Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What an incredible opportunity:)

We are so blessed to have the opportunity to work with such knowledgable people and to be able to be out there observing the birds in their habitat day after day getting a chance to get a closer look at their behaviors that we would otherwise never observe or understand with out the constant interpretation and explanation from our leader Kathleen.

For instance we have learned that the Canyon Wrens move down from the higher elevation washes into the riparian habitats in the winter. As we are walking through the riparian areas we are very likely to hear the song of the Canyon Wren.

American Robins were thought to be rare here in Arizona and now they are expanding their range. We have been seeing and hearing them a lot in the last week.

We had this accipiter land right next to our trailer last week. It hung out and actually was hunting around the refuge. We were able to get a few photos and Kathleen helped us confirm that this is a Sharp-shinned Hawk. It is so challenging sometimes to tell the difference between a Sharp-shinned and a Cooper's Hawk.

This past week's transect is called the Kohen Re-vegitated Ag Site along the Bill Williams River. A section was planted with mesquite about 4 years ago. It is beautiful back there.

Salt Cedar is turning yellow

This is the end of the Bill Williams River on this specific day. The level of water flow is dictated by the farmers down in Yuma!

They included an extensive irrigation system that made sure the plantings were successful. This was a very birdy area. We came back on our day off and had so much fun!

We were greeted by a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Red-shafted Northern Flicker & Gila Woodpecker

We watched two Cactus Wrens with nesting materials- they were in the Mesquite trees moving around the Mistletoe

Phainopepla were watching over their Mistletoe very carefully- they feed on the Mistletoe berries

We love the little sparrows. There were tons of White-crowns

But we also had a chance to see a Brewer's Sparrow

A Sagebrush Sparrow (this has just been split from Sage Sparrow into Sagebrush Sparrow & Bell's Sparrow_ don't ask me how to tell the difference- the ebird reviewers help us with that)

A gorgeous Black-throated Sparrow- they have a beautiful song

We have fallen in love with the desert. Actually Bob has always loved the desert since he went to school in Tucson. I have really just gotten to know (and love) the desert here at the Bill Williams River NWR. The weather is starting to cool down to a nice high in the low 80s during the day and in the low 50s at night (great sleeping weather). The mosquitos are now pretty managable as well.

When we head into to explore the end of the refuge's Planet Ranch Rd we usually try to stop at Mosquito Flats along the way (at Mile Marker 2). That is where the famous Nutting's Flycatcher hangs out (between 7-9 am) really! We stopped the other morning and were lucky to get to hear its loud WEEP and get some good looks:) (It looks just like an Ash-throated Flycatcher- it is all about the call)

Someone reported seeing Mountain Plovers in an agricultural field off of Highway 1 south of Parker. Mountain Plovers are a species in decline due to loss of habitat and Bob & I thought we would take a drive to see if we could find them. There was some beautiful scenery of the mountains to the west.

 We did see some shore birds off in the distance but they were too far away to identify even with our scopes. BUT we did see some awesome birds! I have really been keeping my eyes open for Burrowing Owls- this is their kind of habitat (they are another species in decline due to loss of habitat) but had not had any luck. We were driving along and off in a field a big lump caught our attention_ a Burrowing Owl at a distance!! I was so excited and took a few photos but it was pretty far away. Then 5 minutes down the road we come upon the following family!

Then we came upon a field of hundreds of Sandhill Cranes- we are not sure if they are Greater or Lesser Sandhill Cranes but they are beautiful and we love the sound of there deep raucous calls

We had a beautiful male Northern Harrier or otherwise known as "Gray Ghost"

And this adult Common Gallinule- nothing common about this bird

We stopped and were looking for the Plovers and noticed some large birds in the distance & it was a field of Long-billed Curlews and a White-faced Ibis feeding.

On the drive home we stopped and took a look at a Common Mergansers and one Spotted Sandpiper

Back at home at the refuge headquarters we have been seeing some new waterfowl and gulls coming through in addition to other rare visitors. We understand the jet stream is moving and that is causing some birds to jump in and take advantage of the southward flow to help in their migration.

We were taking a walk along the peninsula right out our door and came upon this female White-winged Scoter. We ran back and got our camera and scopes and had these great views. It ends up this is a rare bird for this area. (you never know what you are going to see)

The next day we came upon two Common Loons in almost the same spot! They are in winter plumage but what a show they put on for us. They were diving down and coming out of the water straight up with their wings spread and then hovering along the water like a crocodile!

When we first got here we were counting 4,000 plus American Coots- yesterday we counted 400. Things are so dynamic here.

We had a chance to see this Horned Grebe in winter plumage

And Western Grebe

A Bonaparte's Gull in winter plumage- this was a first for me

This Snowy Egret came flying through with his magnificent feet hanging there for the world to admire & this patient Great Egret was hiding in the Salt Cedar

This Snowy Egret was fishing with the Gulls

One afternoon and the following morning we had some great views of Barrow's Goldeneyes (another first for me), Common Goldeneyes, Ring-necked Ducks & Greater Scaup

The Blue-footed Booby is still here:)

This Loggerhead Shrike was close enough to touch

Isn't this butterfly magical?

AND this amazing nest of a House Finch in a Teddy Bear Cholla

Another week full of beauty & wonder~

Turtle & Hawk

PS-To top the week off Bob took it upon himself to reach out to Healthcare.gov and see what kind of insurance deals they have to offer- OMG- what an ordeal!! This is one instance that the press is not overdramatizing unfortunately. We ended up getting a nice young man on the phone who helped us with the application process.... we will see... they said they would have us information in the next 10 days:) Crossing our fingers but not holding our breaths!

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