Several years ago, a couple I passed while out walking stopped me to chat, because they saw me with my camera. Fellow bird lovers, they told me there was a park out in Mesa with good birdwatching around some ponds. But I never could figure out where it was, in part because I had the wrong street names lodged in my middle-aged brain.
Finally, through lucky coincidence, I've discovered the location of this hidden treasure which is actually in neighboring Gilbert -- the reason googling "Mesa" never worked. It's sort of hiding in plain sight, an unexpected wildlife habitat in the midst of suburbia.
John's photo of me taking photos at sunset last night at the preserve. Captured the mood.
Now I can hardly wait for another trip to the preserve. It's about a 40 minute drive from home, or a 20 minute add-on to a DBG expedition. (Yes, talk about an embarrassment of natural riches.)
I've already seen more waterbirds in several visits to the Gilbert Riparian Preserve this week than I'd seen altogether in my lifetime.
Imagine walking down a short path through shrubbery to a pond's edge, and suddenly discovering this creature just 30 or 40 feet across the water in front of you. A Great Blue Heron, against the backdrop of fresh spring foliage.
Such a beautiful, exotic looking bird. It was standing in shallows at the edge of a small habitat island in the pond. It took me a minute to even realize it was there.
I love the graceful curve of the heron's neck when it settles in.
After a few minutes, it decided to move down the shoreline. The above photo is my favorite, even though my camera couldn't focus quickly enough... it still conveys the majesty of the moment.
Other birds I've seen there this week include Green Herons, Great Egrets, Great Cormorants, Snowy Egrets, White and Canada Geese, lots of different ducks (including a mama with 5 ducklings in tow who came ashore to greet me, but my camera was dead!), American Coots, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, and an Osprey.
My goal is to improve my water/bird photography skills and share my sightings in my new Gilbert Riparian Preserve Flickr set. You can click through the beginnings of the set here, or see the slideshow version here.
Recently, I learned of the *top-secret* location of a great horned owls' nest in the entryway of a public building in a distant Phoenix suburb. So today it was time for a field trip to see if I could find it.
I'd hoped to find its parent there too, but a fellow owl watcher told me the mama (parent?) has been absent during the daytime since Saturday. If I'd known more about great horned owls before I went, I'd have searched the nearby trees for the parent, as it was likely keeping watch and resting nearby. Great horned owls rest in the daytime and hunt at night. Baby's dinnertime likely occurs after dark.
This nest has only this one owlet. According to the fellow who has been visiting this nest daily for the past month, the baby used to hide down in a hollow behind where it now stands, so perhaps there was softer material in there. Otherwise, it seems like a pretty uncomfortable nest!
Another person who stopped to check on the baby said that this is the 5th year the owls have nested here. So I've already noted my calendar for next February...
Don't be fooled, this baby is now nearly as tall as its parents, and has scary long talons on its toes. And it already practices looking fierce! But apparently GH owlets are not fully feathered and ready to fly until 8 or 9 weeks of age. This one is only 4 to 5 weeks old, so you can bet I'll be making another field trip again soon.
Update: I returned on 3/24/11 in hopes of getting some sharper photos of the owlet, and found that it was gone. It apparently had left overnight, according to another owl watcher who visited the site daily. My guess is that this owlet was actually older than folks realized, because it probably was not visible from below for the first several weeks after hatching. It had well-formed wing feathers, and had been observed practicing its wing stretches in days prior to its departure. So nature has taken its course, and we can look forward to next year's owl nestwatch.
A fresh batch of Kaffe Fassett fabrics has arrived at my doorstep. I ordered these in hopes of getting reacquainted with my sewing machine as our weather warms up and afternoons are best spent on indoor projects.
Above is my assortment (so far) of Kaffe's shot cottons. These read as solids, but the lengthwise and crosswise fiber colors are actually different, giving a variable color quality to the fabric, depending on the viewing angle. The background fabric is called Emerald Kite Tails, and it's even prettier in person than it looks online.
I also got some of Kaffe's newest woven stripes, after kicking myself for missing out on his first batch years ago. I don't have them organized for a photo op yet, but they are gorgeous!
And I'm still having fun with my iPhone Hipstamatic camera app...
My Desert Botanical Garden 2011 Flickr album has just been updated -- click here for the slideshow or here if you want to click through the set manually. Newest photos are at the beginning. (If you've visited before and now can't see the newest photos, try refreshing the page.)
If you don't have time to look right now, I'll leave you with this favorite:
This morning, a flash of brilliant orange streaked along the back fence. A male Bullock's oriole! He landed on the fence seed feeder, but I couldn't grab my camera and focus quickly enough to catch him there.
Next, he hopped behind the fence and down into the brittlebush, in search of seedpods or bugs, perhaps?
Then he zoomed across the backyard to the hummingbird feeder outside the back door.
And finally, he settled on everyone's favorite nectar feeder, just outside the kitchen window.
He didn't stay here for too long, just a few minutes, but it was a treat. I don't ever recall seeing him visit our nectar feeders before.
Last year, a Bullock's oriole couple nested (or at least spent a lot of time) in our neighbor's tall palm tree.
Maybe they liked the neighborhood and are planning to spend another spring here.
Remember about a month ago, when I spotted this year's first Anna's hummingbird nest? I haven't been visiting it daily, but have checked on it now and then. This is how the babies looked today... almost ready to leave the nest!
Last Sunday morning, I had the great good luck to spend a few quiet minutes with a Greater Roadrunner.
It was sunbathing in an open spot along one of the trails that traverse the heart of the DBG. To warm themselves, roadrunners fluff their back feathers to expose their dark skin to the sun.
I was amazed at how close it let me get. It didn't seem to mind when I slowly edged sideways to try different photo angles.
Finally, some cactus wrens landed overhead in a nearby tree and began making a terrible racket. The roadrunner stood up, slowly raised its crest and tail, and moseyed off down the path to find some peace.