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January 24th, 2010
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Gilbert Water Ranch, Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Blue-gray-Gnatcatcher-Gilbert-Water-Ranch-011410-01Canada-Goose-Gilbert-Water-Ranch-011410-05-EDSnowy-Egret-Gilbert-Water-Ranch-011410-04-EDGreen-Heron-Gilbert-Water-Ranch-011410-03-EDI met Neill and Karen again, today at Gilbert Water Ranch in Phoenix, where we spent a pleasant morning with the great variety of birds to be found around the ponds.

We started by studying contrasting birds – roosting Turkey Vultures and busy Anna’s Hummingbirds. Pond 7 was the place to be, with Great and Snowy Egrets, several Wilson’s Snipe, Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, a bunch of Canada Geese (one wearing a numbered collar, B38), about 50 Blue-gray-Gnatcatcher-Gilbert-Water-Ranch-011410-03-EDNorthern Pintail, all in a row, Cinnamon and scads of Green-winged Teal and more. A group of Lawrence’s Goldfinch were feeding on weeds along the far shore, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers entertained us a few feet away on our side of the pond.

A pair of Peach-faced Lovebirds, the escaped parrot that has become firmly established here and at other sites in Phoenix, added a splash of exotic color. We got good looks at Abert’s and Spotted Towhee, and obscured but close views of roosting Black-crowned Night-Herons. The other ponds were also productive: a couple of American Avocets, lots of Neotropic and a few Double-crested Cormorants, good looks at Green Heron, and a Great Blue Heron incongruously perched atop the tallest light pole for miles around.

Boyce-Thompson-Arboretum-01Boyce-Thompson-Arboretum-03In the afternoon we headed east towards the Superstition Mountains and to Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, Arizona. This was my first visit and I was impressed – a dramatic canyon of rock spires and high walls, with Queen Creek flowing through a rich riparian corridor, all incorporated into a first rate botanical garden. Great!

Birding was tough at first. Lots of Anna’s Hummingbirds buzzed the feeders and flowers, but little else was stirring until I found a welcome life bird for Karen and Neill in the form of a few Rufous-crowned Sparrows.

Boyce-Thompson-Arboretum-02Northern-Cardinal-Boyce-Thompson-ArboretumHermit-Thrush-Boyce-Thompson-Arboretum-011410-02-EDWe eventually made our way into the riparian area and to the pump house, where a fruiting Myrtle tree had constant activity with birds flying in and out to feed. A coati had been feasting on and off for some time, but we arrived not longer after it had stuffed itself full and it didn’t reappear. Two birds that did appear were two Rufous-backed Robins. They flew in and out about five times as we hung around the area, but we only got the briefest of looks of either bird perched. We did have several good close flight views though, and another life bird for most of the small assembled crowd, a Crissal Thrasher. A few Hermit Thrushes, Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds and Phainopeplas added to the scene. The importance of fruiting trees for wintering birds has really been driven home this week. It was a fitting way to end a great couple of days with Neill & Karen. Thanks for the fun times, looking forward to the next time 😀

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