Sunday, October 19, 2014

The awesomeness of my patch

Some of you might be thinking "what is a patch!" well a patch is a spot that a birder visits a lot and usually tends to be fairly close to where that birder lives. For instance, someone who lives in Glendale will most likely have the Glendale Recharge Ponds as their patch because the ponds are loaded with birds and the hot spot isn't in the middle of nowhere! Since I don't live within biking range of any SUPER hotspots I have to bike quite far to get a good species list, but when I do bird and bike around near my house I can usually get around 60 species of bird in about three miles of biking. I have constantly been adding to my biking range. I started biking and birding when I was about nine years old, I wasn't even allowed to bike to the canal which is only about 1/5 of a mile away from my house, but I couldn't blame my parents because there were and still are some creeps out there!!! So I biked around our block, the only way I was allowed to bike out of my block was if my Mom went with me. So every afternoon I would beg my Mom to go biking around. After about a year of gaining trust and privilages I was able to finally bird the canal! The first few bike rides to the canal got me my lifer Common Yellowthroat, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and about 40 other species. After I was able to bird the canal I slowly started extending my area to where I now am allowed to biked for up to five miles (pretty good for only being fifteen). There are quite a few habitats in the eight square miles that I bike. There are cotton, alfalfa, corn, soregum, wheat, a couple of sod, and bermuda fields, desert and ripairian habitats in the Gila River, lots of large ponds with some having good shorebird habitat, and a little bit of marsh habitat. Here are some photos of the areas I bird.
The Buckeye Canal off of Jackrabbit Trail

One of the MANY fields I have near my house (with White-faced Ibis in it)

A small pond that runs off of the Buckeye Canal
I recently started birding some of the riparian areas near the Gila River, and there was one area where it was extremely thick with willows, cottonwoods and tamarask, but the mesquitos were so bad that I was getting bitten while riding my bike so I didn't stop very long.

There is also a large pond near it (this photo only shows half of the pond).

Gila River
I have been able to find 184 species of bird in my patch and I am still finding a couple of new species every month, in that 184 species that I have seen, the most notable would be the birds I have photographed below, but I am embarassed to say that I have not seen any Glossy Ibis YET, but I will do some hardcore searching in between March and May next year when they are in breeding plumage.

On March 7th 2012 my family was on our way to the dentist when I spied a Crested Caracara as it flew right over our car!!! The only thing was that my brother was driving so we couldn't stop. But I managed to get a photo that shows the white in the wings.
On May 17th 2012 I was on my way back from a short biking trip when I saw this adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the open!!!

From late November of 2012 to late January of 2013 I had an Orchard Oriole that stayed for the Winter along the canal.

On January 20th 2013 I was out with some friends birding and we could either go to the canal and look for the Orchard Oriole who was still there or we could bird the ag fields. We ended up birding the ag fields and while we were walking we saw seven large white birds from about a half mile away and as we got closer we noticed they were Tundra Swans!!! All of us were shocked, even when we got to the road nearest to the swans they were still very distant (at least for photos) so I decided that I was going to have to walk through the knee deep mud in order to get a photo, so I did so! Before long I was shooting at the swans and they took flight and started honking. Once the birds took flight we headed back and attached my pictures to the computer and looked in awe. The next day we walked over and the birds were there again! We were blessed to see these birds for about four days!

I unfortunately can't remember when I saw this bird, but I believe it was sometime in mid March in 2013, anyways after I was out looking at my lifer Marbled Godwit I found as well as a Willet I found this McCown's Longspur mixed with a flock of Horned Larks.
On April 13th 2013 I found what is prabably the biggest rarety I have seen! After I had a pleasant morning of birding I decided to check some of the fields near my house and there was one field that was drying up from just being irrigated. There was a couple of Wilson's Snipes that took flight as well as a few Least Sandpipers. but as I looked out I saw a large plover. I first thought it was a Black-bellied Plover but the bird was brownish not gray. I snapped a few photos before the bird ran to the other side of the field, so I biked to the other side with no sign of the bird! After lots of thinking I finally called the bird an American Golden-Plover!

In the same month as the plover I also found this Northern Waterthrush.
On May 4th 2013 I had a White-throated Sparrow that just did not want to be photographed but this is what I came back with.

On May 19th of 2013 my family and I were going to visit my Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles who live in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, I had my target birds for that trip and one of them was a Whimbrel ( most of you already know what's going to happen now huh?!). On May 18th (the day before we left) I went out birding and I noticed a couple of curlews in a field and guess what they were Whimbrels! Later in the day I went back out and I watched the bird get chased away by a darn grackle!!! Unfortunately I am unable to find my photos of them.

Sometime in the early fall of 2013 I found an American Redsatart in a small runoff ditch with a few cottonwoods.

In September (2013) I road my bike through the 105+ degree heat to the Jackrabbit and Broadway slop pond about a mile from my house. When I got there I saw a dowitcher (which was my first dowitcher for the ponds) when it first took flight I heard it give its distinctive "tu tu tu" call and that was when I knew it was a Short-billed Dowitcher.

I am very blessed to live in such a birdy area and am thankfull to my parents for letting me go out birding. Now with you having and idea on where my patch is I will try to make a monthly post on the highlights that I see around my house, and you never know when I might find that Glossy Ibis!


  1. You've found some pretty nice birds there, Caleb. I am impressed with the ground you cover with a bike! You have quite the determination. When you start driving, you'll be covering even more ground and pretty soon that will become too small and you'll be buying plane tickets!

  2. Thanks Mr. Josh!!! I am not sure when I doubt I will ever get tired of AZ, we have so many different habitats out here and I have only birded a few! One day I will be one of those birders who bike over 200 miles (hopefully)!

  3. Great post and a great patch! I met a guy in the San Francisco area in California that was doing a California 'Green' Big Year on his bike. He took his bike to lot of places and really racked up the birds by biking only.

  4. Thanks Mr. Gordon!!! Next year I am going to start keeping a motorless year list, and one day I might even do a motorless big year!