Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another Perfect Birding Day

On the west side of Tucson there is a water treatment plant that has created a wonderful wildlife area. The treated water is pumped into drainage ponds where the natural plantings continue to filter and clean the water. I don't know if someone has a slightly sarcastic sense of humour because this place is called Sweetwater Wetlands and yet there are signs everywhere reminding people NOT to drink the water because it is treated sewage water after all! That being said it is a great birding spot with lots of mature trees, wandering pathways and a great mixture of aquatic vegetation and open water.

Kathie and I decided last week that this would be our latest destination for a birding jaunt, our decision was slightly skewed by the fact that a rare Ani had been located there on a fairly regular basis for the last couple of weeks. But to be honest, neither Kathie or I were too bothered about seeing it, we both just enjoy being outside and all the birds are a treat.
We set out early as this Ani apparently has quite a specific daily routine and is most often seen early on. It was another perfect November morning in the desert, pristine, azure blue skies and a slight chill in the air. We pulled into the little parking lot and it was clear that this was a popular place with people 'in the know!' Lots of serious 'birding' types strolling around festooned with binoculars and cameras, no one talking too loudly, just quietly going about their business. Our first treat was right beside the car park, a very obliging Solitary Sandpiper that can pretty much be relied on to show on this little stretch of water. There were birds calling all around us and I could tell this was going to be a great birding trip.

I shan't try to give you a bird by bird account of the day because it would just take way too long and although you might think that there are a lot of photos in this post, trust me, this is only a tiny fraction of the pictures I took! I couldn't resist this picture of a little Pied-billed Grebe lit from behind to create a magical, fluffy full body halo.

There were numerous Harris Hawks perched around the area looking so smart in their dark charcoal and chocolate brown plumage, these two were picture perfect even on full zoom.

There were masses of water birds and the lighting and vegetation reflecting on the water just created a magical scene.

There were lots of Coots swimming, sleeping, preening, bathing and calling back and forth.

 While I was having fun playing with the reflections of this Pied-billed Grebe on the water I began to get the distinct feeling that I wasn't watching the birds but that the birds, or should I say, a bird, was watching me!

I wasn't wrong...........this Harris Hawk was perched in the trees behind us giving us the kind of stare that only a hawk can.

It wasn't until I looked at my photos later that I spotted the evidence of it's last meal attached to its beak.

Anyway - back to the water birds.

Moorhens cruising back and forth across the water were so hard to get a shot of, I had forgotten how fast they paddle! I think Kathie was quite amused by my constant muttering at them as I missed shot after shot.

There were Shovelers all around

and although we know that their hefty beaks give them there name, its not until you see this impressive tool opened up that you get to realize just how big it really is!

Is there anything more beautiful than a Cinnamon Teal catching the sunlight?

I don't think so.........

There were lots of birds flitting in and out of the vegetation, most of which I completely failed to get any decent shots of. I did catch this Yellow-rumped Warbler when it briefly popped out from amongst the reeds

But lets be honest, it is far easier to photograph birds on open water. How could I resist this sweet little Ruddy Duck busily preening?

There we go - all tidy and ready for her close-up.

Then back to playing with reflections

Which way up?

Did we see the Ani? No. Did it matter? No. We had a wonderful day, saw 45 different species, took a lengthily tea break in the shade of a tree, laughed, walked, enjoyed the weather and each others company. What more could we ask for? Nothing, it was a perfect birding day.


Kathie Brown said...

Celeste, this is a delightful post! You got some awesome photos! Amazing! It truly was a wonderful day! Thank you for coming with me!

Becky said...

WOW! Your photos are amazing. What an awesome day! I am SO jealous! I will have to google an ani ;) LOL