Tommy J. DeBardeleben

December 2011


December 1st, 2011:  Finding Maricopa County's first Eastern Bluebird!

Hi everyone,

I went to Tres Rios this morning (December 1) and I found a nice surprise in a male EASTERN BLUEBIRD.  I observed this bird east of the main wetlands out in the dry open habitat.  It vocalized a lot.  It flew around for ten minutes or so and I was able to get very good pictures and sound recordings. 

The bird soon disappeared from that area.  Jeff Ritz then arrived at the wetlands and was able to relocate the EA BL at the very east side of the cottonwood grove between the two ponds.  It was very cooperative for us and allowed great views.

I'm pretty sure this is a first Maricopa County record.  Thanks Andrew for posting about the birds location and putting up with my stutter filled message!

Tommy DeBardeleben



December 2nd, 2011:  Birding at Tres Rios Wetlands-more Eastern Bluebird and "Red" Fox Sparrow

Hi everyone,

I went back to Tres Rios this morning on December 2nd, 2011 to try and
enjoy the EASTERN BLUEBIRD a little more.  Well I have good news and bad
news for anyone wanting to chase it.  The good news is the bird is still
in the cottonwood grove between the two ponds.  The bad news is, I only
heard it this morning a few times.  It seemed to be hanging out at the top
of the cottonwoods. The bird called a few times above me where I heard it
perfectly, and a few other times throughout the morning I faintly heard it.

Robert Bowker, Jeff Ritz and his mother Shirley, joined me for a good
portion of the morning.  Fun birding with you all!  We all searched for
the bluebird without getting a visual.  It seemed odd to me the bird never
came down to feed.  When Jeff relocated it yesterday in this cottonwood
grove, it soon after fed on the ground often during the 20 mintues or so
while we were watching it.  Before I ran into Robert, Jeff, and Shirley, I
found a SLATE-COLORED FOX SPARROW at the western side of the cottonwood
grove in some of the thickets.  I wanted the others to see this bird and
as we were searching, I spied a Fox Sparrow, and as I got them on it, I
realized it was a "RED" FOX SPARROW!  So there were two Fox Sparrows. 
Robert was able to get a good image of the Red Fox Sparrow.  The bird was
very rufous overall, and the gray nape really stuck out.  The bird also
showed wingbars, which is good for that subspecies. 

Other goodies in the area were 6 flyover AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS, a heard
SAPSUCKER in the cottonwood grove, and a calling CRISSAL THRASHER.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



December 5th, 2011:  Red Fox Sparrow is calling Tres Rios it's winter home

Hey everyone,

The Red Fox Sparrow is still present in the same area as described in Fridays post.  It's more at the west side of the big cottonwood grove.  If walking in the path along the north pond (the one full of water) on the south side of that pond along the cottonwood grove, it often fed along that path under a large mesquite.  I put a few sticks on the path and spelled the word "fox" to assist anyone in looking for this bird.  It seems to be in this section a lot.

In the surrounding area of Tres rios, I had 4 FERRUGINOUS HAWKS, including 3 on 107th avenue.


Tommy D



December 10-11th, 2011:  Birding northwest and southeast of Phoenix

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the late post, the internet has been down.  I birded Hassayampa
yesterday (10 December 2011) followed by Lake Pleasant.

Hassayampa was rather slow, but an adult male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER was
a nice highlight, who was actively foraging with three RED-NAPED
SAPSUCKERS.  I may have even seen a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapucker as
well, but the look was too brief to be sure.  It looked good. 

From then I went to Lake Pleasant.  I was very happy to find my first
COMMON LOON of the year.  I actually learned a lesson from this bird!  I
scoped it at a far distance, and the lighting made the bird's bill look
completely yellow from the far distance.  Well, I almost had a heart
attack and drove my truck over as close as I could get to where the loon
was.  At that distance, the bill still appeared yellow.  I then sprinted
over to the shoreline where the loon was much closer.  The closer I was,
the bill turned out to be completely gray.  It's crazy how birds and
distance situations can be so decieving.  I ended up finding another
COMMON LOON in a quiet cove.  Also at the lake where three HORNED GREBES (
with a pair of them together).  I didn't see any Eared Grebes oddly.  RING-
BILLED GULLS were everywhere and I picked out a CALIFORNIA GULL with them.

Today (11 December 2011) I spent time looking for Eurasian Wigeons in the
Sun Lakes area southwest of Gilbert without success.  I killed the entire
day to look at....WIGEONS!!  I wish today had a do over button!

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



December 12th, 2011:  A Lewis's Woodpecker at Encanto Park in Phoenix

Hi everyone,
After work this afternoon, I enjoyed the previously reported LEWIS'S WOODPECKER in the rain.  Thank you Ken for the awesome find.  It was a year bird for me completely, which I somehow missed in the White Mountains in the week I spent there.  The Lewis's Woodpecker is a beauty, one of my very favorite woodpeckers.  This one provided quite the show in the same area as Ken described yesterday.
By following Ken's excellent directions from yesterday, the Woodpecker was very easy to locate. I observed it in the 40 minutes or so I obeserved it seeming to use three different palm trees right around the clubhouse.  It was in the palm tree the most where Ken gave directions to yesterday, but was at times often using a palm tree west from the clubhouse, as well as a palm tree just south of the clubhouse (where I originally observed it, it visited this palm tree once, which was a very tall tree).  It was repeatedly seeming to be gathering acorns from the three oaks on the east side of the clubhouse which borders the lagoon.  I think it is going to stick around awhile, especially if it's storing acorns! 
I also think this park has really good birding potential.  So many trees and a big lagoon!
Good birding,
Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



December 14th, 2011:  Rusty Blackbird and Rufous-backed Robin at Anthem Community Park (A two in one!)

