December 2nd, 2012: NUTTING'S FLYCATCHER and other goodies in western Arizona
Today on January 2nd, 2012, Jim Kopitzke and I had an awesome day of
birding, as we headed up to the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge in
search of the Nutting's Flycatcher. The day goes by too fast when birding
in awesome places like this, and that was certainly the case today. We
were both very successful by the day's end, with both life and state
Our first stop of course was at Bill Williams, where we walked around
Planet Ranch Road in search of the NUTTING'S FLYCATCHER. We ran into
Jason from Phoenix, and he had heard the flycatcher before we arrived at
8:30 A.M. We started near mile 2.5, but quickly went back to where Jason
heard the bird which was at mile 2.0. While walking on the flag trails
which goes through the area's dense riparian habitat, we heard the
distinctive "wheep" from the Nutting's roughly around 9 A.M. A few other
birders who had arrived were looking at the flycatcher from Planet Ranch
Road. We quickly went back to the road and scanned from there. The
flycatcher continued to call on and off and play hide and seek with the
birders, until we relocated it. It gave good looks on and off
consistently for the next hour starting at 9:30, and often calling during
the time we were looking at it. That was the prize for me, seeing the
bird while it was calling. There were about ten birders in the area
during this time frame, all getting looks at this excellent rarity in
North America. Thanks Lauren and David for the awesome bird and discovery!
From the success of seeing our first Nutting's Flycatcher, we then went to
the Bill Williams Delta. Birds were everywhere, some of them way too
distant to accurately scope. We got lucky as there was a spot right by
the Refuge's visitor center with a cove with a large Goldeneye flock.
This large flock held at least seven BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, which was a life
bird for me and a state bird for Jim. A very cool looking bird, and fun
to compare it with the Common Goldeneye! Other highlights at the Delta we
were able to locate were a PACIFIC LOON and a HORNED GREBE among the
abundance of waterbirds. There were two distant loons I wasn't able to
get a good look at.
Our next stop turned out to be amazing as we stopped at Havasu Springs to
search for some of the recent rarities reported there. We were on the
lookout for the Mew Gull that was recently seen. Despite the fact the
wind was horrible at this site, the birding was still good. As we
arrived, I saw a young gull flying around that I thought was the Mew Gull
and looked good for that bird. I quickly lost it, and we went about
scanning birds in the distance. I then got on the young gull eventually,
but it was too far out on the water. Jim then spied a loon flying across
the water a good distance away, and as we looked at it closely we could
see that it was one of the RED-THROATED LOONS! The loon landed and gave
us good scope views, where Jim celebrated a state bird, and I celebrated a
life bird. Following the Red-throated Loon, two COMMON LOONS swam and
dove nearby, as one of them was just feet away from the shore at times.
As gull activity dwindled down as we started birding, it quickly picked up
again. That young gull that I thought was the Mew Gull flew over us
again, and landed over a hill along the shore. We ran to the spot and saw
that it was the MEW GULL! It was Jim's state Mew Gull, which gave us more
entertainment. Other birds of interest here was a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER
and a HORNED GREBE.
Next, Mohave County. We went to Rotary Park first to check the gull
flocks. Besides Ring-billed's, we came up with a young CALIFORNIA GULL.
Our final stop came at Site 6 from 3 to 4 P.M. at Pittsburgh Point, in
search of some of the rare gulls there. The spot was quiet as we started
searching, but it ended the day on a great note. We spotted two gulls in
the distance as we started, as one of them we felt was probably the
Thayer's Gull. The looks were far too distant to be sure. As we waited
for gull activity, a flock of BUFFLEHEADS, COMMON MERGANSER, and a COMMON
LOON were out on the water. In spite of the fact I was bored hoping for
more gull activity, I decided to throw some bread out to a RING-BILLED
GULL flying overhead. It seemed as if it were magic bread, as the quiet
site 6 all of a sudden had gulls flying in from every angle after one of
them took interest in my bread. I continued to feed them, and I then
caught site of our other hopeful bird, the GLAUCOUS GULL! The Glaucous
Gull flew right past us, where we were able to study it perfectly. It
circled around and saw that my bread wasn't too good after all, and left
before coming back one more time. It never feed, but thankfully did
investigate what the other gulls were up to. The Glacous was another
great state bird for Jim, and a great lifer for me. And I was just
kidding about the magic bread, gulls always do that.
Another great day to be birding in one of AZ's awesome locations!
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)
January 3rd, 2012: The first living Smith's Longspur found in Arizona near Buckeye!
This SMITH'S LONGSPUR is certainly an awesome bird, as I was grateful for
the looks I got at it! I'm amazed how it was discovered. I wanted to add
an additional tip for anyone looking for this bird. In the 4.5 hours I
was there, the Smith's Longspur was located regularly by hearing it's
rattle call as mentioned before. There wasn't one time when the birders
kicked it up that it didn't give that call, while I was observing the
bird. Also as mentioned earlier, it doesn't associate with the other
birds out there. At times, there are large numbers of Horned Larks by the
Longspur's spot, and they often kick up. As the birds would fly, we'd
often listen for the Longspur's call without hearing anything. We'd scan
the grass at very close distance and would be about ten feet away before
scaring the bird up, thinking it had left when the Horned Larks did.
