Thursday, May 14, 2015

Desert Birds for Dessert

The sorrow, the pain, the tragedy...this past weekend was not a birding weekend. I did spend a weeknight searching another deserty area around twilight in the hopes that I might discover Elf and Western-Screech, as well as Common Poorwill, closer to home (especially COPO, since I still need a picture), which took me to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. But first, here's a miscellaneous Gray Vireo shot 'cause you never know WHAT is coming next on this site! Whew!

Although it had a healthy and heavily vocal Lesser Nighthawk population (and, in my opinion, the vocalizations of this bird really do not get enough recognition for how fun they are), it was once again a strike out with three nocturnal targets. It was also a little late in the season to hope for other migrant Owls. It was a very pinkish evening though, made me get in touch with my feminine side and what not.

With so much desert habitat here I know that ELOW and WESO are there, and I didn't tarry long into dark, but suffice it to say they're not as readily detectable as they are along the Salt River, which defeats the point of finding them closer to central Phoenix. What is readily detectable at the PMP is Gilded Flicker. 

Since this bird's plumage characteristics also occur in one or the other of the two widely distributed Northern Flicker populations, Gilded doesn't get a lot of special recognition by non-listers, but in many ways this saguaro-squatting fanatic is one of Arizona's most precious "specialty" (near-specialty) birds.

It doesn't have the eye-cataching appeal of a Red-faced Warbler or White-eared Hummingbird, nor the ghostly reputation of a Le Conte's Thrasher, but the GIFL, like these other birds, is also pretty hard to come by in North America outside of Arizona. They are where the saguaros are, and the saguaros aren't  everywhere. Of course, saguaros serve as multi-story tenement housing for all kinds of animals, and even multiple GIFLs, so if one finds a few big and gnarly saguaros, the GIFLs will be around.

There will also be Flycatchers, Ash-throated Flycatchers. Known in some of the more puerile birding circles as the "White-breasted Pee-pee Pants Flycatcher," this birds recognizable calls from the creosote scrub are ever-present vindication of the decision to go birding on a weekday.

Sometimes ATFLs look to their left as well, so here is a picture of that occurrence for superlatively thorough documentation of the species's behavior; making note of the head direction is something one can look for when discerning myiarchus species, though there may be better indicators as well.