Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Birds at the Ranch

The good birding and open spaces at the Glendale Recharge ponds only increased my avian appetite in this long weekend, and I decided to revisit the Gilbert Water Ranch to search for some reported Lawrence's Goldfinches on Monday. I'll relate that adventure with more detail later in the week. 

As usual, the Water Ranch was teeming with activity and with all manner of species, from Herons and Kinglets to Teals, Stilts, and Sparrows. One of the best sightings came early on in the day, and coincided with a nice break in the clouds. I was circling around Pond 5, on of the larger and southern basins that is actually now full of nice, seedy grass (perfect for finches), when this female Northern Harrier touched down.

At about 25 yards, this was the best look I'd yet been afforded by a Harrier, although I see them flying around often enough in these winter months. This same female has been at the Water Ranch since at least October, and was actually the first of the species I ever saw. I continued around the southern bend in Pond 5 and was greeted by the unmistakable trilling of a Belted Kingfisher. He was as skittish as ever, but looked marvelous out in the sun. Magnificent bird.

I continued to peruse the grassy areas and shoreline scrub in search of the Lawrence's goldfinches, and was surprised to find not even a single Lesser Goldfinch, usually a guaranteed sighting at the Ranch. At least the herons were out in force. The Black-Crowned Night herons were in exactly the same place where I saw them a over a month ago. It is entirely possible they haven't even left the tree since then.

There were some Snowy Egrets in the trees as well as a Great Blue Heron. I like the protruding feathers here and the dexterous position of the Snowy's feet on the branches.

There are usually some warblers to be found in this swampy corner too, and I was hoping for the Common Yellowthroat I saw last time. Unfortunately this Yellow-Rumped was the only Warbler on duty, but even with them being a dime-a-dozen in the winter, they're still always a pleasure to see.

Slightly more muted was this sulking Brewer's Sparrow. If he was hoping someone would come and perch with him, he certainly didn't pick the most comfortable spot.

There were lots of Brewer's Sparrows along with a few Lincoln's and tons of White-Crowned foraging in the tall grass along Pond 5, and it was here that I began to vigilant wait for the Lawrence's Goldfinches. Since tomorrow is Wednesday with Audubon, I'll have to wait until later in the week to share that adventure. 

It was great birding at the Ranch, as always, and a very nice cap to the long weekend.