimen of waterfowl. Most impressively, the Papago Ponds are tiny, and Hoodies are usually found out on the big deep lakes in Fountain Hills, where photos are much more difficult.
This tall, dark, and handsome male has now been the subject of many the photo shoot in recent days. Even when I arrived at 10am there were four other photographers positioned around the pond, and, thankfully, he didn't seem to mind at all.
He spent time preening in the shade and foraging amongst a powerful flotilla of Ring-necked Ducks.
He didn't spend that much time above water, and seemed to be playing a switcheroo game with his Ring-neck buddies. He'd dive down and then, after a ten second delay, it was not the Hoody that resurfaced, but a Ring-necked, Ring-billed proxy.
Or sometimes a Ring-neck's coy mistress, with her snow-flaked chapeau.
The Hooded Merganser wasn't a life bird, state bird, or year bird, or even a month bird, but an up-close encounter with this sharp-looking saw-bill carries the weight and satisfaction of a much more noteworthy sighting. I'll take him up close over a distant female Long-tailed Duck any day. Well, maybe not any day...