Tommy J. DeBardeleben

February 2011


February 5th, 2011-AZ: Gilbert Water Ranch, Salt River

Hi everyone,

I wrote this report last night before I lost internet at home.  I wasn't
able to get back online until now, so here is yesterday's report:

Today on February 5th, 2011, I went to Gilbert Water Ranch to start my day
off and I followed that with visits to the Granite Reef and Foxtail
Recreation Sites at the Salt River.

I birded Gilbert Water Ranch for 4 1/2 hours from 8 A.M. to about 12:30
P.M, where it was pretty birdy and I recorded 71 different species. The
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER continued along the 3/4 path in the big willow, as
it was creeping "nuthatchlike" around the tree. I also was treated to
seeing the three small doves all together at a very close range at and
usually near the blind at the northeast end of pond 5. There was a male
and female pair of RUDDY GROUND-DOVES and two male COMMON GROUND-DOVES. As
Pierre reported earlier, the Geese that consisted off three GREATER WHITE-
FRONTED and one ROSS'S were present this morning, with Ross's Goose being
a new bird for me at the water ranch. I really enjoyed looking at both
species up close, as I haven't had good looks at either of them in awhile.
Another good highlight I had was a WESTERN SANDPIPER in the midst of many
LEAST SANDPIPERS in pond 7. Also in the mix of 71 species was a female
THRUSH along the 3/4 path, a MYRTLE WARBLER near the dinosaur digs near
the entrance, two GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES, and one SPOTTED TOWHEE.

I then made it out to Granite Reef at 1:30, where I birded for over an
hour. I didn't see anything since the other posts, but COMMON GOLDENEYES
and BUFFLEHEADS were the highlights near the dam. I also had a group of

Two HARRIS'S HAWKS sat on a pole roadside as I was heading north on the
Bush Highway to my next location.

My final stop was at the little known Foxtail Recreation Site. I only knew
about this site from Mike Rupp's Phoenix birding book to 101 birding
spots, as it is unsigned and off a dirt road, which is closed to vehicles,
but hikers are still welcome according to the sign. It is located between
the Goldfield and Sheep's Crossing (closed too, but turnoff can be seen)
Sites and is pretty noticable. I parked at the Great Western Trail which
is barely north of the road to access the Foxtail area. Once birding the
area, I enjoyed it a lot and it seems to have some really good potential
for birding in future visits. Because it's unsigned, it is very secluded,
peaceful and off to itself, away from the other sites, which can get very
crowded at times. I had the area to myself! My first birdwatch here

My day's total numbered 92 species.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)


February 11th, 2010-AZ: Hassayampa River Preserve-WINTER WREN, RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN, others...

Hi everyone,

Today I foused all my birding outing at the Hassayampa River Preserve, as
I birded there from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., which is open to close there during
their winter hours that is open 5 days a week, Wednesday through Sunday.

I haven't been here in awhile and it was about time I gave the preserve a
visit, which turned out to be an amazing day.  The RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN
report was another big reason why I wanted to come.  I missed the Robin
last year when it showed up in early December, and I was pleased at the
fact it was reported again.  Over half the day I was searching near the
picnic area and around the Palm Lake Loop for the Robin, and I finally
lucked out with it at 4:30 P.M., when the preserve was about to close.  I
got great looks right out in the open as the bird was between the picnic
area and the visitor center.  It was right by the path with a sign in the
front that says "Private Residence-No Entry".  It was feeding on the
ground, on berries that had fallen from the trees.  I also birded a lot
today with Chrissy Smith who works at the preserve, and she gave me many
good tips on finding this bird.  The Robin was a great new county bird for

