Tommy J. DeBardeleben

November 2011


November 1st, 2011:  My lifer Common Tern at the Glendale Recharge Ponds..

Hi everyone,

John Saba and I explored the Glendale Recharge Ponds for a few hours this
afternoon (November 1st, 2011). 

The main highlight was the COMMON TERN found by Michael Lester earlier
today.  This is a very late and remarkable find for this species in
Arizona at this time of year.  I wouldn't think of Glendale as the place
it would be at right now if I had a guess, that's for sure.  The Tern flew
around alot, but often sat on mudflats in Basin 2, which has excellent
shorebird habitat.  The Common Tern was a lifer for me and one I was
really hoping for earlier this year (one I never expected to show up in
November!)  Thanks again Michael!

The HORNED GREBE continued and neither John or myself were able to pick
out the recent Surf Scoter.  A really interesting highlight we had came
with a PRAIRIE FALCON and a PEREGRINE FALCON having a battle in the air. 
I had a Prairie Falcon here for the first time last week, they certainly
are scarce compared to the Peregrines.  John spied the Prairie while I
spied the Peregrine.  We didn't know we were looking at separate birds at
first and we both wondered if the other person was in their right
mindset!  The falcons flew around for awhile before the fight.  If they
liked each other, I wonder what a Peregrine Falcon x Prairie Falcon hyrid
would look like?  Another good highlight were a few LARK BUNTINGS in the
dry and weedy basin 4. 

Twelve duck species were still present however without the Scoter, with a
male REDHEAD joining the mix.  Other raptors included OSPREY, several nice
looks at several NORTHERN HARRIERS, and an AMERICAN KESTREL who likes to
perch in between all the ponds at a cement station. 

I recorded 43 species for the evening.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



November 4th, 2011:  Finding my first Mountain Chickadees in Maricopa County..

Hi everyone,

Jim Kopitzke and I made an early morning trip to Mount Ord followed by a
brief visit to Saguaro Lake.  After Jim went home, I visited Gilbert Water

According to the weather forecast, we both thought Mount Ord would be
extremely windy.  To our surprise, it was nice the entire two hours we
were there.  However, the birding was dead for the most part other than
one amazing sighting.  As we worked our way up to the summit on the
Maricopa County side, we heard a "chik-a-dee-dee-dee".  We both looked up
in an oak to see our first ever Maricopa County MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE!  This
has been one we've been wanting for awhile.  The Chickadee provided good
looks before flying off.  We continued to the top, and on our way down, we
came up on the Chickadee again, only to see that it was joined by three
other Mountain Chickadees.  It seemed shocking they were up there, but the
day was a success right off the bat because of the Chickadees, an
excellent bird to find in Maricopa County that is usually very hard to
get.  We found only 9 different species on Mount Ord, which also included

A brief stop in the Sunflower area along the Old Beeline Highway produced

We then birded around Saguaro Lake, stopping at Butcher Jones Beach and
the actual lake recreation site north of Butcher Jones.  It was nice to
talk to Lindsay, Keith and Dick at Butcher Jones!  A good number of ducks
are starting to show up, including a REDHEAD and NORTHERN SHOVELER at the
beach.  A SAVANNAH SPARROW sat on the edge of the beach.  The lake had
hundreds of distant WESTERN/CLARK'S GREBES.  A wren show was right in the
parking lot along the lake, with ROCK, CANYON, and CACTUS WRENS all being
seen within a minute. 

After Jim went home, I made a three hour stop at Gilbert Water Ranch
hoping to relocate the White-throated Sparrow found by McCreedy last
week.  The weather was terrible, but I worked hard anyways to try and see
this bird.  Lindsay had seen it yesterday, but I failed to relocate it.  I
had plenty of abundant White-crowned action, but I just couldn't find that
diamond in the rough.  These birds move around a lot, so it could've
easily been in the section at water ranch I didn't cover.  However, I did
have a good consolation, as I spied a SWAMP SPARROW in the same area.  The
bird gave me great looks, always nice to see.  This is along the Owl
Clover Trail, which is along the northeast side of Pond 5, and was just
east of the viewing blind.  Other highlights among 59 species recorded at
Gilbert Water Ranch were 2 WHITE-FACED IBIS, 2 OSPREY, 1 SHARP-SHINNED

A good day of birding.  Thank you Mountain Chickadee.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



November 7th, 2011:  Raptor heaven in the Arlington Valley

Hey everyone,

I had a few very notable sightings in the Arlington Valley today, mostly
right along Arlington School Road.

