Saturday, September 17, 2011

Snowy Egret

This medium sized egret has a slender, black bill offset by its yellow cere and eye. It is moted noted for its pretty yellow slippers, which are diagnostic for the species. They range around the U.S. coast and can also be found inland of warmer states.

I would not want to be on the receiving end of that beak.
The neck is coiled to strike here, much like a snake. The Snowy Egret uses its large feet to stir up the mud and flush out any tasty morsels. How she sees into the resulting murk I do not know.
This bird has not yet withdrawn its neck into the S position common among long-necked waders. The feet continue to trail behind in flight. 

Eurasian Collared-Dove

The Eurasian Collared Dove is an introduced species from the Caribbean, although it was originally indigenous to Eurasia. This was an unexpected sighting at the Water Ranch, although they seem to be common enough and well established now in the area. It was curious because I didn't see a single one last year, despite the Doves supposedly being year-round residents. They're a bit bulkier than the White-Winged Doves, and are a nice, chalky white and gray. Their collar consists of some standing, darker feathers on the nape of their neck.

Black-Throated Gray Warbler

This is my first good (yes I'll say it!) batch of Warbler photos, and I am very glad this fine looking Black-Throated Gray Warbler agreed to be my subject. The gray back, white wingbars, black speckling on the white breast, and of course the streaked hood with yellow lores (the bird's sinus area) all set this bird apart from the many other species of warbler. Successfully getting some good warbler shots is really encouraging for the fledgling photographer. I saw this warbler first at the Desert Botanical Gardens last weekend, but was unable to get a decent picture. I was again taunted by the Wilson's Warbler as well a couple MacGillivray's Warblers at the Gilbert Water Ranch, but this charitable bird took pity and waited for me in the sunny tree next to the restrooms. She currently holds the esteemed title of "Best Warbler Yet".
The absence of an actual black throat means this is a female. I have no complaints at all.

She's a handsome gal. Note the yellow patches on the lores.

Black-Necked Stilt

You'll find Stilts just about anywhere you'll find Avocets. Like the Avocet, they are immediately recognizable with their uniquely black back and neck, along with their white eyebrow and slender red legs.  Like the Avocet, these birds seem to walk the thin line between grace and fragility. They look like they'll break at any moment as they run along the shallow water, swinging their heads side to side to stir up food.
They also have a large population at the Water Ranch in Phoenix.

American Avocet

These graceful wading birds populate the U.S. west of the line of semi-aridity (about half-way through Texas). They have long, slender, bluish-gray legs with a lovely black accentuation on their backs. Their breeding plumage comes in as a strong rusty coloring all the way up their necks and heads, and their delicate bills have a noticeable upturn to them.

This specimen was one of eight at the Glendale Recharge Ponds in west Phoenix.

Greater Yellowlegs

This predictably named sandpiper has all the normal trimmings of the innocuous shorebird group. A dull white to its underside with darker browns and grays speckling its back. At 14 inches they're one of the taller, non-heron wading birds, and always lord it over the Lesser Yellowlegs I am sure.

Great Egret

The anatomical difference between herons, egrets, and bitterns is pretty negligible. Egrets tend to be whiter and have more plumage on their head and neck, while herons tend to be a little bit bulkier. The Great Egret is the largest of the egret group, reaching heights up to 40 inches. Its dagger-like bill is entirely yellow, as is its eye, while the legs and feet are a uniform black. They are locally common throughout the U.S., though they tend to avoid colder parts of the country.

Warbling Vireo

The Warbling Vireo is a small, moderately colorful bird with a whitish breast and a noticeable, streaked eye-ring. Denominations of Western Warbling Vireos are noticeably more yellow on their sides, not quite with the vibrancy of a warbler, but enough to catch the eye. They look and act a bit like a cross between a warbler and a verdin, maintaining a horizontal posture while in constant motion. The Warbling Vireo does not have any wingbars or speckling, which actually aids in its identification. This specimen was found at the Gilbert Water Ranch in Phoenix.

Least Sandpiper

These birds are really putting all of their eggs in the "The meek shall inherit the earth" basket. They're so much smaller than other common waterbirds (barely reaching 6 inches), and they spend most of their time with their faces stuck in the mud. Still, they're pretty cute little fluff balls. They venture into the Southern United States to winter, and spend their summers up North.

Spotted Sandpiper

The Spotted is the most common inland Sandpiper although their behavior doesn't otherwise set them apart from other Sandpipers. Aside from laying more eggs, I wonder what gives a species like this such an advantage over other similar species. There doesn't seem to be any clear superiority to the Spotted Sandpiper over the Least Sandpiper, but the Spotted has managed to spread its range over the entire North American continent nonetheless.
This lone Spotted Sandpiper (does that make him a Solitary Sandpiper? >haha birding joke<) is not in its breeding plumage and therefore is without the heavy spotting on its flank, but the yellow legs, size, white shoulder patch, white eye ring and slight yellow on the bill, as well as its presence in Phoenix, all still give it away.

Abert's Towhee

The Abert's Towhee isn't much to look at. Its high-pitch, single note call isn't much to hear. If asked, it would probably admit that its favorite color is grey.
It is fun to watch them hop back and forth, stirring up top soil and excavating edibles in a lively fashion, but it's appropriate they seem to prefer life on the ground and in the shadows. After all, they do have bandit masks.

Green-Tailed Towhee

The Green-Tailed is the smallest and slenderest of the Towhees, but it is also the most colorful. With an olive to yellow coloration on their wings and tails, a rufus cap, and a white throat complimenting the gray and white breast, they may also be one of the more colorful birds one will see flitting about on the ground. This purdy bird was at the Rio Salado Audobon Preserve in Central Phoenix.
I have also seen them in increasing numbers at the Desert Botanical Gardens (pictured at the bottom) as they concentrate their populations farther south for the winter.
Here he stands, lord of his domain
Something alerted him, and he jumped to the nearest vantage point with his rufus crest engaged.
This is my favorite picture. He looks so distressed, even sad, but the white throat, belly, and peachy sides are also clearly visible. these birds have a lot of color going on, and aren't afraid to show it.

 Note here the white lores, throat, and
Unfortunately I couldn't fit the bird in the frame here, but it still shows how intricately colored these birds are.