Friday, February 3, 2017

Cardinals and Mudflats, Mudflats and Cardinals

Sometimes that is what life gives you...and you can make lemonade or take pictures--all have their own appeal. This past weekend I was down southeast with some of the family for a half-day hike. We didn't get to pick up some of the iconic and masterclass SE birds, but perhaps some good takes on old classics. Pyrrhuloxia is like Casey Affleck is to Ben Affleck (don't ask me why that's coming to mind; I recently saw Manchester by the Sea), not as immediately recognizable or stunning, but more nuanced and arguably more attractive overall.

In fact, while I'm hesitant to indulge in anthropomorphizing so heavily, Pyrrhuloxia channels the Ziggy Stardust look pretty well, certainly better than I did that one fateful and liberating Halloween...

Of course even NOCA is pretty irresistible when it perches right next to the trail with indefatigable determination. The Cornell site is positively effusive: "The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off. Even the brown females sport a sharp crest and warm red accents. Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards. In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning."
(Northern Cardinal is a true American hero).

Say's Phoebes may not be the most impressive color spectrum of Flycatcher--not compared to Vermilion at any rate--but they do have a pretty impressive longitudinal range, stretching all the way up to the northern borders on Canada and Alaska. Considering I take them for granted as a common, conspicuous, and very crushable bird year-round in Phoenix, it's trippy to think of this same species rubbing shoulders with Rustic Bunting 3,000 miles up north.

Despite the preponderance of close-up Cardinals, I recently realized I did not have enough mudflats in my life and set about remedying this. The ponds in Gilbert supplied plenty of Dowitchers, which I like to watch. Avocets without personal boundaries do too...

Ain't no party like a mudflat party.

Mudflat parties, like any big event, tend to get crashed by cads or cops. In this case it was a spiffy male Northern Harrier {cad}. 

Perhaps the oddest weekend sighting was more circumstantial than taxonomical. The shrubby gravel around the ponds is popular foraging for doves, sparrows, and shorebirds. It was surprising to see a Wilson's Snipe hanging out, doing its best not-a-snipe impression.

With nary but some shade for cover and naught for camouflage, this may well be the boldest WISN in Arizona, the tip of the spear in micro-behavioral adaptations. It is probably dead by now.


  1. I don't always go to Arizona, but when I do, I go to Gilbert Ponds. Love that place. I have seen snipe doing that very thing there too, maybe the poo water is affecting their brain's natural inclination to camouflage.

    1. Yeah man, nowhere else have I seen Snipe so accommodating and un-snipey as the GWR. I'd say something must be wrong with them but it's so prevalent that it seems to be a perfectly acceptable survival strategy at this point?

  2. RE: Ziggy Stardust. Photos or it didn't happen.