Within minutes of each other, I had the light morph HARLAN'S HAWK and a
Black MERLIN.  Both are rare in Arizona, especially the light morph
Harlan's Hawk.  Melanie Herring found this bird five or six years ago
(five I think), where it has returned and wintered for these consecutive
years.  Arlington School Road is the best place to observe this awesome
bird.  Light morph Harlan's Hawks are rare where they are common, in which
light morph makes up less than one percent of the population.  The Black
(Pacific) Merlin was almost roadside and was probably about 15 feet away
from my vehicle.  It was the first time I've seen a black Merlin in my
life, what a great thing to see!  A normal Merlin was also present
throughout the drive.  I was also treated to great looks at an active
WHITE-TAILED KITE along Arlington School Road also.  Three great raptors
in a matter of a few minutes, all on the same road, I was in heaven. 

The outing also produced large SANDHILL CRANE numbers, especially on the
west side of Arlington School Road in the plowed fields.  WESTERN
MEADOWLARKS were everywhere.  Also of note were three COMMON GROUND-DOVES.

I had a few targets today that I struck out on, with Bonaparte's Gull
being one of them.  The Lower River Road Ponds had a flock of six RING-
BILLED GULLS, but no Bonaparte's.  2 WESTERN GREBES were also in the ponds.

A good birding day, especially the triple raptor delux.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



November 8th, 2011:  Birding Granite Reef and Gilbert Water Ranch

Hi everyone,

Jim Kopitzke and I spent the first half of today exploring the Granite
Reef Recreation Site along the Lower Salt River and Gilbert Water Ranch. 
It was a very good half day of birding, with several good surprises.

Granite Reef proves time and time again how good of a birding site it
really is.  Today we had 65 different species in less than three hours
throughout a stretch that is less than a mile.  The Salt River is awesome
here, and is deep and wide, almost lake like in ways.  Large duck numbers
congregate here and should be checked regularly.  Sadly, we missed Jay
Miller's Black Scoter, who was in so briefly.  We talked to Jay as we were
leaving, and he shortly later found the bird of the day!  Jay was in the
right place at the right time!  Saguaro Lake would be a good place to
check for this bird, as Jay mentioned earlier.  And Granite Reef might
still be a good place to look, in case of it returning by any chance.  I
did find a female-type RED-BREASTED MERGANSER in the duck mix, which was a
county bird for Jim and a new Salt River bird for me.  Besides great mix
of willow, mesquite, and tamarisk habitat, Granite Reef also has some
great open grassy patches.  In the northwest part of the recreation site,
there is a spot where sparrows thrive.  Today this included a CLAY-COLORED
SPARROW (possibly two) in midst of BREWER'S, CHIPPING, SAVANNAH, SONG,
VESPER, and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS.  The Clay-colored Sparrow perched for
a long time in front of us and gave us the perfect comparison and study
looks with the other sparrows closeby.  Granite Reef today had some other
show in good numbers, and a single REDHEAD was also present.  Two BALD
EAGLES were present thoughout the morning, and one of them vocalized on
and off the entire visit (certainly cool to hear!).  I scared out a SORA
from the riverside reeds and a good number of COMMON GALLINULES were
present east of the main parking lot.  Three CRISSAL THRASHERS were
present, spread throughout the spot.  A WESTERN MEADOWLARK was also
present in the grassy area, a bird not seen at the Salt River as often as

We then went to Gilbert Water Ranch, which continues to have good birding
as well, with 60 species in a little over three hours.  Perhaps our best
sighting here was two male LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES at the north trail (Owl
Clover Trail) of pond 5.  Other goodies included a single WESTERN GREBE on
pond 2, singles of both OSPREY and NORTHERN HARRIER, a WILSON'S SNIPE, a
YELLOW WARBLER, and a late SUMMER TANAGER (also on the Owl Clover Trail,
very west end, a.k.a. northwest end of pond 5. The tanager was actively
feeding on bugs).  We missed the Common Teal but were told about the
presence of the bird.  We didn't spend a lot of time looking for it.  I
concentrated most of my time by still looking for that White-throated
Sparrow without luck.  I've looked at too many White-crowneds lately!  So
if anyone finds a White-throated Sparrow anywhere else in Maricopa County
(especially in an area with less habitat), please let me know!

Another good day of birding, 90 species betweeen the two sites.

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



November 9th, 2011:  What I idenified as a Herring Gull.........