Hi everyone,

My brother Tyler and I went to Anthem to try for the rarities.  Both the RUSTY BLACKBIRD and the RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN showed well around the playground area.  We were joined by Chris Reedy from Michigan, awesome to meet you Chris!  The blackbird was a lifer for me, and the robin was a lifer for Chris.  While we were watching the robin, the blackbird landed right in front of us.  The blackbird really moved around the area of the playground alot, I observed it on the lawn only once.  The robin was across the pond where the playground was, just southeast of the playground.   Thanks Pierre for the awesome lifer!

Good birding,

Tommy D.



December 20th, 2011:  Eurasian Wigeon in Phoenix

Hi everyone,

The nice looking male EURASIAN WIGEON was still present this morning.  Follow Laurence's good directions from his original post.

Thank you Laurence for the awesome find and a great year bird!


Tommy D.



December 29th, 2011:  Birding in the Arlington area-a great lifer and a bonus addition to my Maricopa County list

Hi everyone,

I had the morning today on December 29th, 2011 to get out and bird, so I
decided to chase some of the rarities that have been found in the
southwest part of Maricopa County.  Before I started, the wonderful sounds
of the SANDHILL CRANES could be heard throughout the area.

The RED-NECKED GREBE at Gillespie Dam showed perfectly for me today in
freezing temperatures at first light.  Ever since Troy informed me of the
bird on Monday, I've patiently had to wait until this morning in hopes of
it sticking around.  Thanks to updates from Troy, I decided to make the
trek down to Gillespie Dam to try for the grebe.  They are doing a lot of
road construction right now on Gillespie Bridge, but you can still park
just south (by mile marker 22) of the big bridge and then once reaching
the bridge (be sure to keep off the bridge at all times) walk down the
hill barely east of the bridge, following the path which eventually leads
to great views of the Gila River by the broken section of the dam.  Right
when I got there, the grebe gave good looks and was cooperative the entire
forty minutes I spent with it.  I was able to get pictures and video as
well, which Red-necked Grebe was the final North American grebe to
complete that section of my life list.  It was also accompanied by the
continuing CLARK'S GREBE as well as a PIED-BILLED GREBE.  The three
species were often together, which was a cool sight.  Thanks Troy and Jay
for the amazing find (Maricopa County's second R-N Grebe record I think?),
and to Troy for the updates on the bird.

Next, I was after a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW that Troy told me about, that was
found by Christina Smith.  I got in contact with Chrissy and she gave me
pointers on where the sparrow had been seen.  I did get lucky and heard
the sparrow call a few times, but it never did come into view.  Better
than nothing, right?  Sparrows were abundant here, however, which this was
in a field just northeast of the intersection of Desert Rose and Arlington
School Roads.  The Grasshopper Sparrow was a new Maricopa County bird for
me, a great addition.  Thanks Chrissy!  Other birds in the area that I
FACED IBIS flocks. 

Before work I decided to stop at Encanto Park, which is closeby to my work
locale.  The LEWIS'S WOODPECKER still put on a good show, and ROSY-FACED
LOVEBIRDS were in good abundance.  Another memorable day of Arizona

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



December 31st, 2011:  The Maricopa County Big Year of 2011

Hi everyone,

A year ago today, on December 31st, 2010, I sat down in the evening while
eating dinner with countless memories of a very memorable birding year
that I’ll never forget.  In all of 2010, I did a “Birding Big Year” in
Maricopa County, Arizona.  I finished with 304 different species inside of
Maricopa County, something I certainly didn’t think was possible when I
started.  The will to explore can change our lives however, and it
certainly changed mine.  It was such an amazing year for me that I
couldn’t resist the urge for more, that great story in my life needed a
sequel.  A few days into 2011, when Kurt Radamaker relocated a Chestnut-
sided Warbler at Rio Salado in Central Phoenix that was found in 2010, I
thought to myself, “I think I want to do another Maricopa County Big
Year!”  I had said I wouldn’t do a big year again after 2010, but once
2011 hit, my interest quickly came back to life.  The pen went down on
paper, and I started preparing for another big year.  But could I break
last year’s record of 304 species?  After such an awesome 2010, could 2011
even come close?  Every big year is a story and a long journey, and so is
the summary I have written on my website.  I invite you to please come on
this long journey too, of my Maricopa County Big Year in 2011! 

This big year for me included a little bit of everything: camping in the
woods, wading through rivers, miraculous finds, scaring birds into
Maricopa County, endless rarities, endless driving, 24 hour searching,
many misses and strikeouts, being a famous birder’s “guide” for a day,
birding in the intense heat, birding in small city parks, bushwhacking
down rattlesnake infested drainages, all day hikes, etc.  Join the fun and
read about my Maricopa County Big Year for 2011.

Here is the page to the link on my website for my Maricopa County Big Year:

Good Birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)

Birding in Maricopa County

An online guide to the birds and birding locations of Maricopa County


Birding in Greenlee County

An online guide to Greenlee County Birding


Birding in Arizona's White Mountains

An online guide to Birding in Arizona's White Mountains