Sunday, January 27, 2008

White-fronted and Ross's Geese, Scottsdale - 01/27

A rain soaked morning ruled out the possibility of doing point counts, so I headed over to Scottsdale to check out the goose flocks. I was astonished to find Back Lake at McCormick Ranch virtually devoid of geese, a site which held up to 800 Canada Geese on recent visits! A quick check of a small pond just north of the McCormick Parkway revealed just eight geese, but two of these were White-fronts! Afterwards, I tried Chaparral Park off Hayden Road and found a few more Canada Geese but a tiny adult Ross's Goose 'free-loading' with the domestic fowl was easily the highlight. Some 30 Northern Rough-winged Swallows were hawking over the water here in the deluge.

Greater White-fronted Geese - adult and first-winter, McCormick Ranch. The adult is almost certainly the same that I found close to this location on Dec 22nd, 2007. The younger bird wasn't present on that date.

Adult Ross's Goose - managed to get rid of the fishing line shortly after this image was taken!


Crissal Thrasher, Maricopa Co. 01/26

Good views of typical, but sometimes difficult to see, desert residents at McDowell Regional Park just north of Fountain Hills. Highlights included extended looks at a Crissal Thrasher, plus about 4 Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Costa's and Anna's Hummingbirds, and numerous Phainopeplas. A large flock of 72 Western Meadowlarks flew over and a couple of Great Horned Owls called at dusk, all of these were just in one remote corner of this extremely scenic desert park.

Crissal Thrasher -

Costa's Hummingbird - male

Phainopepla - female.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher -


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Redhead, Fountain Hills - 01/25

This lone drake Redhead was a nice surprise on Fountain Hills Lake this morning, although many of the diving ducks and grebes appeared to have moved on from since my last visits here in late December. Still good numbers of American Wigeons grazing with American Coots on the banks of the lake. A Tree Swallow, my first of the year, was hawking over the water for a short time in the chill of the morning. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher feeding along a wash in Sun City was one of the better birds of this morning's point counts.

Drake Redhead - keeping his distance out in the middle of Fountain Lake.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - digibin shot from one of the point counts.


Friday, January 25, 2008

White-cheeked Geese in Scottsdale - 01/23

A quick stop at Back Lake at the McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale produced some good sized flocks of Canada Geese, many of the birds close. The vast majority were nice crisp examples of 'moffiti' but careful scanning with a scope also found about six or seven smaller parvipes. Associating with these were two small geese that I couldn't quite place. At times, both had a Cackling type feel, especially in direct comparison to parvipes, but both seemed to be a little on the large side and not quite stubby-billed enough for most forms of Cackling Goose. Even so, I'm not sure how I could have ruled out Taverner's Cackling Goose for at least one of these birds. Taverner's apparently overlaps in size and body weight with parvipes.

A most useful introduction to white-cheeked goose identification in Arizona can be viewed here on the AZFO website.

Moffiti at rear, two parvipes at extreme right, small unidentified geese at center and left.

parvipes at center, with small unidentified geese either side. Compare the head/bill shapes of the parvipes (center) and the bird on the right. Perhaps these are all variants of parvipes?

small unidentified goose with typical moffiti at rear.

I would welcome comments on the identity of any of the white-cheeked geese posted here. Thanks.

Good birding,


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lovebirds and Ringed Turtle-Dove - 01/23

Noted quite a few Peach-faced Lovebirds this morning whilst carrying out urban point counts at sites around Phoenix. Had a total of seven off McKellips Road in Mesa and over a dozen in Papago Park, Phoenix.

Another 'exotic' of interest in Papago Park was a probable Ringed Turtle-Dove. I'd been seeing Eurasian Collared Doves throughout the morning but this bird was striking, being rather paler with most of the belly, vent, undertail coverts and undertail appearing completely pale, creamy white. Eurasian Collared Dove, though very variable, is usually darker showing at least some visible black towards the base of the tail when perched. This bird also appeared smaller and more petite than Eurasian Collared. Recent parusals of the web would suggest a general push towards dropping the name 'Ringed Turtle-Dove', and picking up the name African Collared Dove which would be a tad disappointing as these birds just don't look quite as neat as pure African Collared. However, Ringed Turtle-Doves are apparently direct descendants of escaped African Collared Doves and share the same scientific name. Hybrids between Eurasian Collared Dove and Ringed Turtle-Dove have been reported. Anyhow, a bird of interest for me at least having spent many head-breaking hours looking for African Collared Doves in Southern Israel.

I was also impressed by the number of Bronzed Cowbirds present in Papago Park, I think quite uncommon in Maricopa County in mid-winter.

All of these are 'digibin' images.

Peach-faced Lovebirds - a reasonably well established exotic in parts of the Phoenix area.

possible Ringed Turtle Dove - more or less continually white from the lower belly to the tail tip.

Bronzed Cowbird - about 12 males in Papago Park.

Good birding,


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Urban Painted Redstart - 01/21

Frequently working these sapsucker drills, and very aggressive towards other warblers approaching this tree.

January 21st found me back in Arizona, getting back into the swing of urban point counts in the Phoenix area. This stunning Painted Redstart wasn't on one of our plots but it was in an extreme urban situation deep in Tempe. It spent much of its time in the Eucalyptus trees in the parking lot of Wells Fargo bank, just north-east of the intersection with Mill Ave and Broadway Road.

