Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Working Out a Work Patch

Working a 7am-4pm job can be hard on a fellow's birding, especially when the sun sets early and there's still prep work to be done for the following day's grind. It's often a tight, sweaty squeeze--like to many suits on an elevator--but the weekend outlet isn't always enough, and sometimes you've got to fit in some weekday birding, even if it's just a quick fix, a supplementary high. It doesn't matter if they're mostly trash birds; they've got feathers and they move, so it's still birding. 

Black Phoebe by the parking lot irrigation gate? Hell yeah!!!
Many people have the benefit of yard birding of course, but for us apartment dwellers that doesn't amount to much, so the next option is finding a local patch around home or work, usually a park or something similar. Phoenix has some decent birding parks, like Encanto downtown or Grenada Park more central, but these require a bit too much rush hour driving for me to hit up on a weekday evening. The campus where I work has actually turned up a couple of decent birds for me--American Robin and Peregrine Falcon, and Lark Sparrow, which are uncommon in central Phoenix--but I can't well use my place of work as my work patch; that'd be distracting for me and everyone else there who knows me and sees me walking the grounds with all the gear, plus there's not much water. 

So, I decided to head a few blocks northeast to the SRP Arizona Falls canal spillway, a nice little attempt at a canal filtration/regulation gate with some walking paths and water works. It's very small--easily covered in 10 minutes--and also adjacent to Herberger park, which has some grass and a few pine trees, as well as tamarisks, that have already produced Red-naped Sapsuckers and maybe some migrants in a month.

The spillway itself is a nice little construction, and its various channels provided a nice break up of the monotonous brown trench canal scene. The higher concentration of birds here, like these Mallards seconds that motion.
It's funny how starting a new patch list, especially one for a small patch with little going for it other than location, readjusts expectations. Once again I'm really looking forward to a Kestrel Sighting. Red-naped Sapsuckers were a treat and I haven't even recorded House Finches yet in two tries! Yes indeed, I'm only at 21 species for the lil' place, and the proudest sighting of all is a skittish Spotted Sandpiper, along with an unseasonably early Cliff Swallow (it's also unseasonably warm, friggin' 88 today!).

Like the other park birding scenes in Phoenix, the lessened variety compared to proper nature preserves or refuges is made up for, in small part, by much closer looks at those species that will still abide the heat and noise, and now peeping tom birders, of the city.

At any preserve in Maricopa County, Wigeon are pretty near the bottom of the totem pole in terms of commonality and appearance among waterfowl, but along a canal, man, they're hot commodities!

A Neotropic Cormorant is a bird I will not stop to observe at during my weekend treks at Tres Rios, where they numbers in the 100s as can the site species count on a good day, but it's another solid find for a little patch in central Phoenix.

So, finding the little birding patch by work helps not only to satisfy that birding addiction--and really, satisfy is a generous word--it helps to numb expectations and encourage an appreciation of what would be considered lesser or duller birds in more grandiose birding settings. And hey, who knows when something rare will turn up? In the mean time, for even 20 minutes on a Tuesday, being a few feet from a feeding Anna's will do just fine.