Arizona Birds – Part Three

This post will conclude my series on Arizona birds from my trip last month. If you have missed a post or two along the way, you can read more about the trip here:

American Avocets
Greater Roadrunner
Arizona Birds – Part One
Arizona Birds – Part Two

So now that you’re caught up, let’s get to the final chapter.

Today’s post focuses on a morning I spent at Bill Forbes’ blind at his home. The Pond at Elephant Head is an area on his ranch where he has placed a fresh water source and a variety of perches. These perches can be moved around to take advantage of the sunlight and backgrounds. Photographers sit in a portable blind and fill their cards on all the birds that come to visit The Pond. With The Pond being one of the only water sources around, Bill has no problem bringing in a variety of different birds as you will soon see.

The most common bird at The Pond was the House Sparrow. Although House Sparrows can be quite beautiful, they are so common in the US that you don’t have to go far beyond your neighborhood shopping center parking lot to find them. I took a few shots of both males and females as I didn’t recognize them right away. The coloring and patterns are a bit different out west than they are here on the east coast. After a few clicks, I was disappointed that I was so easily fooled by these guys.

The next most common bird, and perhaps the funniest looking bird at The Pond was the Gambel’s Quail. They have a plume that extends from their forehead and droops down somewhat above their eyes. They are beautiful birds and came out in droves to feast at the morning’s banquet. Click the images to view larger.

Gambel's Quail (Lifer)
Gambel’s Quail (Lifer)

One of my target birds on this trip was the desert cardinal, or Pyrrhuloxia. Don’t ask me to pronounce that. I need to hear that word a few times before I’ll figure out how to say it properly. Needless to say, the Pyrrhuloxia didn’t disappoint.

Pyrrhuloxia - Male (Lifer)
Pyrrhuloxia – Male (Lifer)
Pyrrhuloxia - Female (Lifer)
Pyrrhuloxia – Female (Lifer)

8 woodpecker species call Arizona home at some point during the year. The previous afternoon, I scored the Acorn Woodpecker and Arizona Woodpecker. This particular morning at The Pond, I scored 3 more woodpeckers for a total of 5 for this trip. The Lewis’s Woodpecker was a possibility, but I dipped on that one. I have Downy Woodpeckers in my backyard, so finding one of those was not important. A chance at a three-toed Woodpecker was a very long shot as they are only found in very small areas of Arizona and I wasn’t near those areas.

So I was very happy to find the Gila Woodpecker,

Gila Woodpecker (Lifer)
Gila Woodpecker (Lifer)

the Ladder-backed Woodpecker,

Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Lifer)
Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Lifer)

and the Hairy Woodpecker. Ironically, the Hairy Woodpecker is quite common in Florida, but I had not yet run across one. It seems a little strange to travel all the way across the continent to get a local bird.

Hairy Woodpecker (Lifer)
Hairy Woodpecker (Lifer)

I had a Hooded Oriole visit The Pond quite often that morning. He kept feeding from the hummingbird feeders, and while I took some shots of him on the feeder, you’ll never see those. Instead I wanted a good shot of him on a natural perch. Eventually my patience paid off!

Hooded Oriole (Lifer)
Hooded Oriole (Lifer)

All morning long I heard a strange bird call from the nearby desert. Not being from Arizona, there were a lot of bird calls that I didn’t recognize until I saw the bird and heard the call at the same time. This call kept coming from a brush pile and I eventually matched it up with the Cactus Wren when the wren stopped by to investigate the Saguaro cactus skeleton. This was a cool find!

Cactus Wren (Lifer)
Cactus Wren (Lifer)

I also had visits from a Rufous-winged Sparrow and a Canyon Towhee. The sparrow was somewhat cooperative and let me get a few shots in the short time he visited The Pond. But that darned Canyon Towhee was either on a feeder or in a tough spot to shoot to get any decent photos. I have some that are useful as an ID shot, but nothing that I’ll ever publish.

Rufous-winged Sparrow (Lifer)
Rufous-winged Sparrow (Lifer)

The Pond was also visited by a couple of birds that I had previously photographed on this trip.

Curved-billed Thrasher (Lifer)
Curved-billed Thrasher (Lifer)
Verdin (Lifer)
Verdin (Lifer)

And there were some birds that stopped by that we do get in Florida. I didn’t have any great images of these prior to my trip, so I was happy to see them and capture a few frames.

House Finch (Male)
House Finch (Male)
House Finch (Female)
House Finch (Female)
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove

About mid-morning when there was lots of activity at The Pond, suddenly all the birds scattered and the desert became eerily quiet. I quickly saw why as this Cooper’s Hawk had taken a run on The Pond to see if he could grab an easy meal.

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

That pretty much wraps up the Arizona birds that I saw on my trip. There were a couple of other visitors to The Pond that morning that I will share. The desert cottontail rabbit was out in good numbers just about anywhere I stopped in Arizona.

Desert Cottontail
Desert Cottontail

The Pond also had a visit from a couple of jack rabbits. They never came close enough to the pond for a decent image, but even if they had, they are so large that I would have probably needed a very short lens to photograph them.

Jack Rabbit
Jack Rabbit

I certainly did enjoy my trip to Arizona and I hope that I get another opportunity to go back out there and explore some other areas. The desert is a beautiful place to visit, although I don’t think I would want to be out there in the summer months. Chasing Arizona birds was a lot of fun, but I wish I had had more time for landscapes, sunsets and sunrises. I only got a few opportunities for those, so I guess I’ll just have to go back and try again!

5 Comments

  • Uncle Don

    April 21, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Great shots Michael, Keep up the good work. I am very proud of you.

    • Michael

      April 21, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      Thank you, Uncle Don! I really appreciate that!

  • Jane Walden

    April 21, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Michael, what a great experience you had and super images of different birds for a change. Love your blog posts! 🙂

    • Michael

      April 21, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      Thank you, Jane!!

  • Jess Yarnell

    April 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Wow, great pictures of great birds! I can tell how much you enjoyed this trip. I want to go!