Saturday, September 14, 2013

Make it a Pair! The other Arizona Booby

A Booby on a a way, it's a cliche pose. If one is lucky enough to see one of these birds inland, this will likely be the situation, but of course seeing one at all is not a likely situation. Seeing a Code 4 Blue-footed Booby in Patagonia one weekend and then heading west for a Code 3 Brown Booby in Havasu the next weekend is very most totally probably extremely unlikely, and yet it happened. 

After a fantastic trip down to southeastern Arizona for the Blue-footed, birding friends Tommy DeBardeleben and Magill Weber and I headed west last Saturday to make it a pair for the state. The tropical storms in the Gulf of California have made for some incredible finds these last several weeks, and knowing it may be another five years or so before we'd have an opportunity to get two Boobies in Arizona, the 2:30am departure time and the pessimistic weather forecast were no sort of deterrent.

We were also buoyed with confidence, knowing that the David Van Der Pluym and Lauren Harter, original discoverers of the Brown Booby and many other incredible finds in west Arizona, were able and willing to meet up and relocate the bird.
After an initially unsuccessful scan from Pittsburgh point at Lake Havasu, we were joined by David and Lauren. With their spotting scopes also trained across the lake, the Booby was soon located, and we were then able to relocate to Windsor Beach for the looks and photos shown here.

The overcast weather meant that photography was pretty limited, but it also kept the Havasu temperatures blessedly low. Since we were still treated to a great show of plunge-diving by the Booby, I was glad to have the cloud cover.
Without the wider context of this post, I'm not sure a lot of people could tell what they're looking at here. Obviously, it's a Brown Booby hitting the water face first, or maybe it's the Loch Ness Monster.

Tommy DeBardeleben, Magill Weber, and Lauren Harter are great birding buddies to have. Not only do they possess an encyclopedic knowledge of Arizona's avifauna (and most of North America's as well), but they all have nice spotting scopes, and they're nice enough to share, which meant the amount of extra equipment I had to drag around was pretty minimal.

The views of the Booby were pretty close if not crystal clear, and the lake itself looked very nice from our vantage point. You know it's a good day when you start off with an ABA Code 3 lifer and still have the rest of the day to explore the surrounding area.

Here's what a bunch of dorks look like while staring at a rare Booby, dorks with impressive Year lists that is!

I think we ended on 95 or 96 species for the day, of which this Year Bird Common Tern was another highlight. California and Ring-billed Gulls crowded along the Havasu shore, while the crack team of scoper snipers also picked out Common and Pacific Loons as well as a Year Bird Red-necked Grebe.

A fledgling Clark's Grebe was preening near the Windsor Beach shoreline too, apparently abandoned or maybe just trying to run away from its parents to teach them a lesson. We've all been there. 

We swung by Rotary Park in Havasu and the Bill Williams Lookout on our way back towards Phoenix, picking up some waterfowl and many other migrant songbirds, while always holding out hope for a Yellow-billed Loon (which was, of course, pretty loony of us).
Driving back through Parker, a small town southeast of Havasu, Tommy, Magill, and I also swung by the Ahakhav Tribal Preserve. With its adjoining rows of cottonwoods and willows, this park was an absolute blow out for Flycatchers, which meant I was in paradise.

I've tried time and again to articulate why I feel this burning love for Flycatchers, why this fairly dull Willow Flycatcher on a stick hold such fascination and allure. Words fall short, but the Ahakhav Preserve did not and we had seemingly dozens of Willows, Pacific-slopes, Phoebes, Vermilions, Pewees, and Gray Flycatchers. 

The clouds finally put their money where their mouth had been all day and precipitated, but that did not deter us anymore than it did the birds, evidenced here by this boldly colored and boldly perching Vermilion.

We're halfway through September now, and even though it's still plenty hot outside, I can't pretend it's still summer. I had some massive, grandiose birding plans at the start, most of which were scuppered by some unexpected health setbacks, but having picked up many year birds and some fantastic lifers, including two Boobies, I can say it was still a great summer's birding.