Saturday, July 26, 2014

Take it to the Barnyard

This summer's great birding adventures have drawn to a close and work--preparing for the next school year with a panoply of meetings and seminars and meminars and seemittings--is now underway. Of course, the next thing one has to do when the great birding trips are over is start planning new ones, but even that cannot fully dull the pain of late summer birding doldrums in central Arizona. So at a time like this, when there's not a great opportunity for even in-state birding, it back to the birding chores, tying up loose ends closer to home.

One such loose end was the Barn Owl out at Base Meridian WMA. Just west of the superlatively birdy Tres Rios Wetlands, B&M WMA is a pretty reliable spot for Barn Owls each year, in fact that's how I've ticked my BAOW year bird for the last 3 years or so. In fact, this is the only place I'm actually, clearly seen living Barn Owls (I have a knack for finding dead ones). In fact, this bird has always been kind of a pain because I've never gotten photos. In fact, even if they were crappy, that eluding needed to end.
So this late July birding chore was to finally photograph the skittish Barn Owl at B&M WMA. I'll be straight up though, I got there later in the morning, around 10am. The birds were no longer roosting, and the photos are very poor. This is entirely for posterity.

Although I only had one bird, a pair of BAOWs successfully raised at least one chick here this year, and others have had great looks at these reclusive birds. I didn't get great looks; I got blurry flying-away shots, but it had to be done.

B&M is also a great spot for Clapper Rail (a very tough bird in central AZ), Least Bittern, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. I arrived too late in the day to have much of a shot at the skulking riparian birds, but a couple of Cuckoos were still braving the heat. Well, not exactly braving it.

Not that I can blame them. It was around 110°F and I could feel my overly Irish mantel burning even through my shirt, so I didn't stay out very long either. The birds were more active near the B&M run off, where the scant remains/returning run-off of the Salt River are finally allowed to flow al naturale.

Some of Arizona's best birders and bird bloggers are rocking it up in the White Mountains right now, notching sweet state birds like Pine Grosbeak, American Dipper, and Gray Jay. Alas that I could not join, but in my limited time available here there's perhaps one trip left in the tank, one trip to the southeastern corner of the state, one trip to find some Mexican Chiquitas and a blunted Hawk. Hopefully the Chiricahuas produce, more on that soon.


  1. It seems we live in a parallel birding universe, though my meetings are a good month away. I'm planning my next trips, and you are right in saying it does little to ease the July birding boredom. And it's hard to work up the gumption to do my owning birding chores, of which finding YBCU is one of them.

    Way to push on and keep up the photo documentation of your list! Though work looms, cooler temps and cooler birds (migrants/vagrants) are just around the bend!

    1. Thou art the optimist Josh. Cooler temps are still 3 months away in Phoenix, but hey at least migration will be underway again, even if it is the eclipse plumage migration.

      Best of luck with your searches and mopping up though in the next few weeks. I'd gladly trade ya!

  2. No owl photo is a bad owl photo, and Barn Owls are especially photogenic in poor conditions, since it accentuates their creepiness. July birding does suck, but we're lucky to have lots of new places to explore still. We're also keeping busy with butterflies, but with 110° heat I'd be tempted to regress to a cocoon, myself. Gold star for leaving the house at all!

    1. Thanks Doc. Martens,

      Lepidoptery would be a nice outlet--they don't seem to mind the heat. I was wondering, just yesterday, what Lepidopterists refer to themselves as, other than Lepidopterists. Perhaps you can shed light on the subject?
      Leppers? Buggars?

      If I wanted double bonus gold star, I'd go back and get proper Owl shots, but I need to know what sort of prizes I win from the mystery box before I put in the requisite effort.

    2. It's a new avocation for me, so I may be wrong, but I believe they're go by 'Dopters. No, nobody's ever called it that. Lepper sounds right to me. It's not a great name, but beats the unpleasantness that would follow from telling someone you're a Pido.

    3. Very intriguing. I suppose it could vary by context as well. If you're stuck talking to someone to whom you'd really prefer not to talk, you could mention you're a Lepper or a Pido.

      Conversely, when you find a nice lep, you could say you're a Hella good Dopter!

  3. Nice shots Laurence! That first pic you got of the Owl is really cool. Awesome views of the Cuckoo too.