Besides the Robin, I had other great sightings, one just as good as the
robin.  As I was walking along the Lion Trail more at the northwest side
of the loop I found and photographed a WINTER WREN (eastern).  I heard the
bird first who eventually came into view, and it then provided me with
excellent and up close looks throughout a span of thirty minutes.  I think
it then crossed the river as I heard and saw it about 100 yards down
across the river from when I first saw it.  There is also a slight
possibility there were two of them, but I doubt it.  I thought heard one
further down as I was watching the one at the original spot, but I'm very
unsure so I'm deciding to go with one.  An hour or so later when I first
ran into Chrissy, we went back to look along the lion trail and couldn't
refind it, but then went along the River Ramble Trail and refound it to
where the crossing of the river is probably adjacent to the Lion Trail
where I had it.  Chrissy was able to get excellent looks at the bird as
well, which was awesome!  If heading down the Lion Trail and after
crossing the bridge, take the loop trail to your right.  As you are
walking along the riverside on the trail, after awhile, the loop will take
you away from the river more and loop to the other side.  The wren seemed
to frequent the ending points of the trail where the river ran alongside
of it in thick brush.  Once the trail goes left to the other side, then
you've gone too far. 

Other highlights today were hearing a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK calling in the
distance several times throughout the day.  Once it sounded like they it
was as close as the River Ramble Trail, but when I came up on the spot,
the bird had moved north.  Other highlights included ASH-THROATED
been seeing regularly.  We heard it while watching the Winter Wren. 

I also thought I heard a calling Western Kingbird while birding in the
immediate area of Palm Lake.  I'm pretty sure it was a Western Kingbird,
but it's also very early for this species.  It vocalized briefly for about
10-15 seconds and I didn't hear it again.  If anyone is in the area,
please keep an eye and ear out for this possibility.  

42 species at Hassayampa for the day.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben
(Glendale, Arizona)


February 12th, 2011-Hassayampa Winter Wren audio and "video"

Hi everyone,

I thought I would share the audio and video clip I took of the Winter Wren
yesterday.  I recorded the bird as it was calling non-stop in the brush
below me.  Soon, it came into view and sat in the open.  The lighting was
bad and I had troubles finding it in my viewfinder while the sun was in my
eyes.  You can see the wren decently but not great by this video, but the
audio did come out very good.  These call-notes the Winter Wren makes
sound similiar to a Song Sparrow, but much shorter and harsher, especially
when the bird gives a single note, which it did several times yesterday as
I was observing it.  At the very beginning of this clip, it gives a few
single call notes before going into its double and triple jimp-jimp or
jimp-jimp-jimp call notes.  These call-notes are good to have in mind when
birding when it comes to both Winter and Pacific Wrens (which Pacific
sounds like a Wilson's Warbler when it does it's call notes), as both
species sound very different from each other in pitch.  This winter has
been amazing for both species throughout Arizona, so far for myself I've
now heard three Winter and one Pacific since the middle of December last

Video/Audio Clip link on Youtube:

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona


February 16th, 2011-Hassayampa River Preserve Winter Wren and Rufous-backed Robin continue..

Hi everyone,

Today, February 16th, 2011, Jim Kopitzke and I explored the areas around
Wickenburg with our main target area being the Hassayampa River Preserve. 
We had a good day overall with a total of 68 species in the area.

The Hassayampa River preserve continues to be very good, as the rarities
that have been seen lately were all encountered with good views this
morning.  We arrived at the preserve right after eight and birded for over
four hours.  Luck began right as we began in the parking lot area.  A RED-
SHOULDERED HAWK was calling loudly over on the River Ramble trail, and
shortly after, the hawk showed itself while it was soaring over the
trees.  It then began to slowly move closer before flying straight in our
direction, directly over our heads and into the direction of the Palm Lake
Trail.  With a start like this before even paying and going onto the
trails, I knew the day was bound to be good.  Shortly after paying and
beginning the hike around the preserve, we started right away with
searching for the Rufous-backed Robin and the Winter Wren.  After taking
one round of looking for the robin and the wren both without success, we
lucked out with them both on the second time around.  We started searching
for the RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN in the bushes to the left of the picnic area
that is between the picnic site and the visitor center.  Many birds were
active in this spot including HERMIT THRUSHES and SPOTTED TOWHEES but the
Robin wasn't showing itself.  I then looked in the southeast direction
while standing in the picnic area and spied the robin perched up high in a
tree.  We got great looks as it perched in the tree before it flew into a
small tree right alongside the east side of the picnic area.  Here it gave
us incredible views that were for the most part eye level.  We watched it
for ten minutes or so before it disapeared back into the thick brush on
the north side of the picnic area.  Patience is key with this bird,
luckily today we saw it rather quickly, it was a county bird for Jim.  We
then went to try for the WINTER WREN again, which we were able to locate
by it's double-note call.  Today it was still by the Lion Trail and we
heard it as we were crossing the bridge to access the loop trail.  We got
to then see the wren which was a state bird for Jim, and if on the bridge,
it was slightly in the southeast direction.  The Winter Wren was one of
six wrens we located today at the Hassayampa which also included CANYON,
ROCK, BEWICK'S, HOUSE, and CACTUS WRENS.  We tried for Marsh around the
Palm Lake Loop without success, but six was still good.  After our initial
RED-SHOULDERED HAWK sighting, we heard them calling the rest of the time
while birding here. 

