Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Twilight Gatherings in the face of Desolation

The sun-scorched earth...nothing can grow, nothing can live...much less survive. The stoic Ibis stretches from one forsaken spot to another, the only shade being provided by rocks even more lifeless than the desiccated soil itself. Truly, this may be the spitting image of the last bit of life on earth, when that day comes...until that fragile little flame dies out amidst the all encompassing black of the universe.

Or it's just suggestive cropping in a particularly poor-looking area. On the other side of this little dirt road there was much more going on, and there always is, if one swings by in the last hour of daylight. These photos were all taken around the Broadway dairy farms, which are, quite in contrast to atmosphere of the beginning photo, teeming with activity.

Cattle Egrets have the namesake and reputation for bovine association, but out in west Phoenix where Cattle Egrets are few and far between anyway, the Yellow-headed Blackbird is, by far, the species seen most closely socializing and living with the cows.

They roost in the thousands at the protected Tres Rios wetlands just a mile south, and spend their days and evenings chittering, chattering, and making bizarre metallic sounds with their cow buddies.
It's a rip-snorting good time. Everyone gets plenty to eat, has plenty of gossip, and wallows in their own feces. When everyone's a party pooper, the party don't stop!

The Yellow-heads aren't the only birds to come out in large numbers in the evening light. Bulkier, quieter Eurasian Collared-Doves, the awkward wallflower or any semi-urban get-together, line the corrals. They know they're a good looking dove, but also that no one really likes them very much or wants them to be there.

Adjacent to the masses of unscrupulous farmyard birds, Burrowing Owls also become readily conspicuous as the evening wears on. They must remain diligent in looking out for Red-tails and Cooper's Hawks, but that won't stop them from imitating those wire-perching birds either.

Two look-outs are better than one; these fellows had the panorama covered well. They didn't mind my presence either, perhaps thinking that the large gangly creature would further deter any raptors from swooping in and ruining their evening porch time.

I'm hoping to try for a Maricopa rarity Harris's Sparrow this weekend and get some good photo ops at the Oak Flats campground in Superior, AZ. It's nice to have some direction and plans going into the weekend. It's also very nice to have some reliable spots, like those shown here, where fun and fine-looking birds can always be found. They sometimes have a gruff (or in the case of yellow-heads, cacophonous) demeanor, but they don't mind visitors in the evening, just don't stay too late.