Everytime it flew from us, it gave it's rattle call: rather flying shorter
distances, or a long distance across the field to a different cell. So if
a lot of birds fly from the area of the longspur's grass patch, just be
patient and see if you can get looks at it. That's a lesson I learned
with viewing it today, because if you don't hear it calling in midst of
those flocks, it's probably still down in the grass. This bird is very
difficult to see most of the time. It certainly frequents the entire
field as Melanie and Pierre mentioned earlier, and the best bet for seeing
it at times is hearing and seeing it as it's flying overhead, and watching
where it lands. If a group of birders are out there, it helps to split
up, which worked out well today with all of us being there!
Other birds of note included at least two CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS, one
McCOWN'S LONGSPUR, and good numbers of HORNED LARKS.
On a side note, as Kurt mentioned earlier, this is on private property.
The owner actually came and checked on what we were doing this morning,
and he talked with Brendon, Pierre and me. He was very friendly and was
very interested in what we were telling him. We joked with him that he
could brag about having the first chasable Smith's Longspur in Arizona on
his property. He was interested about the bird's breeding range and why
it was over here, and he enjoyed talking with us. He nicely said to us as
he was leaving, "Help yourselves!!". So as long as birders behave here,
we can enjoy this bird!
Thanks again to Kurt and Cindy Radamaker for an incredible find, which
blew us all away as we were looking at this awesome bird during the
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)
January 12th, 2012: Thunderbird Viewing Blinds Park in Glendale
I made a brief stop this morning at the Thunderbird Blinds Viewing Park,
which is in northern Glendale. This is a small park that can be found on
the north part of 59th Avenue, and is a short distance south of the
popular Thunderbird Conservation Park. The Viewing Blinds Park is pretty
much a parking lot with desert vegetion, which has a few cement viewing
blinds that overlooks a fairly large lake that is part of the Arrowhead
Lakes Community. I don't visit this spot often, but whenever I have, it's
been productive for waterfowl and other various waterbirds.
Today, I was impressed to see HUGE numbers of COMMON MERGANSERS. Common
Mergansers have favored this location for a long time, and today they were
covering the lake. They would often gather closely together and feed,
which they would dive often, making it harder to count them. Counting
them was a tough task (some of my views of the lake were limited) but I
would estimate between 500-600 birds. I've also had success here with
Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers. Also, the desert habitat in the small
parking area leading up to the viewing blinds is a very reliable place to
enjoy and observe COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRDS up close. I've never come here
without a nice Costa's Hummingbird sighting. Today was no different, I
had good looks at both male and female CO HU's. With the large open body
of water, this location is always worth a stop if in the area.
A link to the T-Bird Viewing Blinds Park on my website can be viewed from
the link below:
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)
January 16-17th, 2012: Rarities in southwest Maricopa County
I spent a fun day and a half birding the last two days starting on Monday,
January 16th, and then today, January 17th, 2012.
Yesterday on the 16th I headed out for the Buckeye area in hopes of more
great looks at the now famous great, the SMITH'S LONGSPUR. I spent just
over three hours there, birding with Charlie Babbit and Carol Beardmore.
Charlie and I were able to get great looks at the bird along with several
other birders. After the good views, the bird was was tough over the next
hour, where Charlie, Carol and I chased it across the field where it was
then very hard to find on the ground. The bird was of course located by
it's rattling call. Other good birds in the area were good numbers of
LARK BUNTINGS, a few CHESTNUT-COLLORED LONGSPURS, a flyby PRAIRIE FALCON,
and the HARLAN'S HAWK.
From there I went to the Robbins Butte Wildlife Area, which was the first
time I really explored the area. Mesquite desert and agricultural fields
make up this area, where I really enjoyed the place for my first visit.
Sparrows were everywhere in the fields and the mesquites lining the
fields. Highlights were LARK BUNTINGS, a LARK SPARROW, abundant WHITE-
CROWNED SPARROWS and SAVANNAH SPARROWS, and a few SAGE SPARROWS. Other
birds included LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, GRAY FLYCATCHER, and several flocks of
Heading home while driving along the M-C 85, I was treated to watching a
WHITE-TAILED KITE hovering and working over an alfalfa field. One of my
Then today, on December 17th, I started my day at Tres Rios Wetlands.
The "RED" FOX SPARROW continued in the same area. Several CRISSAL
THRASHERS were present and weren't as shy as they usually are. They often
perched in the open, one of them sang for a long time. An OSPREY was
present at the east side of the wetlands, and the BALD EAGLE could be seen
in the distance south of the Tres Rios area. 2 WILSON'S SNIPES were in a
marshy area, and I saw 2 SORAS. I also ran into Jeff Ritz and his mother
Shirly, were we enjoyed looks at the Crissal Thrashers.
I stopped briefly along the new wetlands on the west side of 91st Avenue,
where I peered through the fence and saw AMERCIAN WHITE PELICANS and BLACK-
After Tres Rios, I stopped at the Tolleson Wastewater Treatment Plant. A
YELLOW-SHAFTED FLICKER continues there. Also present was a MERLIN.
My last stop was at the Glendale Recharge Ponds. I didn't walk around the
basins, but rather to the cottonwoods immediately at the southwest part of
the basins, where the west parking area is. In these cottonwoods were two
AMERICAN REDSTARTS, which were found by Christina Smith about a month
ago. She recently came back and saw them again, so I decided to check on
them today. Sure enough, they were still there! Great find Chrissy! It
was the one time I went to Glendale in pursuit of something other than
Two more good days of birding in the bag.
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)