Other highlights here from today included a flock of ten or so AMERICAN
WIGEONS on Palm Lake, two COOPER'S HAWKS, a CASSIN'S VIREO along the Lion
Trail, a VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW while on Lyke's Lookout, and a heard only
AMERICAN GOLDFINCH along the Palm Lake Loop.

Another good day!

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)


February 21st, 2011: Southwest Maricopa County Birding-Roseate Spoonbill and light-morph Harlan's Hawk continue..

Hi everyone,

Here is my full report I intended to write last night. 

When I read Melanie's report of the Roseate Spoonbill and other goodies, I
decided to head down to the Southwest Maricopa County area on Monday,
January 21st, 2011.  After a few horrible days of work, this birding
outing provided me with a perfect mental health day, as I had many amazing
sightings in this area that isn't ever busy and is always peaceful.  I
always love birding in this area regardless of what's around, but the
Spoonbill was my main target.  Most of my birding was done on roads just
right off the Old US 80 as well as birding right on the highway.

As I arrived in the area at 7:30, I started right off by looking for
Roseate.  I drove along and scanned for about thirty minutes in the
general area without success from where Melanie saw it the day before.  I
didn't have luck when I first looked so I made a quick run a few miles
west to the roads and areas just off of the Old US 80 including Narramore
Road which is south of the highway (and has produced good sightings
lately) and also the Lower River Road area which included the ponds. 
WESTERN MEADOWLARKS where everywhere and sang throughout the morning,
which I really enjoyed.  A female Red-breasted Merganser that has been
present since December of 2010 and seen by Melanie lately at the ponds on
Lower River Road didn't show for me when I checked for it.  Eight
CANVASBACKS floated on the water however, which have been there for a long
time as well.  TREE SWALLOWS flew overhead, which are starting to come
through in numbers on this side of Arizona too, I saw a good number here
and elsewhere throughout the day.  I then went back to the Spoonbill spot
and walked along the east side and last mile of the Old US 80 hoping to
see the Spoonbill fly in.  I searched and scanned the fields and canal
lines without success, but still remained hopeful it might come back
before dark as long as I checked the place again.

I then went to a quiet Thrasher Spot for two hours starting at 10:30.  My
main target here I was hoping for was a Sage Thrasher, as well as a
Bendire's.  These two I have actually seen a lot less of then Crissal and
Le Conte's.  For the first hour, I only heard one CRISSAL THRASHER
singing.  The last hour was a little more productive, but was still very
quiet.  I heard a LE CONTE'S THRASHER calling once without ever getting a
look.  Three more Crissal Thashers came into my view, and right as I was
leaving, a Le Conte's finally popped up.  It was the same one I observed
the last time I was here, which was sitting and singing above it's nest
somewhere in the dense thickets it was near.  There was a pair at this
exact spot the last time, and they never left the area in the hour's worth
that I observed them.  After two hours, I came up empty with both Sage and
Bendire's.  Other birds present were still good numbers of SAGE SPARROWS,

I then went to Gillespie Dam and arrived there at 1 P.M. exactly.  This is
always a good place to check for waterbirds, but there was nothing
unusual.  A BELTED KINGFISHER was present, as well as VIOLET-GREEN, TREE,

After Gillespie, I drove down Arlington School Road before visiting the
Arlington Wildlife Area at 2 P.M.  As I drove down, I saw that the fields
were being irrigated.  Scanning was tough with the horrible heatwaves, but
I saw throughout an abundant flock of WHITE-FACED IBISES that there were
several LONG-BILLED CURLEWS in the midst.  At the Arlington Wildlife Area,
it was quiet there too with highlights being a calling SORA, TREE and
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS in the first hour.  As I was heading out, I noticed
a nice flock of 55 SANDHILL CRANES out in the adjacent field to the east,
which is private property.  I got a clear view through the bushes of the
cranes hovewer before they got spooked of me and took flight.  They then
soared together in circles above the area for about ten minutes, which was
an incredible sight to see.

