Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Brisk Morning's Birding

It was chilly today, for maybe the first time this fall. Rainclouds had come in over night, and they kept the temperature around 42 degrees this morning. Dressed in my normal shorts and a thin, long-sleeved shirt, I assumed it would warm up pretty soon (as the weather usually does in Arizona). I was wrong. My unpreparedness cut this Saturday's birding excursion a bit short, but it was still a nice jaunt around the Papago Ponds.

A Northern Mockingbird was my first avian specimen for the day. Despite being pretty close to me, he seemed to have other things on his mind. I asked him if he wanted to talk about it, but he just flew away in a huff.

It was a little bit surprising to see frogs around the pond edges, and not just because they have a pretty good camouflage. It's possible that today's cold caught them by surprise (and that it wasn't actually that bad). They're usually much more elusive when the weather gets chilly.

There were still plenty of Ring-Necked Ducks around the ponds, including a few juveniles. I had never seen this stage of development before, with the red eye and the singular ring on the bill, so it was a nice shake-up, even if they weren't new birds.

Some nearby mesquite afforded me another try at photographing Gnatcatchers this morning. As I've mentioned before, I have a lot of difficulty getting satisfactory Gnatcatcher photos. Given the amount of opportunities I've had, they may in fact thwart me more often than any Warbler, but it's always nice to observe them nonetheless.

On the other hand, this Snowy Egret was very cooperative. He seemed very proud of his little rock and was determined to hold, regardless of the weather or camera-wielding gawkers. It's kind of interesting how the yellow is showing through on his legs, and some black is showing through on his feet. It looks like the tougher skin has rubbed away. This is probably pretty common with these kinds of long-legged birds, but I'd never noticed it before.

My favorite part of the chilly day had to be catching this Coot out of water. I love Coot feet. Their reptilian texture and color, along with the oversized lobed toes are totally unique.

Coot faces are also very pleasant, even with a potentially menacing red eye, and I had never noticed their white rumps until today. I had always assumed the slate gray/black color went all over, but their little white tuft sticks out at about the same length and width to match the beak--pretty symmetrical.