April 1st, 2010-Lake Pleasant Birding: Franklin's Gulls and Marbled Godwit
After reading Pat's report of seeing Franklin's Gulls at the lake
yesterday, I decided to head out immediately after reading the report and
try to see a Franklin's Gull, which I have yet to see before today.. The
weather was extremely windy at times, but for once I didn't mind the wind.
While driving along the various stops along the south end of the park
which overlooks the lake, almost right away I caught sight of a FRANKLIN'S
GULL flying over the water. It then flew close to me and was caught in
the wind, and it somewhat "sailed" by me in flight, and I enjoyed seeing
this beautiful bird with such great views!! Thanks this one time to the
wind. I ended up finding two together later on, with a strong possibility
of one of them being the first one I saw. RING-BILLED GULLS were very
I also had a surprise which I didn't expect, a MARBLED GODWIT who sat on
one of the shoreside pullouts with many Ring-billed Gulls. The Marbled
let me get very close views of itself before it flew off, and it was an
amazing sight to see it flying over Pleasant! I looked at the bar graphs
for Maricopa County, and Marbleds usually migrate through mid-April, so
perhaps this guy was somewhat ahead of schedule.
Other bird highlights I saw here today were 2 NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS, BLACK-
CHINNED and COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRDS, VIOLET-GREEN and CLIFF SWALLOWS flying
over the lake, and a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT.
A great way to start off April for me, and thanks much to Pat for the
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)
April 5th, 2010-Glendale/Peoria: Skunk Creek
Yesterday on Easter morning before church, I explored an area with my
brother Tyler that I have never been to before that might possibly have
some good birding potential, especially with migrants.
This area is called Skunk Creek, and it is a wash that is basically
used for flooding and flash floods that runs a very long way. I
accessed the area from 75th avenue just north of Greenway Rd (also just
south of Bell Rd). I parked at a sports facility called Roller Skate
which has convient parking right by the wash and path, which is a typical
walking path for both bike riders, runners, etc. Walking west down the
path on the south side of the wash (closer to Greenway Rd.) leads to
good habitat, which is just under the 83rd Avenue bridge, after a mile and
a half or so of walking from 75th avenue. Once very closeby to 83rd
Avenue, is a nice clump and grove of trees, many of them willow, also a
big cottonwood as well. I don't know much at all about tree types (I'm
sure some are exotic), but many are mixed in together with willows being
very numerous in the dense grove. I noticed this area while driving a few
nights before north up 83rd avenue, and I was impressed by the habitat and
was curious to check the area out, it seems like a good migrant trap.
However, there doesn't seem to be a decent parking spot unfortunetely on
the 83rd avenue end, so a longer walk is required from parking at 75th
avenue, but still a good walk and good exercise. Besides this clump of
riparian trees, there is nothing else but weeds and grass and a cement
creek in the wash the rest from the beginning of 75th to until you reach
the grove at 83rd. Birding probably isn't very recommendable until this
spot at the grove, but there are some open farmyards along this stretch on
the other side of the path which might hold a species of interest
occasionally. I feel this grove of trees might hold something good and I
encourage others to check it out as well.
Birding wise I didn't have much in the grove for my first try, several
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET,
and the spot seemed to have a nice population of BLACK-CHINNED
HUMMINGBIRDS. I also thought I heard a possible Broad-billed Hummingbird
in there, but the bird never called again and I wasn't able to locate it.
Hopefully my future trys here will be better.
Closer to 75th avenue, we enjoyed an adult GREAT HORNED OWL and a singing
So if any birders are in this area and want a new area to check out, this
could be a potential good spot!
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)
April 5th, 2010-My April Fool's Day Marbled Godwit (story and video)
Have any of you ever had a bird completely fool you right on April Fool's
Day? This April Fool's Day was a prime example for me which took place
out at Lake Pleasant.
Many of you probably saw my post from when I went out there reporting a
Marbled Godwit, but I wasn't just any Marbled Godwit, but was as washed
out as a bird could possibly get. It was more of a wanna-be Bar-tailed
Godwit, which at a glance resembles a Bar-tailed Godwit much more than a
On April Fools, I went out to Pleasant to look at Franklin's Gulls and
possibly in hopes of some other gulls. While enjoying a Franklin's, I
scanned a flock of Ring-billed Gulls to see a very light-colored Godwit
standing in the middle of them. Right away and the whole time I observed
this bird, I identified it as a Marbled Godwit, and I didn't consider any
of the other Godwit species, which would be incredibly rare in Arizona.
