Tuesday, May 26, 2015

West Valley Birding

On May 21st I went birding across the West Valley with Mr. John Kafel. We started the morning off with a short stop by the Baseline and Meridian WA, where we waited a little while for the Ridgway's Rail at The Rail Pond. After about twenty or thirty minutes we got brief views of the bird as it ran across a short stretch of ground and then darted into the reeds. After seeing a few other birds at the B and M we decided to head to our next destination, the Estrella Mountain Regional Park.  I didn't expect to see much but just like last time I was here, I was wrong! As soon as we arrived at the Visitor Center I walked over to where I saw the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher nest with a Brown-headed Cowbird in it. Before long I located the two gnatcatchers as they flew all over the place finding food for what is now their "Big-Baby"! After I took some video of the gnatcatchers feeding the cowbird, we drove on over to the east side of the park where I birded the mesquite-bosque for a while. The area seemed pretty dead but things got a lot better when I spotted a bulky-blackbird being chased by a Hooded Oriole.

As soon as the bird landed I had one thing in mind, Bronzed Cowbird!!! After missing this bird at Granite Reef where just about everyone had been seeing them, I was a little disappointed in myself, but finding this bird brought me back up!

Bronzed Cowbird

My lifer BRCO then flew off so I ran back to the car to tell Mr. John about my find and after searching for it I was able to relocate it again.
Bronzed Cowbird

I watched the bird as it sang and ruffled its feathers around before it took off again to where I could't locate it. The Bronzed Cowbird was not just a normal lifer or county bird but it was #299 for my Maricopa County list, so after finding the cowbird I tried HARD to find one more Maricoper to bring me up to 300 for the county. The day seemed to be good for flycatchers at Estrella, I viewed Western Wood-Pewee, Say's Phoebe, and Cordilleran, Pacific-slope, Ash-throated, Brown-crested, and Olive-sided Flycacthers all in a relatively small area! After yet another awesome trip to Estrella we decided it was time to drive off to our next stop, the Glendale Recharge Ponds. At the GRPs we ran into fellow birder Mr. Darrel Wilder who I birded with for nearly the whole time we were there. Surprisingly the first thing I saw on the water was a huge flock of 230-240 Red-necked Phalaropes!

Red-necked Phalarope

As I watched the phalaropes Mr. Darrel spotted one of the continuing Caspian Terns.

Caspian Tern

Other awesome birds that were at the GRPs include: Wilson's Phalarope, Western, Least and Spotted Sandpipers, Ring-billed Gull, dive-bombing American Avocets, and many lingering waterfowl. After Glendale Mr.John and I made a couple of stops before we made our last stop of the day which was to the Agua Fria Riverbed off of Camelback Rd. Once I reached a good scoping point I started scanning the water when I spotted a Bald Eagle which made things nice. I then continued to scan towards the left when I saw a small dot in the distance fly through my scope, I kept on scoping towards the left but I felt like I had to take a quick look at that bird that zoomed by to make sure it wasn't anything different, so before long I relocated the bird and was surprised to see that is was a Least Tern! The tiny-tern stayed towards the far end of the water but it eventually landed to where I could at least get a photo that shows the bird.

Least Tern

I have only seen LETE once before. The first time I saw it was at the Glendale Recharge Ponds on 5/10/13. Back then I had a bad point-and-shoot camera but I was able to get very close to this bird, so here are some better photos from 2013.

Least Tern

After observing the tern for a while I saw the Bonaparte's Gull once again being chased by an American Avocet which was pretty cool. I had an awesome day of birding getting to see North America's largest and smallest terns in the same day, and with my list for the county being at 299 you can bet that I am going to search pretty hard for that 300th bird! 


  1. Nice!! Congrats on the Bronzed Cowbird lifer and getting super close to 300! Pretty exciting stuff.

    1. Thanks Mr. Josh! The cowbird was totally unexpected. Now starts the trek for 300!