I then spent over an hour after I left the Arlington Wildlife Area right
along Arlington School Road, where I had an incredible sequence of
sightings that I enjoyed so much, which was probably one of the better
birding experiences I have ever had in my life.  As I was driving I could
tell the heat waves had left and as I scanned the flooded fields, I could
see things very clearly.  20 LONG-BILLED CURLEWS flew across the road and
they seemed to keep coming.  I was finally starting to enjoy seeing more
than two Curlews for the first time ever in Arizona.  As I watched them
fly across the road in front of me they seemed to gather in one spot. 
Scanning the area for the Curlews, I then saw a wierd-looking hawk that
confused me for a slight second before I realized it was the LIGHT-MORPH
HARLAN'S HAWK.  It was perched in midst of the Ibis and Curlews and then
it flew past me and perched shortly after on a tree.  As I set my scope up
and was viewing the Harlan's Hawk for about a minute or so, at least
seventy Long-billed Curlews flew in closer and landed directly beside my
truck.  It was amazing, and I was SO close to all of them.  I didn't know
which bird to look at, it was a tough desicion.  I looked at the hawk for
a short time before watching the Curlews even more.  A few minutes later,
the hawk had left, and as I was scanning for it, a WHITE-TAILED KITE
appeared in my binoculars.  Throughout this time, I stood on my truckbed
and watched these birds come in, it was incredible!  There must have been
over a thousand WHITE-FACED IBISES, the flocks were huge.  Several
SANDHILL CRANES also were in the more distant curlew/ibis mix.  As I drove
a little north up Arlington School, the Sandhill flock of 55 had landed
there, and they were accompanied by a ROSS'S GOOSE, which was strange. 

Close to five, I decided to make one last attempt at the Spoonbill.  As I
arrived on the spot, I didn't see it along the canal line on the north
side of the 80.  I parked by the bridge that is close to the houses, and
scanned the canal on the north side, no Spoonbill.  I then looked on the
south side and scanned the field just west of the bridge.  In between two
Great Egrets was the ROSEATE SPOONBILL!  I was so happy to see it.  The
spoonbill then flew to the canal directly south of the bridge and waded in
the water in front of me.  It was a great way to close out an amazing
day.  I also tried for the Merganser once more without success.

Regarding the Long-billed Curlews, I had the chance to really observe them
up close and listen to them.  The calls sounded different to me than what
I had heard on recordings on my ipod applications.  Last year at Gilbert
Water Ranch, Brendon Grice had Curlews come in regularly for a stretch of
time in the evening.  That night, I heard a wierd call and I thought it
might've been a Curlew, but my ipod's calls seemed a little different. 
When I heard them up close, I know without a doubt that is what I heard
that night, I came right back to me as I was hearing them up close in the
field.  I thought I missed Long-billed Curlew last year in Maricopa
County, but it turns out I heard one! 

Also, regarding the Light-morph Harlan's Hawk, the light morphs of the
Harlan's Hawk make up less than one percent of the Harlan's population. 
It is rarely seen where it is regular.  So this hawk is a VERY special
bird an in my opinion, an extreme rarity.  Melanie has watched that bird
come back for four winters now.  If you haven't seen it, I suggest you

My raptor count today consisted of 65 birds of seven species, which were 2
White-tailed Kites, 27 Red-tailed Hawks (Harlan's included), 18 Northern
Harriers, 14 American Kestrels (probably way more), 2 Ospreys, 1 Sharp-
shinned Hawk, and 1 Cooper's Hawk.  I think it would be fun if we held a
Raptor Count in this area as well, I'm sure the results would be amazing.

It was a good day with 68 different species total.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)


February 26th, 2011-Lower Salt River Recreation Area: continuing Winter Wren...