It's back pattern seemed more in the Marbled favor which is what I looked
at when I found the bird. This bird was rather tame and it took me
practically walking right up to it for it to take flight. It's coloring
seemed off and I was stupid enough to notice it when the bird flew away.
In my ignorance and excitment of seeing my first Franklin's Gull, I still
passed it off as a Marbled. Throughout the rest of my outing, something
seemed wierd to me about this bird when I thought back on it.
After I got home and even posted to this listserv, I remembered how this
Godwit seemed a little different. Even though I've studied Godwits and
other shorebirds alot in my guides, it still takes really seeing them in
the field alot to become more familiar with the birds, I've alway's
learned much better seeing a bird live than studying a picture. I've only
seen one Marbled Godwit prior to this one in my life, and that doesn't
help much at all with only one in regular plumage. I reviewed this video
and my field books to realize this bird was a possible candidate for
something unusual and it looked too much like a Bar-tailed Godwit in so
many ways. I sent the pics around to some of the better birders in
Arizona who took good looks at this bird to conclude that this was only a
very washed out Marbled Godwit who spent too much time in the sun, and
didn't really support Bar-tailed much at all. Mike Moore even told me out
of the thousands of Marbleds he has seen, none of them has ever been this
gray and pale.
Concluding, it is good sometimes to have field experiences like this and
it makes us better birders, even though it is disapointing at times. When
I got home and reviewed the bird, I thought I might have had the state's
first Bar-tailed Godwit, which has never been found in Arizona before.
It's also good to study birds that might possibly show up in Arizona
someday and know their field marks and features opposed to other birds,
cause it can happen any time! Just be extra careful out in the field in
case this bird shows up near you next April Fool's Day:)
I've included a 60 second video clip of this bird, which you'll be able to
clearly see how odd this bird is!
MARBLED GODWIT VIDEO LINK-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKmH-ScQ3nI
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)
April 8-9th, 2010-Madera Canyon
My apologies for this late post ( I haven't had time to post at all in
the last few days), but Jim Kopitzke and I took an overnight trip to
Madera Canyon April 8-9th, where birding was awesome.
8 April 2010:
We stayed at Bog Springs Campground and arrived around dusk, where
birding around the campground was even very good right from the start.
Jim's hummingbird feeder brought in a male BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD and
female RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD within minutes of setup.
We then made a sucessful attempt at Santa Rita Lodge and got great
looks at the one of the ELF OWLS which was in a tree directly aside the
viewing area, it wasn't even in the pole ever when we were watching.
Elf Owls were very vocal thoughout Madera Canyon from Bog Springs
Campground and well past Santa Rita Lodge, as we counted 7 different
birds calling away, and we ended up having great looks at another one
later in the night as we were owling. There is just a good of a chance
of seeing them away from the lodge by listening to them along the
roadsides as well. Back at camp, one even called directly above the
tent. Other owls included several distant called WHISKERED
SCREECH-OWLS and one GREAT HORNED OWL.
9 April 2010:
In the early AM at Bog Springs, several calling DUSKY-CAPPED
FLYCATCHERS started off the morning.
We then headed to the Santa Rita Lodge and the Kubo Bed and Breakfast.
We stopped at Santa Rita and enjoyed many birds at the bird feeders,
including MEXICAN JAYS, YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS, ACORN WOODPECKERS, etc. A
BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK was in a nearby tree and several ZONE-TAILED
HAWKS flew overhead.
The KUBO B& B was next, where after waiting for an hour and a half for
the FLAME-COLORED TANAGER at the feeders, we were able to locate it
just a little south down the road, where it was singing continuously
thoughout the morning and gave us great looks. What a beautiful bird
that is! Many people were able to see it from many angles to study the
bird in close views. I actually liked seeing it up in the trees with a
more in the wild experience then seeing it visit the feeders, which in
our 2.5 hours here, it never did visit the feeders. My
favorite bird of the trip! Also enjoyable at the Kubo were
MAGNIFICANT, BLACK-CHINNED, RUFOUS, and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS,
HOODED ORIOLES, HEPATIC TANAGER, PINE SISKIN, WHITE-BREASTED
NUTHATCHES, ACORN WOODPECKERS and many more around the feeders.
