Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Here and There Birding

Sometimes you just have to eek out the birding where you can. With everything else going on this past weekend, I did not have specific birding opportunities. My eBird checklists were embarrassingly "Incidental." The 10 month-old certainly has the right sleeping habits for birding--down by 6:30pm and up at 5:30am, but his needing a first nap by 8:30, plus still being rather demanding of attention, limits how far I can take him afield. Some kids are happy for hours in the stroller or hiking pack. He is not one of them; there's too much to taste out there.

Lately I have been taking BB Jr. to Granada Park, a decent sized urban park with a couple duck ponds, some transplant pine trees, and desert scrub. It's served as a stop-off spot before for winterfowl, notably during a 5-MR challenge a couple years back. Having recently become very opinionated about small city parks, I now choose it as our family park of choice because of its comparative birding potential and water fountains that don't smell like pee.
BB Jr. likes it too but he's pretty easy to please if he can get down and move around.

  (He got un-stuck eventually)

There's an old mesquite tree near the playground/sandbox area, and last Saturday it was quite the little hot spot for migrants. The blooming mesquite attracted bees and many other insects, which in turn attracted Yellow, Black-throated Gray, Townsend's, Wilson's, and Hermit Warblers, plus the usual residents and the largest Warbling Vireo I have ever seen. Returning the next morning with my crusher, I was disappointed to observe almost no activity in the same spot--such is the caprice of migration I suppose. 

Image result for granada park playground
Photo courtesy of

However, B's Bs is made of sterner stuff and does not give in to despair, at least not for like 15 minutes or so of sustained adversity. Granada Park is also one of the best places to see Rosy-faced I have often relayed to out-of-town emailers getting in touch with amusing nervousness about when and where they'll be able to see these birds. They nest in the palms at Granada in large family groups, and they will also forage in lower bushes, sometimes even on the ground.

This was the first time I had seen them feeding in/on the fuzzy white creosote seed capsules. Tough birds eating a tough plant...there is great continuity here (though purists may point out that creosote is a hearty native and Lovebirds are a hearty invasive). Presumably the Lovebirds do the creosote a solid by way of pollination and seed distribution, and the creosote does the Lovebirds a solid by being eaten by them. This would seem a less one-sided relationship than that of gators and Egret chicks. Most of the carnage I see at Granada Park has to do with some dog-walker's poop-scooping glove malfunctioning (not pictured).

Sunday afternoon we celebrated a tri-generational Mother's Day, which was well and good, especially because perfectly cooked beef tenderloin was involved and the sides I contributed didn't suck.
Also cool was finding a Cactus Wren chick, recently out of the nest but not yet fully fledged. It was skulking and scurrying along the planters while parents supervised. They all blew a gasket when I approached the bird of course, but after I got to live out my 'bird-in-the-hand' field biologist fantasy all was quickly restored.

I will be finishing out my last week of work and its aftermath through this weekend, finishing out a 7-year tour of duty in AZ education. Although there is plenty yet to do for the move, there will be more than incidental birding in the couple weeks to follow. There must be, or I shall explode.


  1. Birding with kids is often great! My son got me our yard Winter Wren when he flushed it out of the shrubs, and he got me my green Black-crowned Night Heron last year when he demanded to go see a floating beer can and flushed one out of the trees by the riverbank. Yours will likewise send birds careening out of their hiding places and into your field of view one day, no doubt.

    1. Aha! So the good strategy is to use them as bird dogs?
      Excellent. Now I just need to get this kid a runnin'

  2. With amusement I recall both the days of trying to spot birds while keeping little ones alive AND the days of fretting over getting Lovebird. The Lovebird has long been secured, but I hate to to break it to you, man--I'm still birding the margins of life. There is a glimmer of hope. I can at least leave them home alone now for a couple hours. I don't think they'll burn the place down. Hang in there. For now, though, embrace the incidental checklist, master the birding quickie, and learn to plan clandestine birding adventures billed as "family trips".

    1. Sage wisdom Josh.

      “Birding the Margins” is a great blog name—I have long been thinking of a change up and that might just be it.

      Birding quickie sounds great, thigh maybe that’s just the hornithologist in me talking (sorry...had to...I’m a dad now)

      Family trips will be the mainstay birding m.o. for the foreseeable future, coupled with incidental birds and the rare glimmering solo excursion once or twice per season. be an uninhibited birding bachelor again...but also not ever.

  3. Hi there, I've been reading your blog for a while but thought I'd come out of lurkerdom to mention that the last ABA podcast was about birding with kids, I don't know if you listen to it or not.

    Otherwise I don't have any advice to offer on that front, good luck!

    Oh and the Lovebirds look super sweet! I hope those invasive little guys don't cause too many problems there.

    1. Heya Emma,

      Thanks for the comment and welcome from lurkerdom! I often vacate to that blissfully anonymous myself!
      As a matter of fact and fillip, I happened to see that very podcast linked like the day after I posted. Thank you so much for the thought and the follow up!
      I need to get this little red tank a-walkin' because he will not tolerate carriers or strollers for more than a few minutes, but he cannot crawl everywhere he wants to go ether. And he tends to go head-first in to and off of things (not a good evolutionary advantage)
      Plus he weighs almost 1000 pounds.

      The lovebirds are nice, and thankfully they nest predominately in (introduced) palm tree cavities so they don’t seem to be competing with indigenous species, only other less pleasant exotics.

      P.S. isn’t lurkerdom where birders hang out for their m.o. like all the time!? It’s what we do.

      Hope to hear from you again!