Hi everyone,

Well I take back the fact my gull was a Herring Gull.  I studied it more
when I got home and saw something was off, and saw it looked similiar to a
Glaucous-winged.  I sent my pictures from my video shots to some gull
experts, and David Vander Pluym called me right away.  He said this bird I
photographed is either a pure Glaucous-winged Gull or a hybrid that
strongly has Glaucous-winged in it.  Either way, it strongly resembles a
Glaucous-winged.  He said the flight shots are hard to tell if it's a
hybrid or not.  The evening lighting wasn't the best.  This bird was
present when I left as it was getting dark out, and there's a good chance
it will be around tomorrow hopefully.  If someone could get good flight
shots in the morning lighting, that would help.  The bird was in basin 2
of the ponds, with is the north middle basin.

I'll admit, I can be feeling good about my bird id skills until a gull
comes into the picture, with tonight being a perfect example.  I don't
have the experience I need to keep up with these puzzles with wings.  I
hope this bird sticks so we can know for sure if it's pure or hybrid. 
Sorry for the mis-id. Thanks to David for the quick reply!

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona) 



November 11th, 2011:  Glaucous-winged Gull, amazing Arizona rarity at Glendale Recharge Ponds..

Hi everyone,

I decided to look at the GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL again for the third straight
day, where it was present in basin 5 the entire time I was there from 4 to
5 P.M.  The bird never flew, and just floated in the water the entire time.

As me being the finder of this bird, wow, it was a few crazy days.  I was
on the edge of my seat, hoping for a pure Glaucous-winged Gull over a
hybrid.  I don't know much about gulls, so I sat back and listened to what
the experts had to say.  As Kurt posted earlier, photos can certainly be
decieving, and my camera doesn't even come close to getting clear and high
quality shots.  I sent the pictures to many experts.  Throughout the day,
I got many mixed emails.  Some said pure, others said mostly pure but
chance of hybrid genes, and others said hybrid.  Back and fourth, back and
fourth.  It came down to field study in life, which is 100 times better
than any photo.  A special thanks goes out to Kurt Radamaker, Dave Powell,
Paul Lehman, and Barbara Carlson for taking the time to look at this bird
in the field and confirm the identification.  Thanks also to Gary Nunn and
David Vander Pluym who also told me a lot about identification of these
confusing birds as well. 

I'll be honest, when I first looked at this bird in the field, I got very
excited.  I thought to myself "wow, that has a Glaucous-winged Gull like
bill".  The darker coloring confused me however and the only guide I had
with me in the field was my Ipod handheld Sibley.  I was expecting a G-W
GU to be lighter, so I settled on Herring Gull.  Once again, lack of gull
experience.  The bill was confusing the world out of me in the field, so I
made sure to get photos of the bird.  When I got home, I got out my big
gull reference guide, and leaned highly towards G-W GU possibility.  I
sent the pictures to several people right away, and when David VP was
calling me minutes later, I knew it was no Herring Gull :) 

I've only looked at gulls one time outside of Arizona at the Salton Sea. 
David Vander Pluym, Lauren Harter, Jim Kopitzke and I made the trek down
for the Bean Goose, and I saw hundreds of gulls.  Lauren spied my lifer
Glacous-winged Gull on that trip (the only one), and when I saw the bird
at Glendale on Wednesday, that came right to mind.  I never forgot that
thick black bill.  But what I need to study is structure, bill shape, a
million other things, etc.  This bird was truely a treat, I've learned so
much over the past two days about gull identification with just this one
individual, and I'm already a better gull birder after this.

I'm hoping this bird will stick around for awhile for anyone who is going
to chase it.  I think the odds are very very good it will be there still
tomorrow!  What a bird!

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



November 12th, 2011:  Salt River Birding-my first ever Pacific Loon, and Maricopa County first White-throated Sparrow

Hi everyone,

As John Saba just reported, excellent birding continued to please birders
at Granite Reef today, including the PACIFIC LOON and WHITE-THROATED
SPARROW (I saw one of the two sparrows).  Thanks to Melanie Herring for
texting me yesterday when she and Barb Meding went to Granite Reef,
telling me about the loon still being present and finding a White-throated
Sparrow. After that, I made Granite Reef my main plan for today, which
turned out to be amazing.  I was also amazed that Troy, Joey and Nathan
were also there yesterday, which it's excellent when this awesome place
gets great coverage.  The Pacific Loon (found by McCreedy on Wednesday-
thanks McCreedy!) was a life bird for me and the White-throated Sparrow
was a county bird, so it was a great day.

