Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My World: Gilbert Water Ranch

Black-necked Stilt 8-28-09 by Gusto!

Only in Arizona would they call the place you round up water from the sewage treatment plant a Water Ranch! I only recently discovered the Gilbert Water Ranch when I was viewing and Exploring Data on the eBird website. As I scanned the species of birds in the bar chart I was surprised to discover a wood stork on the list. I quickly clicked on the link to see where in the world one could possible see a wood stork in Arizona, for as far as I know, this is a southeast species. When the map came up I clicked on the display pin marking the bird's sighting. When the record came up it revealed who spotted the bird, when and where. A quick Internet search gave me the information I needed and on Friday, August 28, Gus and I were off!

Black-phoebe 8-28-09 by Kathie

We drive north to Phoenix, then east to the town of Gilbert. Also known as the Riparian Institute, the 110-acre Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is located at 2757 E. Guadalupe Road east of Greenfield Road, next to the Southeast Regional Library in Gilbert, Arizona. According to the Riparian Institute Website, over 200 species of birds have been sighted here. Though we left from Tucson by 6 a.m it is already 91 degrees F at 8:30 a.m. when we arrive. Donning hat, bins, camera and water bottle we head across the parking lot with a white sun blazing down on us. I always get so excited when I am in a new birding place. I can already see birds ahead of me in the muddy pond as well as on the ground and in the trees surrounding us. On a nearby fence a little black phoebe perches and I quickly snap its picture, but then I hand the camera to Gus. There are just too many birds to see and count!

Long-billed dowitchers 8-28-09 by Gusto!

Before us black-necked stilts, snowy egrets, mallards and sandpipers wade in the shallow water. Overhead turkey vultures soar. We walk from pond to pond. We find long-billed dowitchers, along with more stilts, common and snowy egrets, least and western sandpipers and a lone cattle egret still showing the rust-colored feathers from its fading breeding plumage. The trees surrounding the ponds are full of warblers, blackbirds and sparrows. Abert's towhees and Inca doves land on the dirt paths before us, then fly up as we draw near. In the surrounding trees the great tailed grackles whistle and call. All my senses are on alert! I don't know where to look first!

A flock of 50 white-faced ibis mingles with the egrets, stilts and sandpipers. Then a racuous sound fills the air and a flock of at least 55 more ibis fly in and lands with the rest of them. Standing there by the pond is another birder/photographer. He too is here to try to capture a photo of the wood stork. As we stand there talking it suddenly flies right over our heads and lands in an adjacent pond. We quickly grab our gear and cross the path to that pond.

Wood-stork 8-28-09 by Gusto!

As we scan the sky the wood stock suddenly makes a landing! However, from this angle it is terribly back-lit and in the excitement, Gus gets the best shot that he can at the moment.

Wood stork and Great egret by Gusto!

Gus takes another couple of shots, but none are like he wants. The other photographer says there is a spot from the other side of the pond where we can get better light, so we leave our viewing area and walk around the pond, but by the time we get there, of course the stork is gone!

Great-horned owl 8-28-09 by Gusto!

Instead this great horned owl watches us from a nearby willow tree.

Common egret 8-28-09 by Gusto!

And then Gus photographs this gorgeous great Egret. I am starting to wonder, am I really in Arizona? The temperature has risen significantly now and we are getting so hot. We bid good-bye to our new found photographer friend and head back to the car. There is so much more to explore, but it will have to wait for another cooler day. We grab our small cooler from the car and rest in the shade of one of the ramadas. We drink juice and water and eat some fruit and chips trying to replenish what we have sweated out in the 2 hours we have been here. When we finally get in our vehicle and start it up the car thermometer reads 114 degree F! Yikes! And it's only 11 a.m.! However as soon as we start driving the temp drops to 107F. On the drive home it once again reaches 111F near Casa Grande. Apparently we decided to go birding on one of the hottest days in August. Gilbert Water Ranch is a wonderful place to bird. It has 7 small ponds and we only made it to about 4 of them. We discuss coming back again when it is a bit cooler, but I am not sorry we came. How often does one get the chance to add a wood stork to their Arizona Life List after all! In the end I recorded 4o species of birds at Gilbert Water Ranch. I hope to return one day soon to find the peach-faced love birds that are reported to be hanging out there. And that's....

Juvenile Great Blue Heron 8-28-09 by Gusto!

I want my Mommy!

