Monday, February 09, 2009

Thunderbird Park: Part 1

Tuesday morning we flew from SFO to Phoenix, where we rented a car and drove to our relatives’ home in Glendale. Their house is in a really beautiful location: It sits on the bank of an artificial river and you can see the hills of Thunderbird Park from their back porch.

The river is constantly patrolled by Common Mergansers and American Coots.

Common Mergansers

On Wednesday morning I was up early enough to catch dawn breaking over the park.

The park is full of Saguaros and other wonderful cactuses.

The first birds to appear were Gambel’s Quails – dozens and dozens of them. Unfortunately, they were very skittish and the so difficult to photograph.

This Curve-billed Thrasher was much more cooperative and sang happily from a utility wire while I took pictures.

In some areas, the ground was covered with White-crowned Sparrows. Mixed in with them were a few of that most beautiful of all sparrows, the Black-throated.

The trees were busy, too, with Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Anna’s Hummingbirds.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Anna's Hummingbird

A friendly ranger took me to see a Great Horned Owl. When I looked, I saw that it was actually a Long-eared Owl, a much lesson bird and a lifer for me. A few minutes later it was joined by its partner and they both zigzagged away down a nearby wash.

The ranger tried to call up a Greater Roadrunner that usually comes to see him on his morning rounds. The Roadrunner didn’t appear but a pair of Cactus Wrens and a Northern Mockingbird came and perched on his truck instead.

Cactus Wrens breed year-round and several of the ones I saw were collecting nesting material.

Rabbits were plentiful and no doubt this is one reason why the park has a healthy population of bobcats and coyotes. I didn’t spot any bobcats but a family of three coyotes made a brief appearance.

By now the park was almost bursting at the seams with joggers and walkers, so I decided to go back and visit with my relatives. With any luck, I would be able to persuade Deanne to join me back at Thunderbird in the afternoon.


Birdwoman said...

These pictures brought back many happy memories of our last trip to the Southwest in autumn, 2007. I do love that area of the world and look forward to getting back there.

Jeff said...

My wife was raised in Utah and I spent years in Libya, so we both love the desert. In fact, when we left San Francisco 6 years ago, we really wanted to move to Tucson but I couldn't find work there. So we came to Houston instead!