Hello everyone,

Today on Saturday, February 26th, 2011, I spent another full day at the
Lower Salt River Recreation Area northeast of Mesa.  It was another fun
day of exploring, as I covered the Phon D. Sutton, Granite Reef, Butcher
Jones, and Coon Bluff Recreation Sites. 

The Phon D. Sutton Recreation Site was my first stop, lasting from 7:30
A.M. to 11:10 A.M.  It was a productive stop, I recorded 51 species.  It
was also my first time of thouroughly exploring this site, which I am
kicking myself for not exploring this site in depth sooner, because the
habitat here is amazing.  Most of the good habitat lies on the west side
of the site, with great cottonwood/willow/mesquite forests.  Once
migration comes, this site is bound to hold some amazing birds.  Also,
there is the Lower Salt River Nature Trail at this west end of the
recreation site, which is a loop trail that I found really productive for
birding.  It passes through different habitats and created a good bird mix
for the morning.  I highly recommend this trail to birders!  Bird
higlights here this morning mainly came from the west end of Phon D.
Sutton with the exception of a pair of CANYON WRENS east of the parking
lot along a cliffside.  Highlights included a COMMON GOLDENEYE, 12 COMMON

From 11:30 A.M. to 1:20 P.M, Granite Reef Recreation Site was my second
stop, and it was productive as usual.  My standout highlight here was
getting to hear and eventually see and photograph the WINTER WREN
(eastern) that I first heard here on December 30th, 2010 in the dense
thickets and fallen wood at the very northwest spot of the recreation
site.  I came back here on January 3rd, 2011 after hearing it on December
30th, and I once again only heard the bird without getting a look at it. 
After several more times of coming back after January 3rd, I didn't hear
or see it again and nobody else reported it, so I assumed it had left.  I
heard it first again today and was finally able to get a good look at it,
as well as pictures.  This was actually my lifer Winter Wren I recorded in
my birding back in December, so it was nice to visually see my "original
lifer".  I have now seen three Winter Wrens this year, still no Pacific. 
It'll be interesting to see how many Winter Wrens are reported and
documented next year as well.  Besides the wren, a lot of good ducks are
still present at Granite Reef.  The COMMON GOLDENEYE number is around 20,
and many COMMON MERGANSERS prefer the immediate area of the dam.  10
BUFFLEHEAD were also present, as well as several CANVASBACKS.  RING-NECKED
DUCKS were also plentiful, and one REDHEAD was also in the duck mix. 
Other highlights from Granite Reef among the 43 species I recorded were 2
(great looks), a MYRTLE WARBLER in the picnic area, and a GREEN-TAILED

I then went to the Butcher Jones Recreation Site for 1.5 hours starting at
1:45 P.M.  It was productive here for it being in the afteroon, as I
recorded 40 species here.  An adult BALD EAGLE was the main highlight, who
soared above Saguaro Lake and was joined by two soaring RED-TAILED HAWKS. 
Highlight ducks here today was a REDHEAD drake and several BUFFLEHEAD. 
VIOLET-GREEN and TREE SWALLOWS were both flying around the lake in good
numbers.  A GRAY FLYCATCHER was in the picnic area.  I also saw four wrens
here in the timespan: CACTUS, ROCK, CANYON, and MARSH WRENS.  The wren
total I had for today was seven. 

After a rest and lunch break, I headed to Coon Bluff, my final stop for
the day.  On my way there, I drove down the entrance road to the Goldfield
Recreation Site, where I got to see a HARRIS'S HAWK perched atop a Saguaro
Cactus, which is always cool to see.  I then birded Coon Bluff from 4:50
P.M. to 7 P.M., which I listened for owls a little after dark.  My
favorite highlight here was getting to watch a male VERMILION FLYCATCHER
catching and eating an insect at close range, in which he was accompanied
by a female Vermilion Flycatcher.  I also enjoyed seeing here a Coon Bluff
SPARROW in midst of many White-crowned Sparrows.  Once night hit, I tried
for owls, particularly Western Screech.  I didn't have luck there, but
however, a GREAT HORNED OWL happened to fly by, which was my first owl for
the Salt River Area and a great way to close out the day.

81 species was the count for today.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)

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