I visited Granite Reef twice during the day, once for 3.5 hours starting
at the crack of dawn and after a visit to Saguaro Lake(nothing
noteworthy), I made another stop at Granite Reef for almost two hours,
when I ran into John shortly before I had to leave.   The first stop was
rather dead for a long time for landbirds, and it took me until after 10
to find any Zonotrichia sparrows, when I finally found a flock of White-
crowneds.  It was a little windy and very cloudy at the start of the day. 
I focused most of my time on the waterbirds, where it took me over an hour
to find the Pacific Loon, who I saw well east of the dam, actually closer
to the parking lot.  It moved back to the dam section rather fast.  The
loon never dove when I saw it throughout the day, but was covering a good
distance.  Once it was at the dam, it didn't leave again, so perhaps it
has a routine along the river.  So if anyone looks for the loon, it does
cover a good distance, keep your eyes peeled all throughout the river if
it's not by the dam.  I also ran into Clark Rogers, who has just gotten
started in birding.  I showed him the Pacific Loon, which was the first
loon he's ever seen.  That was certainly cool, nice to meet you Clark! 

Once I went to Saguaro Lake, there wasn't much there and I came back to
Granite Reef almost two hours later.  It was alot more sunny out this
time.  Immiediately when I started birding the birds were a lot more
active.  Right off the bat, I looked to see a sparrow foraging in the
open, and it was indeed, my long-awaited White-throated Sparrow.  It was
by the spot were Melanie found it yesterday.  I got the best looks that I
could ask for!  The landbirds came back to life.  The amazing thing about
Granite Reef is that you can bird it at the one time of the day and come
back in a few hours and see a whole new selection of birds.

Other highlights at Granite Reef among the 62 species I observed today
were the arrival of CANVASBACKS, a REDHEAD flock, a single COMMON
MERGANSER (found by Troy and Joey yesterday), NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS, one

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben(Glendale, Arizona)



November 14th, 2011:  Glaucous-winged Gull-a continuing rarity at Glendale Recharge Ponds

Hi everyone,

The GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL continued this evening as I watched it for over an hour.  It frequented ponds 6, 1, and 2.  Many RING-BILLED GULLS are also present.  I even saw that one of the Ring-billed Gulls caught a fish, and the Glaucous-winged Gull flew up to the Ring-billed and quickly scared the Ring-billed up and robbed it of it's meal.  All the gulls were very active, and I got to study the G-W GU more at close range in flight.  PEREGRINE FALCON and OSPREYS were also present.


Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, AZ)



November 17th, 2011:  Another amazing rarity at the Glendale Recharge Ponds in the form of a Mew Gull!

Hi everyone,

I just found a MEW GULL standing with the GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL an hour ago
at the Glendale Recharge Ponds!!  I snapped a lot of video and pictures. 
I called David Vander Pluym and showed him the pictures to be to be sure
and he said yes!  Thank you David.  The Mew Gull is a young bird, and was
hanging out with 5 or so RING-BILLED GULLS and the continuing GLAUCOUS-

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



November 21st, 2011:  A great day of birding in the Seven Springs area..including my first ever look at a Pacific Wren/

Hi everyone,

I spent my day today on November 21st, 2011 exploring in the general area
of Seven Springs.  I made four stops today, in the actual Seven Springs
Recreation Area, Mount Humboldt, Rackensack Canyon, and Lower Camp Creek. 
It was an awesome day today with beautiful weather and awesome fall colors
besides the birding.  It's pretty remote out here (no cell phone service
for the most part) and is never heavily used by people during the
weekdays.  Birds were high in numbers, and I also had a few very nice

Seven Springs Recreation Area was my first stop.  AMERICAN ROBINS, WESTERN
BLUEBIRDS, PHAINOPEPLAS, and CEDAR WAXWINGS were everywhere.  Between 10-
15 TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRES were also present.  The Solitaires were a treat,
and often sang throughout the morning.  A SAGE THRASHER also made an
appearance.  Two SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS lurked in the area.  Several RED-
NAPED SAPSUCKERS were the only Sapsuckers I could come up with.  A
HUTTON'S VIREO was also present, and a female BELTED KINGFISHER in the
picnic area was certainly not expected.

From Seven Springs I went to the 5000' Mount Humboldt.  I parked my
vehicle and walked a good portion of the road, although never going
completely to the top.  Desert scrub and juniper fill the habitat here as
a paved road goes to the summit of this mountain.  Bird activity was high
here too.  The main highlight here was getting my first MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD
for Maricopa County this year.  At first, I heard the Mountain Bluebird in
the distance, and then later on in the search I had a poor look at one
flying overhead.  Thankfully their voice is different from the many
WESTERN BLUEBIRDS that were also present.  Three CRISSAL THRASHERS were
present on this road, including good looks at a pair.  SAGE THRASHERS were
numerous here, as I counted at least five individuals.  TOWNSEND'S
SOLITAIRES were here too, as well as a flock of ten WESTERN MEADOWLARKS. 

