Sunday, November 13, 2011

Beautiful Birds at the Botanical Gardens

I had been having some difficulty getting quality photos at the DBG lately. The colorful birds seemed to be taking a break these last couple weeks, but they came out for the Saturday morning bird-walk with gusto! There were some surprising sightings to begin the day, including a Loggerhead Shrike and a Peregrine Falcon. Only a few minutes into the walk and I was already satisfied. At long last, I got some clear pictures of the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher!

It had quite the fuzzy fanny, and gave me a good look at the diagnostic white feathers on the tail. If there's white below, it's the Blue-Gray, and not the similar looking Black-Tailed.

Another highlight of the day was this male Cardinal. He stopped by to provide a nice contrast with the blue of the Gnatcatchers and the dim lighting of the overcast sky. It's unusual to see Cardinals this time of year in Arizona, and this came right after I had seen a female at the Water Ranch. Birding synchronicity strikes again!

He enjoyed the security of this Arizona rosewood tree and basked in the confidence that HE was the most colorful things at the Gardens today.

As we made a circuit around the Gardens, the Orange-Crowned Warblers and Kinglets began to emerge from the chaparral. There were plenty of Starlings and Mockingbirds , and one particularly audacious Curve-Billed Thrasher. He must be the sheriff in these parts. I watched him chase away two Mockers, a Cactus Wren, and even stand his ground against that the most heinous of nature's enemies...MAN!!! dun Dun DUN!

The other desert critters cowered before the awesome presence and authority of this mighty Thrasher!

It was a brief but brilliant morning of birding that both restored my confidence in the DBG and the payoffs of persistence (this was maybe the 12th time I've chased after Gnatcatchers for a picture). As a part of the DBG routine, I stopped by the Papago Ponds on the way home. The Wigeons and the Pintails weren't around today, but there was a peculiar Green Heron hanging out on one of the drainage valves.

His feet were holding on in such a way that it looked like he was trying to open the valve. With his efforts in vain, he turned a beady-eyed face towards the heavens, and contemplated his small, small existence in the universe. I like what this head position does with the rusty coloration on the sides. It looks like the world's most righteous ruddy mustache, gently cascading down his pointy face.

Something else I've been wondering about the Green Herons--where do their necks go? Other Egrets and Herons tend to keep their necks in the s-shaped wimple, but the Green Heron, like the Yellow and Black-Crowned Night Herons, can just kind of withdraw it. Cool birds, and curious too.