PAINTED REDSTARTS, one SCOTT'S ORIOLE, and also ZONE-TAILED and COOPERS
HAWKS were nearby.
After Kubo, we attemped a try at Black-capped Gnatcatchers and the
Rufous-capped Warbler at Florida Canyon without success. A birder who
got on the trail just minutes after us saw a Black-capped Gnatcatcher.
Hovever on the trail and surrouding area, we had several HAMMONDS and
PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATHERS, NORTHERN-BEARDLESS TYRANNULET, and
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS.
Later in the day before returning to Phoenix, we went up higher into
the canyon were we only really saw a few PAINTED REDSTARTS, birds were
not active at all up in the higher elevations in the afternoon.
Southeast AZ is always a great trip!
April 13-14th, 2010-Mount Ord, Sunflower Birding
Yesterday, I decided to take a one night camping trip by myself up to
Mount Ord where I birded that afternoon (13 April) and spent the night,
and this morning I birded on the mountain almost till noon (14 April). I
stopped at Sunflower and Mesquite Wash on my way home from my camping
outing at Mount Ord. I can't say enough about how much I love Mount Ord!
It's no doubt one of my favorite places on earth, and it's awesome that
it's so close to Phoenix- Maricopa County's own high country!
I arrived at the turnoff to Mount Ord at 2 pm yesterday when I started up
the mountain. Within minutes, I heard my first of the year BLACK-CHINNED
SPARROWS and GRAY VIREOS singing. Before I got into the pines, I ran into
Jay Miller on my way up the mountain. It certainly is surprising running
into a friend up here, cause there aren't alot of people who come up this
Once I got into the first stand of pines is where I did most of my birding
for the afternoon and the rest of my time here the following day as well.
The area I stopped at is by a cattle chute and a noticable road that goes
off to the right, signed Road 1688. This entire road is Maricopa County
(while continuing to the top of Ord mainly goes into Gila County). This
road is very rough (not recommended to drive on), and goes back a few
miles in great ponderosa pine forest habitat, which is also mixed in with
oaks and the habitat typical as well near the beginning of the road with
shrubs and junipers at some parts of the road. It creates a great mix for
many species. Many species were abundant, particularly PAINTED REDSTARTS,
BLUE-GREY GNATCATCHERS, BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS, BEWICK'S WRENS,
SPOTTED TOWHEES, VIRGINIA'S WARBLERS, and WESTERN SCRUB-JAYS. GRACE'S
WARBLERS were also present and singing alot, and I was very happy to also
see my first Maricopa County OLIVE WARBLERS, which I found a male and two
females. My main highlight from the hike was a pair of flying GOLDEN
EAGLES which I saw just in time before they went out of sight over a
ridge, also another first of Maricopa County for me! I hadn't seen a
Golden Eagle in nearly ten years, so it was quite the treat. Other birds
present were ZONE-TAILED HAWK, HAIRY WOODPECKER, BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD,
ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH, and BlACK-HEADED
GROSBEAK on Road 1688. I decided to spend the night near the top of Mount
Ord where campspace was much more suitable than further down, where I had
several more OLIVE and VIRGINIA'S WARBLERS, ACORN WOODPECKERS, and a nice
surprise with a LEWIS'S WOODPECKER.
I then woke up today (14 April) and got to Road 1688 at 6. Birds sang a
lot today, and it was awesome to be in the high country in the early
morning. The abundant birds of yesterday were the same as today. I was
glad to see several singing BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS this morning along the
trail in good view where juniper and shrubby habitat somewhat mixes in
with the ponderosa forests. Seeing them eyelevel on flat ground is alot
better than finding them from the road further down with downslope views!
I also got a great look at a singing GRAY VIREO as well. 7 species of
warblers were present, most of them singing which I really enjoyed. 2
male HERMIT WARBLERS foraged high in pines on different spots along the
road. VIRGINIA'S, YELLOW-RUMPED, BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS, and PAINTED
REDSTART were all numerous, all very vocal except for Yellow-rumped. It
took awhile before I heard a GRACE'S and an OLIVE WARBLER as well. I was
surprised to catch sight of a female Olive Warbler hopping around rather
high in a pine who eventually sat inside of a nest. I don't know how
often they might nest up here? A calling female HEPATIC TANAGER was also
present today, my first for the county this year. Also present this
morning on 1688 were ANNA'S and BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS, HUTTON'S VIREO,
RED-BREASTED and WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS.
