Monday, November 10, 2014

The monthly post on my patch: October

This October seemed to be a very good month for patch birding this year. I set a goal to find at least 100 species,  to find more places to bird, and look for as many new patch birds as possible. I started October off with a Harris's Hawk (a patch bird) , who flushed from the cottonwoods that line the Buckeye Canal west of Jackrabbit Trail. The bird took flight and never stopped flying southeast at least when I was watching it. However, I could see the distinctive black tail with white on both ends and its broad rufous colored wings. Then it got even better when I found my first lowland Red-breasted Nuthatch foraging in a couple of large cottonwoods!
   The RBNU was a first in Maricopa for me and a great patch bird. That same day I was biking along the canal and found a Burrowing Owl that let me get a decent shot (unlike most of them).
The Burrowing Owl is like the Vermilion Flycatchers in my back yard, it is a bird I see almost every time I go biking but I never get bored of them, especially when they let you get photos like this!

Things started to slow down towards the middle of October, I did less birding because my parents left on an out of country trip and I was staying with some friends that live only about a mile south of us, which is now part of my patch. But even with limited birding I still found some awesome birds like Blue Grosbeak, Crissal Thrasher, and Eared Grebe. By the 14th I was already at 103! But due to some confusion in listing I only thought I was at 93. So I was trying super hard to get to the 100 mark that I already beat without knowing. The highlight for the 14th was a flock of three Greater White-fronted Geese that flew over me and landed in the canal.

On the 15th I had another new bird for Maricopa it was an Eastern Meadowlark giving its "zeet" call. Unfortunately, the bird ended up being mixed with a few westerns so I was unable to see the bird. On the 18th I had an aweome morning of birding at the Tres Rios Wetlands with Mr. Gordon Karre, we found 73 species overall and I was delighted. I didn't think that my day was going to get any better bird wise but I was wrong! I actually found the highlight patch bird for October! Here is what happened.

After my morning of birding with Mr. Gordon and a day with some family from CA I asked my parents if I could go biking and they said yes.So, I biked on down to the canal and before I reached Jackrabbit Trail going east along the canal I saw a small Accipiter like hawk fly up out of a ditch and up into a tree. When I saw the bird flying my first thought was a Coopers but, once I found the bird pearched I started to really think.
 This is what the bird looked like. A couple of things I noticed with the hawk is that it was quite bulky and its tail is to broad for an Accipiter . The one thing that made this ID so hard was that it had just gotten done bathing. However, I had a pretty good idea that it was a Gray Hawk, but I was not seeing enough to confirm it until the bird flew to a higher pearch.
This photo shows a lot of gray on the bird especially on the thighs. The hawk then flew to a perch pretty far away and stayed there for about an hour. While I put my binocs on another hawk was soaring above (which ended up being a Cooper's).  I looked back where the GRHA was last and didn't see it! After searching the area for about ten minutes the bird flew directly over me and into the cottonwoods that line the canal.

   I watched this amazing Buteo until it started to get dark and then I called it a day. However, the next day after coming back from church I spied the hawk up in the trees, so when we got home I biked over to where the bird was and got a couple more shots.

The last highlight bird I found in October was a Bell's Sparrow on the south side of the Gila River. I got a couple of views of the bird and I was able to see the unstreaked back, and the dark maler.

Another highlight was when I emailed Mr. Tommy D some photos. It was of an owl which I thought may have been a Long-Eared Owl that I had found last December, but was actually a Short-eared Owl!!! Here is the story.

On December 16th of 2012, I was out biking when I noticed a couple of raptors flying. I put my binocs on one of the birds and saw it was a Red-tailed Hawk, so I ASSUMED the other bird flying with it was also a RTHA as well. Five minutes later the birds were still circling in the thermals, and I finally took a look at the other bird just to make sure that it wasn't anything different. To my surprise I noticed it was an owl!!!
Remember that I had a not so well camera back then! Owl on top left.
The bird was not a Barn or Great Horned Owl because Barn is much whiter and Great Horned is much larger, so I thought it must be some type of Eared Owl! Once I got back I thought the bird was a LEOW because SEOW's are not supposed to be here (according to field guides) but nearly a year later I sent my photos to Mr. Tommy and he says it is a SEOW! After he pointed out the field marks I could not believe I didn't see them. Here are the photos I sent him.
                                                                    Short-eared Owl in my patch!!!

I ended my month list for my patch at 114, 14 species more than I wanted! And I biked somewhere around 70-90 miles (a good workout), with all of the birds I saw in this month it was totally worth it. I also got 7 patch birds bringing my patch list up to 191! But before I end this post I must thank my parents for letting me go birking (a new word I made up for birding and biking) and Alexia for accompanying me on a few of my trips down to the river. Here are some photos of a couple of raptors that allowed me some good photos.
                                                                    Northern Harrier

                                              We call him "Beautimous Bob the Bald Eagle"


  1. Wow Caleb! Great post. Many many STUNNING photographs, you certainly have an awesome patch that is so closeby. Keep birding it hard.

    1. Thanks Mr. Tommy!!! The other day I biked about six miles out and found a bunch of ag fields in the desert and had about 120 AMPI's, if only a Spague's were in it! Thanks again for the ID on the SEOW!

  2. Yes, many great photos in here! My favorite is the Burrower shot. We had a pair less than a mile from my parents' winter home in Maricopa, and like you I would often go on a bike ride to go see them. Fun birds that you have gotten birking!

    1. Thanks Mr. Josh!!! I have taken a few trips out this year just to observe and photographthose awesome owls! Every once in a while they will let you get very close, and when they do it is awesome!

  3. Fantastic patch Caleb! The Short-eared Owl is an amazing find. No doubt you will find other great stuff there.

    1. Thanks Mr. Jeremy!!! Yes ever since I found out that it was a SEOW I have been searching a lot!