Down here by the creek the ruby-crowned kinglet flitter about. We hear their high-pitched voices before we finally spot one in the thick underbrush. Around us giant reed grows tall above us, transforming the creek banks to a jungle. These invasive plants are in the process of being removed by the forest service and a group of trained volunteers. We duck under their towering heights and wander among the willows by the dam. It has been reported that a rare chestnut-sided warbler has been spotted in the area. We crane our necks combing the treetops looking for the little bird.
I expect to see the lovely chestnut sides of the bird indicated by the photo in my bird guides, but when I finally spot this tiny feathered gem in the African sumac by the dam it isn't what I expect. Jean, Pam, and Peggy are more experienced birders than I am and when I call them over they confirm it is the chestnut-sided warbler in non-breeding plumage. the little bird flutters in and out of the foliage, making it very hard to photograph. I barely get a bead on it and it's gone once again. One surprise to me was the way it holds its tail upright like a wren. A visit to the newly formed Arizona Field Ornithologist page gives me further information:
Even when it completely lacks any Chestnut on the sides, non-breeding Chestnut-sided Warbler is a distinctive bright yellow-green above and unstreaked grayish-white below. It also has wingbars and an eyering. No other warbler has this combination of features.
We continue past the dam and along the creek. Though our list is small today, this one bird is worth it all. Over the dam the swift water tumbles roaring a song in our ears. The boulder strewn creek bed is evidence of its power. Gray sky above becomes life-giving water below.
Big January Update:
105. Chestnut-sided Warbler
106. Anna's Hummingbird
Blogger's Note Update 1-29-09: I submitted my Chestnut-sided warbler photo to the AZFO Webpage where it was accepted and posted. This is a first for me.