I spent four hours on this road before heading home, what an awesome time
at Mount Ord!
On my way home, I stopped at a birdy Sunflower for a hour, where I
recorded 36 species in the late morning to early afternoon. I made a huge
mistake by leaving my video camera in my truck on accident. A ZONE-TAILED
HAWK who had just killed a small rabbit, landed on a dead snag right by me
on the roadside. It was a sight to see, just too bad I couldn't have a
picture of it! One COMMON BLACK-HAWK was present near it's usual spot as
well. I also enjoyed my year's first SUMMER TANAGER and BULLOCK'S ORIOLES
here. Also present were COOPER'S and RED-TAILED HAWKS, AMERICAN KESTREL,
CASSIN'S and WESTERN KINGBIRDS, BELL'S and GRAY VIREOS, AMERICAN ROBIN,
many YELLOW WARBLERS, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, and HOODED ORIOLE.
My last stop was Mesquite Wash which was rather dead probably due to the
later time in the day. But I explored this area and was impressed with
the habitat, definetely a place to bird at in the future at a better time
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)
April 24th-25th, 2010-AZ: Mount Ord, Sunflower, Salt River, Gilbert
Yesterday (4-24) my brother Tyler and I headed up to Mt. Ord for an
overnight trip where we camped out and then today (4-25) we spent the
first hours of the morning at Ord and after we made many stops on the way
home from Sunflower to Gilbert.
Mount Ord was peaceful as usual this morning and the forest birds were
very vocal. Along road 1688 we had a majority of our success, with the
best bird being three different NORTHERN PYGMY-OWLS, all very vocal and
calling in the same general area but from different spots. We managed to
get very satisfying looks at one of them who sat fearless above us, what a
treat that was! My first for Maricopa County. Also present along this
road were OLIVE, VIRGINIA'S, TOWNSENDS, GRACE'S, BLACK-THROATED GRAY and
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, PAINTED REDSTARTS, BLACK-CHINNED and RUFOUS-
CROWNED SPARROWS, HERMIT THRUSH, and SCOTT'S ORIOLE. At the top of Ord
held a pair of LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, SHARP-SHINNED
HAWK, and a large flock of STELLER'S JAYS.
After Mount Ord, we hit up Sunflower, where birding was enjoyable along
the Old Highway 87. We got great looks at both COMMON BLACK and ZONE-
TAILED HAWKS up close. A flock of CEDAR WAXWINGS was present, and they
flew towards us at a fast pace as they were moving down the road, I
thought they were gonna fly into us. Later on, we got perched views of
the flock. SUMMER TANAGERS were vocal, as well as BULLOCK'S and HOODED
ORIOLES. BELL'S, GRAY, and PLUMBEOUS VIREOS all sang along the road.
Other notables were JUNIPER and BRIDLED TITMOUSE.
We then stopped at Sahuaro Lake and several other sites along the Bush
Highway, where it was a hot time of day and the crowds of people didn't
suit the birds. To top it off, many of the gates were closed to entry
(Granite Reef, Phon D. Sutton, Goldfield). Who knows why, but that took a
lot of the birding away, but Granite Reef was still accessible. I truely
believe the Goldfield Site is potentially one of the best sites along
here, too bad it was closed. We birded Butcher Jones, Coon Bluff and
Granite Reef partially, where there wasn't anything really new to report.
Driving up to the closed gate to Goldfield provided two HARRIS'S HAWKS
roadside however, nice to see.
After the Salt River area, we went to Gilbert and before Water Ranch, we
headed to the Higley Road Ponds, where I was happy to find 8 WILLETS in
one of the ponds, seems like a good number for Arizona. Several BLUE-
WINGED TEAL were also present.
Gilbert Water Ranch had over 40 species in two hours, including a flock of
WHITE-FACED IBIS and several WESTERN SANDPIPERS.
110 species for the day.
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)
April 26th, 2010-Glendale Recharge Ponds: WESTERN GULL
I decided to go out to "check" the Glendale Recharge Ponds today, which
have been dry for the last month or so. When I got there, I was happy to
find water in two of the basins, with very little birds, but it was a
water in the ponds was a great start especially after being dry so long.
My weekly check produced the best find I have ever had in my life.