I then went to the rugged looking Rackensack Canyon which is five or six
miles south of Seven Springs.  It was the second time I've been here, and
really the first time I've birded it.  I enjoyed it, and I was glad to see
a SLATE-COLORED FOX SPARROW, only the second Fox Sparrow of my life. 

From there I finished up at Lower Camp Creek.  I found my highlight of the
day there, as I heard the distinctive callnote of a PACIFIC WREN.  After I
heard the call, the bird appeared in front of me, and I had several
excellent looks.  The bird called several times (both single and double
callnotes), in which that call note sounds nearly identical to a Wilson's
Warbler callnote.  This was the first time I've ever seen a Pacific Wren
(I did have a heard only last year of Pacific), after seeing three
different Winter Wrens first.  I managed several rather poor photos that
came out ok.  The lighting was horrible, but the darkness of this bird
shows in the photos. 

Another awesome day to be birding!

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)



November 27th, 2011:  Birding Arlington, Buckeye, and Glendale (beating cheated by a likely Rough-legged Hawk)

Hi everyone,

Today was one of those wierd days.  I went to the Arlington area in hopes
of finding some goodies, where one one confusing bird changed my day
around and I based my entire day around this one bird.  I also was hoping
to find Bonaparte's Gulls, another reason I came this way.  Between the
confuser and Bonaparte, I came up empty.

At the start of the morning, as I was going west down the M-C 85 (Buckeye
Road) in direction to the Arlington Valley, I spied a large raptor
hovering over a field on the south side of the M-C 85 between Rainbow and
Watson Roads.  It was hovering like a kite, "kiting" and Rough-legged Hawk
immediately came to my head.  As I parked roadside and studied this bird,
it looked good for a Rough-legged Hawk, but the lighting was terrible.  It
was just getting light out, and the hawk was distant and in the poorly lit
sky, hovering away.  It dove into the field briefly once where I could see
the bird much better than when it was hovering.  The coloring looked
perfect for a Rough-legged, but after a quick dive, it popped right back
up again.  At that distance and poor lighting, I wasn't able to make out
it's clear field marks.  I watched the bird for about 10 minutes, where it
hovered almost the entire time over a short area of the field.  The bird
was too far for me to clearly see it, and it wasn't coming any closer to
me.  Finally, good lighting was just starting to come on the bird and I
was starting to be able to see it better.  Just then, the hawk decided to
give me a nightmare, and it took off in the distance.  After a three hour
search, I couldn't find the bird again.  What I did see on this bird that
made it a strong Rough-legged candidate:  It had long slender wings, a
long tail (almost Harrier-like), it's constant hovering behavior probably
about 100 ft. up (something RL is way more likely to do like this than
other large hawks), and it's ability to throw my whole morning off.  It
held it's wings in a slight V-shaped dehedral. 

The dummy flew west towards Watson Road, where I searched first.  I saw
about every other raptor in the book immediately following.  A BALD EAGLE,
4 FERRUGINOUS HAWKS, 2 PRAIRIE FALCONS (which one devoured a Mourning Dove
right in front of me-that was cool!), a BALD EAGLE, and plenty of
different RED-TAILED HAWKS of different morphs (blah, blah, blah).  I
thought I caught another glimpse of my potential Rough-legged flying over
M-C 85 to the north, but it flew into an area without any close roads
behind the Ford Dealership.  Very frustrating.  I spent a few more hours
trying for a miracle throughout the day without luck, three + hours in
all.  If someone is in the area, please do keep an eye out for this bird. 
If someone refinds it and it is indeed a RL HA, that person will be my
hero.  I strongly believe the bird was a RL HA, I would bet my life on
it.  But it will go down as "one that got away".

In Arlington, I was treated to SANDHILL CRANES.  At the Arlingtion
Wildlife Area, I noted a LARK BUNTING, a few vocal VIRGINIA RAILS, and a

At the Lower River Road Ponds, I saw a ROSS'S and a SNOW GOOSE, and an
immature of one of those two species (I was too lazy to look at it).  20+
RING-BILLED GULLS were at the ponds, and there was also a WESTERN GREBE. 
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS lined the ponds (a great cormorant show for any
cormorant fans out there).  I didn't look for the Semipalmated Plover
because I was lazy. 

I then finished my day at the Glendale Recharge Ponds.  I found and
photographed what looks to be a dark morph HARLAN'S HAWK soaring over
basin two with a light RED-TAILED HAWK and an OSPREY.  A flock of 4
CALIFORNIA GULLS were a nice surprise, and there was a single RING-BILLED
GULL as well.  Where are the Bonaparte's!?!!  Same stuff other than these
highlights.  I scanned the HORNED LARK flocks in Basin 3 thoroughly
without any spurs. 

Good birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)

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