Found by Lori Hurley and posted to the Arizona list serve by Pierre Deviche.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Another gull of interest - 01/17

While engrossed in trying to get reasonable images of the Slaty-backed Gull, many other gulls of interest came into view. One of these, an adult, I almost glossed over as an American Herring Gull. It had black primaries, gray upperparts similar in tone to smithsonianus or maybe slightly darker, and didn't look especially small compared to the surrounding 'smiths'. I'd already seen a number of adult Kumlien's Gulls with dark eyes and gray-to-dark gray primaries, so wasn't particularly alarmed when I saw this bird but started taking images of it as a bird of interest. Unfortunately, I never achieved a good shot of the spread wing, but found several images that revealed an obvious black leading edge to P10, and a clear black subterminal mark across the outer of an otherwise white wing tip. Also, the head and bill jizz didn't strike me as being particularly Kumlien's-like.

Slaty-backed Gull with raised wings towards the rear left of the image. This shot also contains at least one first-cycle Kumlien's Gull (lower left) but can you see the adult Kumlien's/Thayer's?

Cropped detail from the same shot. The bird of interest is just right of center. It shows a dark eye, 'herring gull-like' or darker gray upperparts, and clearly black primaries. The primaries look matt-black rather than the jet-black of the surrounding adult smiths.

Image capture showing blackish leading edge to P10, and a clear black subterminal mark across the outer of an otherwise white wing tip. Other images (eg.below) show black outer edge to P10.

On the whole, another most interesting gull from Niles Pond.

NB. I'd be really interested to know if anyone's discovered a method of reading the wing tip patterns of Thayer's/Kumlien's on the closed wing?


Slaty-backed selection - 01/17

Lovely shot of the much quoted 'String of pearls' effect.

Compare upperparts tone between Slaty-backed Gull (left) and Great Black-backed Gull (center).

What a day it was to be at Niles Pond on Eastern Point, Gloucester. Huge numbers of gulls resting and bathing, many of them close. This adult Slaty-backed Gull was among them looking quite awesome where ever he placed himself, spending at least two and a half hours on Niles Pond today. My last images were taken at 14:55hrs.

This bird looked significantly darker above and much more heavily blotched and streaked than the adult that I saw here on January 10th. At the moment, I'm not that convinced that it's the same bird.

Beyond the Slaty-backed, the rest of the gull show was mightily impressive with over 50 Kumlien's Gulls, about 4 Thayer's (all first-cycle at fairly close range/photo'd) and 5+ Glaucous Gulls. Hybrids included 2+ Nelson's Gulls and a possible Lesser Black-backed x American Herring Gull (third-cycle bird). More on that one in another post, along with a very interesting adult Kumlien's/Thayer's.

All in all, another very rewarding half-day spent at Niles Pond.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Northern Shrike - 01/16

Left the house for a short while to run errands this afternoon. A quick twenty minute scan from Mt. Warner road in Hadley produced this smart first-winter Northern Shrike, almost certainly the same bird which I last saw back in November '07. Five Eastern Bluebirds brightened up an otherwise very wintry seen here.

Winter on Mt. Warner Rd, Hadley, MA.

Earlier in the day, I noted about 3 Pine Grosbeaks on Strong Street, Amherst. Yesterday was also good for Pine Grosbeaks with about 4 on North Whitney Street and 10 along Rt 63 in North Amherst. Woodpeckers have been quite active lately with Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers all seen or heard from the apartment yesterday. Very nice indeed.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tricky Kumlien's Gull? - 01/13

Back to the Niles Pond gulls at Cape Ann, I've been receiving quite a few emails about another dark gull that was present at the same time as the three first-cycle Thayer's on January 13th. Initially, this one also gave a Thayer's-like impression and was clearly a very interesting bird that I looked at in some detail. While at times being close to Thayer's in appearance, I thought it too uniform in its overall brown tones, especially when the upperwing was seen well which actually showed almost no contrast at all. At rest, the brown plumage varied enormously with the quality of light with the first shot in this sequence being taken in dull overcast conditions. The head and bill shape also looked a little odd for Kumlien's Gull being closer to my impression of Thayer's. I'm not really sure where to place this bird. It may just be a dark Kumlien's Gull, or possibly a Kumlien's x Thayer's hybrid, or perhaps a bird best left unidentified altogether!

First-cycle Kumlien's or perhaps unidentified gull with Kumlien's Gull at rear. The bird looks especially dark in this image which was taken in dull overcast conditions.

First-cycle Thayer's Gull for comparison taken at around the same time under similar conditions. This bird shows much darker primaries, and short, bright pink legs.

First-cycle Kumlien's or perhaps unidentified gull. Very uniform upperwing. Only a hint of a secondary bar and no obvious darkening towards the outer primaries.

First-cycle Thayer's Gull for comparison. Show a noticeable secondary bar, dark brown outer primaries and a dark brown tail band. Overall impression suggests small, pale American Herring Gull.

First-cycle Kumlien's or perhaps unidentified gull with first-cycle American Herring Gull.

First-cycle Kumlien's or perhaps unidentified gull with Kumlien's Gull at rear. In this shot the primaries and tail band look significantly darker than the upperparts which contradicts the overall field impression which was of a more uniform bird.

First-cycle Kumlien's or perhaps unidentified gull. Taken in full sunlight in late afternoon. Again the primaries look dark in this image giving a Thayer's-like impression.