Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's Official: The New Spot at McCormick Ponds

With Maria and I settled in central Phoenix for the year, it can be difficult to find much birding on a day-to-day basis. The Gilbert Water Ranch and Boyce Thompson Arboretum are both excellent resources, but they also necessitate a 1-hour drive each way.
Within the city, there are the public parks, such as Grenada Park and Encanto, as well as the Desert Botanical Gardens, which offers a much wider array of habitats to draw in both desert dwellers and some of the many migrants that pass over Arizona on their way to Mexico. However, I sometimes feel like I've sort of seen it all at these nearby features. Of course, they're still great to visit, but there isn't the same adventure and promise of new things on as large a scale.
During this fall break I explored the waterways around Scottsdale, and discovered a little gem in the form of a drainage pound off of Scottsdale Road, just south of Indian Bend. I've visited it 3 times now in the last 3 days between 8 am and 2 pm. Despite it only covering a couple acres, I think I've seen over 40 species, almost none of them migrants, and been able to add about a half-dozen new species to my List.
The scenery and set up itself is not especially ideal. You may draw wary glances and disapproving looks from the nearby golfers, and since most of the action is on the west bank, it is difficult to get good pictures in the early morning (the sun will be working against you).
I'd still recommend the ponds for any of you fellow Phoenician birders looking for a more local and lively birding spot, especially because it seems to host a pair of resident Vermillion Flycatchers.
Some of the other interesting species have been mentioned in earlier posts this week, but here I've supplied a list of species I've seen around the pond, just to wet the appetite:

Marsh Wren


American Kestrel

Common Yellowthroat

Western Meadowlark
Black-Crowned Night Heron
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Rough-Winged Swallow

All the finches getting along in the early morning light.

A Black Phoebe stands as the lookout, even though no one asked him to.

 The female Vermillion Flycatcher was still looking a little bit disheveled this morning

 This is the best I've managed with the Marsh Wrens so far.

 Lincoln's Sparrow, another new bird!

 He looks angry, better do what he Say's

 The demure Yellow-Rumped Warbler in her Autumn plumage

The Harris's Hawk is king of these parts. 

Lincoln's Sparrow

Another handsome and under appreciated (by me) little brown bird, the Lincoln's Sparrow is a trim and finely colored emberizid found in or around the underbrush. They essentially encircle the U.S. in their range, although they don't move very far inland and are pretty inconspicuous, so I was glad to find them while actually pursuing a Marsh Wren.
Their streaked sides set them apart from most other Sparrows, while the white chin, ruddy head and off-shade cheek outline confirm the species. This particular Sparrow was a very gracious consolation after my failed attempts to photograph the illusive Marsh Wren, although it seemed to be missing its tail feathers...

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Found throughout the U.S. at different times of the year, the Yellow-Rumped is one of the more common and widely known warblers. Although it may not have the sheer dazzle of a Prothonotary Warbler or Blackburnian, they still have a nice mixture of black, charcoal grays, white, and yellow when in their full spring-time regalia.
Such was not the case today, and I was only able to photograph a demure female, but the yellow spotting on her chin, rump, and flanks are still dead giveaways. There were several of these warblers making the rounds at the McCormick ponds, but this is the first time I've actually specifically identified and recorded them. Hopefully they'll still be around in the spring, and maybe feel a bit more photogenic in their proper plumage.