birderfrommaricopa.com

Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Higley Road Ponds


Fast Flight Facts

Target Species:  Various shorebirds and waterfowl, songbirds in migration time frames

Elevation: 1300'

Habitat:  Four large recharge basins with some good surrounding riparian vegetation

Overall Birding Rating: 3

Difficulty: 1 (Easy)

Birding Type:  Easy Hiking, Walking and Scanning

Facilities:  Parking

Fees/Ownership:  None/Town of Gilbert

Closest Town or City/How far from Phoenix:  Gilbert /24.5 miles southeast of Phoenix

Getting there:  A parking spot is found by the ponds on the east side of Higley Road


Overview:  In Gilbert along the east side of Higley Road, are four large ponds that are very productive for birding, known as the Higley Ponds.  In ways, they are similar to the Glendale Recharge Ponds.  Water levels vary, and with the different water levels, the birds vary as well.  During migration, winter, and the right time of year, depending on the water levels, the ponds here can often be filled with shorebirds and waterfowl.  Not only are the ponds here attractive, but the surrounding vegetation that has been planted here will make this a top notch birding location in years to come.  There are many young cottonwood trees that have been planted in the middle of the path that goes between two of the ponds.  In the future when the cottonwoods mature, it will be very good for passerines too.  Tamarisk surrounds some of the ponds, and is often good for different migrating songbirds. 

Regardless, the main target for birding here would be the waterbirds.  Waterfowl are always here in high numbers during the winter months, and anywhere between ten and fifteen different species may possibly be observed in an outing here.  Greater White-fronted and Snow Geese are sometimes seen here along with the very common Canada Geese.  The duck mix is usually very good with a nice variety. 

Excellent shorebird numbers will appear here in spring and fall migrations, especially if the water levels are suitable.  This location is often a very good spot to see very large numbers of Wilson's Phalaropes, which has often had Red-necked Phalaropes in the midst of the heavy Wilson's flocks.  All three Phalaropes have been here however, as a vagrant Red Phalarope once made an appearance in June of 2010 for many lucky birders.  The smaller Calidris sandpipers known as "peeps" are numerous in the migrations, especially fall.  Watch for the rare Semipalmated Sandpiper in the Western and Least Sandpiper flocks.  Also keep an eye out for Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Dunlin, Stilt Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Wilson's Snipe.  Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets breed here.

Besides the main attraction in the waterfowl and shorebird department, other birds commonly seen here are different grebe species, American White Pelicans, herons and egrets, White-faced Ibis, Osprey, Northern Harrier, sometimes terns and gulls, and different swallow species.  The surrounding area with open fields are excellent for raptors, pipits, Horned Larks, and different sparrows.

Birding tip:  Bring a scope to this spot, it is highly recommended for the best viewing.  Scan every pond carefully.  Keep an eye on the surrounding fields and vegetation for other birds, which are usually present as well.  There is very little shade here in the hot months, so use caution when coming here in the heat.  Bring plenty of ice cold water.  Also, there is an additional basin north of the parking area and ponds, on the west side of Higley Road.  Most of the time it is dry, but when it is full, it may hold a lot of shorebirds.  Refer to the "Higley Road Ponds Map" page under the "Pages" section on this page to see this additional basin and the overview of this area.

Directions:  The Higley Ponds are located on the east side of Higley Road.  These ponds can be reached by taking the Higley Road exit on the 202 (Santan Freeway) by heading south for five miles.  The main crossroads bordering Higley that the ponds are in between are Queen Creek Road to the north and Chandler Heights Road to the south.  From taking the US 60 Highway south at the Higley exit, it is just over nine miles, making the Higley Ponds also eight miles south of Gilbert Water Ranch, which Higley Road is just east of the ranch by taking Guadalupe Road to Higley Road.  If heading south down Higley, there is no turnoff to the east side of the road to access the ponds.  Continue south a short distance to E Ocotillo Road and make a u-turn to continue north back up Higley to park at the ponds.

Pages:

Higley Road Ponds Map

Higley Road Ponds eBird Data

 

Scenes and Sights from the Higley Road Ponds:

 

Birdlife of the Higley Road Ponds:

Red Phalarope (rare)

Dunlin

Semipalmated Sandpiper (rare)

American White Pelican

 

Back to Area 4-Gilbert, Chandler, and Mesa

Birding in Maricopa County

My online guide to the birds and birding locations of Maricopa County

 

The Maricopa County Big Year

Two Big Years I did in Maricopa County

 

Birding in Arizona's White Mountains

My online guide to Birding in Arizona's White Mountains