Sunday, February 12, 2012

Recharging in Glendale

Pops and I headed down to the Glendale Recharge Ponds today, with no particular aims or goals beyond having a nice morning full of birds (one of the best sorts of mornings). The ponds have been very low the last few times I visited, but today they were quite full and teaming with waterfowl.

Although the ducks were far out on the ponds and very shy, there was an excellent array of species. We saw Wigeons, all three Teal, Shovelers, Ring-Necks, Pintails, Eared Grebes, and my first Buffleheads. Some Canada Geese stopped by later in the morning, and they had several Snow Geese tagging along, or so we thought.

The ponds are all enclosed by canals and spillways, and it was along some adjacent telephone wires that my first photographic quarry made its appearance. This Belted Kingfisher was sitting rather contentedly with a crawfish in her beak. She seemed determined not to try and swallow it until after we had gone. Since we were determined to wait and see, she eventually took off in search of a more private dining area.

There were many waders along the pond shorelines. The Greater Yellowlegs and Least Sandpipers were the most abundant, but there were also Black-Necked Stilts, Egrets, Dowitchers, and a few Great Blue Herons. We also stumbled across a homicide scene of sorts, where scattered feathers of increasing size and blueness led us to some grisly remains.

We set up our police tape and began to investigate, wondering if this was the same perpetrator as in the infamous Wellington Massacre in Florida last year (in fact, some of the similarities, like seeing a Kingfisher just before, were uncanny!). Coyote tracks led down the muddy shoreline, and we followed until the identity of the victim was certain.

But it was not an afternoon to be dominated by the macabre. The Canada Geese and Snow Geese had drifted into camera range, so we took the rare opportunity to better examine the Glendale waterfowl. Good thing too, for that group of Snow Geese had among them two Ross's Geese, another new bird for the Butler team!

The Canada Geese tried their best to shield their conspicuous companions, but when two of the white geese swam side by side they made for a very nice, if still distant, comparison.

Although its plumage is nearly indistinguishable from the Snow Goose, the Ross's Goose is noticeably smaller and lacks the black lips (for lack of the proper word) along the beak. I doubt I could pick a Ross's out of a whole flock of Snow Geese, so it was very fortunate to have such a nice control group, as it were. 

With the sun rising high and winter still refusing to happen, Pops and I returned to the car and headed back into Phoenix proper, stopping by Grenada Park to see if the Redhead drake was still around. 

He was indeed, and what was a new bird for me on Wednesday became a new bird for Pops on Saturday. It's been a wonderful winter for ducks, and this is definitely one of the most beautiful I've seen so far.

Another first for Grenada Park was this female Lesser Scaup. As I've mentioned before, the Lesser Scaup are not nearly as common in Phoenix as many other migrants, and she brought the total number of different waterfowl species at Grenada to seven--pretty good for a pond that's about the size of a large swimming pool.

Some frolicking, off-screen Mallards provided the fun little splash in this picture, and if you enlarge the image you can see the Scaup has her nictating membrane shielding her eyes.