Friday, January 29, 2010

Scaled Quail in Sycamore Canyon!

Scaled Quail 1-29-10 Sycamore Canyon

I've been watching birds whenever I can and wherever I can, so yesterday I headed into town with bins and camera to squeeze in some bird watching between errands. Gray skies threatened above me as I drive north on Houghton Road. By the time I reach Lakeside Park, the rain came down forcing me to leave my camera in the car as I search the park for something different. It is quiet here in the rain with only the birds and a few crazy fishermen braving the elements. Though I hope for the osprey or maybe some northern rough-winged swallows I am only seeing the usual suspects-American wigeons, mallards, coots, all kinds of blackbirds and a few western bluebirds. However, I am able to pick out a lone pair of Mexican ducks from all the regular mallards. Mexican ducks look like female mallards, but they are darker and smaller with dark tail feathers. Species number (Mexican mallards are no longer considered a seperate species I just dicovered!) for my Big January Count.

Hooded Meganser male 1-28-10 Reid Park

After lunch with a friend I head over to Reid Park to see what I can see. I park between the zoo and the ball fields and head for the pond. At the first pond the American wigeons dominate with over 100 in the water along with canvasbacks, ring-necked ducks, ruddy ducks, coots, and pied-billed grebes. Pigeons swarm the pond edges hoping for a few crumbs from the bread that people brought to feed the ducks. In the nearby field a flock of western bluebirds gathers and in their midst a brilliant red flash appears-a male vermilion flycatcher! I work my way around to the southern pond located closest to 22nd Street. More wigeons and mallards and exotic domestic ducks and geese fill the pond, but then I see something different! A Hooded Merganser (109)!

Common Mergansers (female) 1-28-10 Reid Park

While watching the Hooded Mergansers I take up a location behind a palm tree and wait for the ducks to relax. A male Belted Kingfisher (110) gives its rattling call and flies to one of the overhanging trees. Then, 2 ducks circle the pond, dip and skim the water only to fly off again. Are they canvasbacks? the color is similar, but someting is differnt. I wait as they circle and skim again, once, twice, and then land. To my utter delight it is two female Common Mergansers (species 111)!

Great Egret 1-28-10 Reid Park, Tucson

All the while I am watching ducks this Great Egret calmly fishes nearby.

Hooded merganser pair 1-28-10

I am able to capture this photo of the Hooded Merganser pair. a lovely, artistic sculpture inthe water--beauty floating on rippled glass. I stand by the tree and just enjoy the sight. Though I love to count the birds and I like contributing the data to eBird, I never want to loose the pure joy of the birds. I stand and let the moment infuse my being. Gray skies, calm water, peaceful birds.

Scaled Quail in Sycamore Canyon 1-29-10

It is late at night when I arrive home. After all, I did have to do a bit of shopping. When I get there I find I have a message from the new people I met yesterday. about 45 minutes after I left the house Sheri called to tell me the scaled quail were back! But it is dark now and I am too late. I go to bed with visions of scaled quail on my brain. I want them so badly because when I enterd my bird count into eBird the other day I was surprised to learn that scaled quail are not an expected species here at this time of year. All night long I dream of scaled quail. I wake up in the night with the words pounding on my brain. I just have to see these birds! I won't be able to sleep. I want to add them to my Pima County list, my Sycamore Canyon list, and my Big January Count. I wake around 8 a.m. and busy myself with morning chores. Is it too early to call Sheri back? I fill the bird feeders, and feed the pets. I fill my time as the clock creeps towards 9 a.m. then, I give Keith and Sheri a call. The scaled quail are back! I jump in my car without eating breakfast and drive to their house with what feels like frogs jumping in my stomach.

Scaled Quail 1-29-10

When I get to their house I exit the car quietly. I grab my gear and gently tap on the door. I do not want to scare these birds off now. Sheri opens the door and leads me inside. I dump my stuff on a nearby hassock and put my bins to my eyes. Where are they? Where are they? All I see are Gambel's quail. Right there, Sheri says, but I don't see, because what I am seeing are the streaked sides and white lined wings from the back, but then..., oh then! I see! I see the scales. I see the birds. I am shaking I am so excited! I have my Scaled Quail! (species 112!)

Scaled and Gambel's Quail on seed block

I have only seen scaled quail twice before. The first time was on my very first trip to Whitewater Draw the first year I lived here. One sat on a branch in the early morning light before it or we moved on. Then, I saw one briefly moving trough the brush on a hillside in Rio Rico, but this, this is the first time I have seen them this close and this well. I only intended to stay for a few minutes, but by the time I left, I had been there 2 hours. I have found new friends in Kieth and Sheri. I look forward to further birding adventures with them. And for now...

Scaled Quail 1-29-10

...I have Scaled Quail!


eileeninmd said...

Kathie, I love all your birds and the photos! I would love to see the Quail.

Kathie Brown said...

Elleninmind, I was so excited! They are even prettier in real life!

bobbie said...

all beautiful pictures, but that first quail pic is just perfect!

Birding is Fun! said...

You do have great photos! You're whoopin' me for the big month count. I just got #66 Winter Wren today. I never got to see Scaled Quail in my AZ days, so I am insane with jealousy on this slow Friday afternoon.

Arija said...

No wonder you were excited Kathie! They are such beautiful and interesting bird, not only The greneral plumagge, but those lovely crests as well.
Great photos throughout.

sweetbay said...

Wonderful shots!

The Scaled Quail are beautiful birds. I love the picture of the Hooded Merganser pair too. You should frame it.

Anonymous said...

Superb images of very colourful species Kathie.

Quiet Paths said...

Pretty darn exciting, especially before breakfast! Terrific shots as usual! Congratulations.

Dean said...

The first time I saw the scaled quail I was sitting in Sheri's wicker chair. You first picture is what I saw - that was as closee as they got. I had no idea they were so rare. Beautiful picture!

Kathie Brown said...

Thanks bobbie! Glad to be able to show it to you!

Avimor, you do know I have an advantage living down here. last year I got a house wren on my count but this year I didn't. Funny how bird populations change. That's the whole point behind eBird as you well know.

Arija, it was so thrilling to see them.

Sweet bay, why thank you!

Roy, nice to see you again!

quiet paths, thank you. Quail before breakfast are always good!

Dean, I didn't know either until I went to enter the bird count. I am so glad to have seen them so close and for so long!

Dawn Fine said...

Fantastic photos...Love seeing the Scaled Quail..
We just saw a few recently..ha..but they were at the Desert Museums Aviary...oh well..
much better to see them as you did..
lovely little birds..

Anonymous said...

The scaled quail are especially a treat for me to see here, since I normally see california quail. It would be nice to spend a year in the desert canyons again.

Mary said...

I like that Scaled Quail! Lovely bird! I sure wish we had gotten to Tucson this year...I could use the sunshine. I'm so tired of winter! We will probably come in May this year for my niece's graduation.

Rohrerbot said...

Oh slacker blogger! I was just doing research on Scaled Quail in Pima County and found your ebird report. Then it took me to your blog. I'm so curious if these birds still exist in that area. It has been 10 years now and not a single report since 2010. Did suburbia finally do them in?Not an easy bird for Pima County. The last time I had them was in the Cienegas back in 2016? And they are not always there. It's the only time I've ever seen them. It is now 2020 and the year of corona virus.