393. Hooded Warbler
394. Solitary Sandpiper
Targets missed: Snowy Plover, Stilt Sandpiper
A male Hooded Warbler had been reported this morning on the local birding ML, apparently hanging around Rio Salado Wetlands. So of course I chased it. I hadn't counted on it being in the low 100s with 60-70% humidity ... UTTERLY MISERABLE. The folks this morning had stated that the bird was responsive to pishing, but with the droning midday cicadas and Rio Salado's unfortunate acoustics (being directly under the westbound takeoff path of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport) pishing was clearly not an option. So, after an hour and a half of chasing Verdins and Anna's Hummingbirds and Abert's Towhees, I got a brief glimpse -- bright, BRIGHT yellow underbelly, obvious black "hood" around the face ... yep, Hooded Warbler indeed. Attempts to get better views were stymied by thick vegetation (usually not a problem in Arizona but this was a fairly thickety area on the riverbank) so it was off to Gilbert.
By this point it was the hottest time of the day. I don't really have a choice here: it's either now or no birding at all, as mornings are currently taken up by a 9:30am Japanese course and the corresponding commute. Gilbert Water Ranch is a classic birder haven: soggy and foul-smelling, a veritable temple to water reclamation and its value to wild creatures and those brave enough to seek them. Today's wild creature features were peeps: the targets being Snowy Plover, Stilt Sandpiper, and Solitary Sandpiper. Of course, the one I DID see was the last bird I saw: until then, it was a parade of pond poodles (Black-necked Stilts), the odd American Avocet, summer-plumaged Long-billed Dowitchers, both Yellowlegs species, and zillions of Killdeer. The sighting location for the Snowy was being patrolled by a housecat (aka THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE): this obviously drove the plover into hiding, but was of no consequence to the half-dozen oversummering Canada Geese (actually a pair and four fully-grown fledglings from this summer's brood). Herons and egrets were easy to find as well ... but after almost two hours, seeing the dull-green legs of the Solitary Sandpiper were really a relief. Too drained to go any further by this point, it was simply time to go home, but then, the law of diminishing returns has really caught up to me at this point, at least for Maricopa County. I may try for Snowy Plover and Stilt Sandpiper again next week, but I can't expect too many more lifers out of this region from this point on.
It's just as well that I'll be trying for some SoCal specialties this weekend ... I'll need to diversify if I want to ensure 500 birds by the age of 30.