Monday, May 14, 2012

Birding the Arizona Beach

It seems like spring only lasted for a couple weeks, and now we're already into summer. Perhaps that explains the recent beach posts on lots of birding websites. As the sun climbs higher and stays longer in the sky, we start to pine for the breezy shores and salty air. Chris Rohrer over at Las Aventuras, Gordon Karre over at Birding Adventures, and Seagull Steve at BB&B have all had some excellent recent posts revolving around beach birding, and they've got me yearning for the shore. Alas, central Phoenix is a far cry from the Pacific Ocean, but to try and keep myself sane these last few weeks, I shall endeavor to deceive!

These accounts and photos are from the Glendale Recharge Ponds, a bleak, ugly place in northwest Phoenix that offers surprisingly good birding around the holding lakes. This is my place for shoreline birding. So take a whiff of saltwater, hold some seashells to your ears, close your eyes, and pretend you're now at the beach (don't really close your eyes; then you wouldn't be able to read the post).....

So, here we are at the beach. It must be low tide, for there are no waves and the water is rather shallow. Thinking little of the low water level in the ocean or the faint smell of distant sewage, we unfold our rickety beach chairs, stick an umbrella in the ground, and soak in the scenery.

Upon closer inspection, we see that the shoreline is dotted with Semi-palmated Plovers, an uncommon bird in Arizona but a predictable sighting for us here on the Pacific coast...

While the Plovers scurry around the tide pools, we notice some shadows from above. Looking up, we see some Cliff Swallows catching bugs with exceeding delight.

They dip and turn and bank with impressive agility. Clearly, this a bird designed to fly and fly, to spend its life in the sky.

A larger, lumpier shadow moves across the beach. Again looking up, we see an American Avocet coming in to land. Beautiful and graceful though these birds are, they do not look so comfortable in the air. The upturned beak makes perfect sense for skimming through the shallow mud and muck, but now makes the Avocet look like it crashed into a window.

There's a lot of traffic in the sky today. Several Caspian Terns fly overhead, reveling in the knowledge that they're one of the largest and sleekest aviators in these skies.

This too, would be an unusual and exciting sighting in Arizona, but since we're on the Pacific Coast we won't get too energized...

We've been studying the sky for a while now and our necks begin to hurt. After reaching for a cool beverage and leaning back in our creaky chairs, we again scan the shoreline for adventurous peeps, such as this Spotted Sandpiper popping in and out along the rocky wharf.

The Spotted Sandpiper seems determined to keep its feet dry, but eventually the allure of tasty treasures draws him into the water. Come to think of it, that sounds pretty good!

As we make the short walk down the beach, a startling cry echos from the right. Of course! It is a Killdeer, the common and noisy Plover near and dear to our hearts. He's standing along a rocky outcropping, blending in very nicely. Since this is the Pacific beach and not an Arizona sewage pond, we marvel at this unusual and refreshing sighting!

Ahh...a quick dip, some picnic lunching, some more cold beverages and it's time to pass out. What a lovely trip to the beach this was!