Bird Report:

Location: Gilbert Water Ranch
Observation date: 8/28/09
Notes: What an amazing place! There were so many birds! I did my best but I could not count or identify all the peeps. We only got to a few of the ponds before the heat drove us away. It was 91F when we arrived and 107F by the time we left at 11:00 A.M.! Photos of stork and ibises.
Number of species: 41

1. Mallard 14
2. Gambel's Quail 2
3. Pied-billed Grebe 1
4. Neotropic Cormorant 30
5. Great Blue Heron 6
6. Great Egret 30
7. Snowy Egret 25
8. Cattle Egret 1
9. Green Heron 1
10. Black-crowned Night-Heron 5
11.White-faced Ibis 105
12. Wood Stork 1
13. Turkey Vulture 7
14. Common Moorhen 1
15. American Coot 1
16. Killdeer 10
17. Black-necked Stilt 25
18. Spotted Sandpiper 1
19. Greater Yellowlegs 1
20. Western Sandpiper 50
21. Least Sandpiper 20
22. Long-billed Dowitcher 40
23. White-winged Dove 1
24. Mourning Dove 12
25. Inca Dove 2
26. Great Horned Owl 1
27. Gila Woodpecker 1
28. Black Phoebe 2
29. Northern Rough-winged Swallow 12
30. Verdin 12
31. Northern Mockingbird 2
32. Curve-billed Thrasher (Western) 4
33. Orange-crowned Warbler 2
34. Yellow Warbler 1
35. Abert's Towhee 5
36. Red-winged Blackbird 20
37. Great-tailed Grackle 30
38. Brown-headed Cowbird 15
39. House Finch 12
40. Lesser Goldfinch 2
41. House Sparrow 12

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2


Arija said...

Kathie. what wonderful sightings! We have no Storks here at all. In Australiathey only congregate on thte nothern Tripical coast. Even Water Ranch water is water and in your arid climate it is a magnet for birdlife. Next time pick a day a little closer to heaven than the other place. In those temperatures I would have melted like Little sambo's Tiger.

Guinea fowl ar native to Africa and used here as domestic birds. They are a marvellous pest control in the garden, need to be locked up at night for their own satety and roost in trees, so they need a sturdy branch in their enclosure.They are so sociable and chatter all the time they are foraging. They are easy to breed and popular in the U.S. as well.

Carver said...

What a great post. I enjoyed the photographs and also learning about the area.

Carolyn Ford said...

What a beautiful post and educational too! I love every photo but especially the Great Horned Owl! What eyes they have! Thank you for all the time you spend preparing your posts! Fabulous!

Larry D said...

What an amazing place, great post.

SandyCarlson said...

Your posts always fill me with hope and joy that this world is yet full of life and wonder. Thank you.

Janie said...

Amazing that this site provides such great birding. You were tough to go out in that heat, but you certainly saw a lot. That wood stork is quite a find. Great shot with the back light.

Gaelyn said...

Wow Kathie, who'd have thought. I'll have to check this place out during the winter when I'm closer.
You made so many amazing sightings and Gus did great with the pics.

Naturegirl said...

Kathie what an exciting day siting all these beautiful birds! I remember last year at this time when in France in the Alsace region I saw the stork..native to this quaint little French village..it was exciting to know that there really are storks and not the ones that bring "new babies" to humans! LOL
Oh my how wonderful to see that owl!!!

Bernie said...

Kathie what a beautiful day you and your husband shared together viewing this beautiful place so populated with your passion "birds
I learn more from this one post from you than I did in 12 years of school and 4 years of college. I really enjoyed this post so much, now if I can only retain it.
I wish you many more days like this for you and Gus, just not as hot outside......:-) Hugs

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing Your World! What a neat idea. Never knew about
"Water Ranches." Loved the pics(especially of the Stilt) and the story behind them.

Elisabeth's bright side said...

You gave me a wonderful tour with a lot of interesting information.
Thank you for sharing!

Quiet Paths said...

41 species; that is just amazing. What a super place to visit despite the intense heat. How do the birds deal with that? Whew.

Deborah Godin said...

A water RANCH? Oh, they missed the boat big time, they should have called it Water Rebab...a place where water goes to get clean! Love the sightings and photos. That stilt is amazing!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathie, the GH Owl is amazing and the shot of the Dowitchers is just like a painting.

Ruth said...

Those temperatures are hotter than anything I have experienced. What a wonderful variety of birds and great pictures as well.

DeniseinVA said...

How exciting to discover a new area Kathie. Wonderful, wonderful photos and as always, such an interesting post. Thank you and have a great weekend.

Amila Salgado said...

Sounds like a very productive trip. Good job with the Wood Stork. Great Horned Owl looks prtty awesome too. And those last two shots look very good.

denapple said...

In Arizona, you must always remember... If you water it, they will come. I've got to get back to Arizona, just not in August. :)

Dawn Fine said...

Wow..I am having fun catching up with your blog..
These photos are awesome!

Celeste said...

Don't worry about the light angle - that is a great action shot of the Wood Stork. I think good behaviour shots are often more rewarding that photographically correct shots. Another fantastic birding trip Kathie.