I first checked the eastern basins, in which the southeast and northeast
were full of water. Several birds were present but not a lot, probably
since they just started filling it again (Melanie told me over a text they
started filling them yesterday). I walked over to the western basins
where the southwest one has several mudflats, but no shorebirds but
Killdeer. I was ready to go home and on my way out, in the middle of a
Stilt group I noticed a much larger bird and saw it was some sort of adult
gull, and I thought California at first. I saw very quickly this gull had
a dark mantle to eliminate a California immediately. I fiddled through
the Sibley to realize this was most likely a WESTERN GULL as I took time
to consider all of it's field marks. This bird sat in the southeastern
basin almost the entire time I observed it in 1 hour, 45 minutes, starting
at 5:30 PM. It sat on a rock and at times drank and waded in the shallow
water. Towards the end of the night, the gull flew over to the northeast
basin where that was the last I saw of it as it was almost completly
dark. I think there is a good chance this gull will spend the night, so
birders check this place first thing tomorrow!
When I got home I reviewed the field marks of this gull and sent my
pictures to AZFO, and I wrote this description on what based my conclusion
of why this gull is a Western and not a similiar Slaty-backed Gull:
"In this breeding plumage, the Western Gull and Slaty-backed Gull are the
only possible birds, but Slaty-backed has never been recorded in Arizona.
Both birds have pink legs, rather thick and heavy bills (Western heavier),
and both also have broad tertials and a drooping "white skirt" (Sibley) on
the secondaries. As shown in the pictures, Western usually has a darker
iris (sometimes clear however), while in Slaty-backed it is usually clear
to dirty yellow. But based upon these photos, what really nails this down
as a Western is the underwing in flight, which has more visable black from
below than a Slaty-backed. Slaty-backed would also have noticable white
subterminal spots, something that Western does not display as shown in
Besides the Western Gull (only one of seven birds I have seen outside of
Arizona previously in all my birding), I saw my first BARN SWALLOWS of the
year, as well as a good number of WESTERN SANDPIPERS and a nice flock of
On another note, my Phoenix Suns are going to win tonight as they lead
Portland by alot, so today has been a great one!
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)
April 26th, 2010-Video of Western Gull
Here are several video clips of the Glendale Western Gull. Hope you
enjoy! Sorry about the parts that the camera is shaky, photography isn't
my strongest skill:)
April 30th, 2010-Hassayampa River Preserve, Glendale Recharge Ponds
Today I spent the morning birding the Hassayampa River Preserve, followed
by Glendale Recharge Ponds early in the afternoon.
Hassayampa was very birdy this morning, and I recorded 48 species in 3+
hours, the highest number I've ever recorded at this location. The water
is still flowing in the river alot but more smoothly, but it doesn't even
compare to the mass flow the last time I was there about a month ago.
Today many migrants were present, and a lot of our summer residents have
returned. My best bird of the day was a singing male INDIGO BUNTING along
the Mesquite Meander trail. He sang out of sight and well of the trail
throughout the morning, but did however come into perfect view once for
about 30 seconds, a nice sight there! The local GRAY HAWKS called further
upstream, I heard them while I was at the end of the River Ramble Trail.
Hopefully Lyke's Lookout will open soon so the Gray Hawks will be more
viewable. Abundant and vocal YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS and SUMMER TANAGERS
have returned as well as several BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS. Nice migrants
included BELTED KINGFISHER, 3 WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES, DUSKY and PACIFIC-SLOPE
FLYCATCHERS, 4 WARBLING VIREOS, HOUSE WREN, a male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER, 4
WILSON'S WARBLERS, and LINCOLN'S SPARROWS. LESSER GOLDFINCES were
everywhere and I heard and saw several LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES. One of the
better days I've had at the preserve.
I then stopped at the Glendale Recharge Ponds before going home. I didn't
find that super rare bird today, but I really did enjoy seeing my year's
first SEMIPALMATED PLOVER and BANK SWALLOW. The Plover foraged in one of
the ponds with a WESTERN SANDPIPER, which are in good numbers here with
around 10 birds, outnumbering a single LEAST SANDPIPER.
When I got back home to my apartment complex (near 59th and Northern), I
saw a HARRIS'S HAWK flying above the complex with a fresh kill in it's
talons, being mobbed by a Great-tailed Grackle. A good end to the day.
I've had a great month in Maricopa County, as April certainly is a
wonderful month to bird in this county, I finished with 182 species for
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)