Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gilbert Riparian Preserve

I've been meaning to visit the Gilbert Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, AZ for a while now, especially since it's only about 10 miles from my house and many migratory birds can be found there at this time of year.  The Preserve is situated on 110 acres and consists of one fishing lake and 7 ponds that are filled on a rotating basis with treated effluent which is then allowed to percolate back into the groundwater supply.  That much water attracts a lot of waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds that take advantage of the riparian surroundings, not to mention a lot of birders.  I met local birders, as well as folks from Kansas, Tucson and Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  There were numerous birds that I see on a regular basis at my feeders, and others that were new to me.  Anna Hummingbirds were everywhere, and I may have seen a Costa's Hummingbird, but without being able to see the telltale flash of purple on its' throat, I couldn't be sure. Abert's Towhees, which are occasional visitors to my backyard were in amazing abundance and I must have seen 2-3 dozen of them, though usually only in pairs.  There were also some nice native plants and in some areas they were so thick you couldn't see the pond they were lining, although the staff at the preserve have done a nice job of creating clearings for viewing waterfowl and even have some blinds set up just for that purpose.  I took quite a few photos, which I'll share with you now, starting with the plants, many of which were in bloom.  In fact, standing beneath a large cottonwood tree, the buzzing of bees was so loud, I thought there must be a hive or swarm in the tree. After looking for it for several minutes, I realized that there were bees visiting nearly every flower cluster on the tree and the tree was over 40' tall, with a 30' canopy, so there were hundreds of bees. Speaking of bees, in addition to honey bees I saw a carpenter bee and a bumblebee, both actively gathering pollen.

The mostly spent flowers of Baccharis sarothroides, Desert Broom

I'm not sure what this plant's name is, but it was a large specimen.

Another plant I couldn't identify, but the blooms are gorgeous.

Flowers of Populus fremontii subsp. fremontii, Fremont Cottonwood

Sphaeralcea ambigua, Desert Globemallow

Unidentified yucca; it was over 6' x 6', with numerous pups.

Another bee magnet, Lycium andersonii, Desert Wolfberry

There was quite a large variety of birds, some of which absolutely refused to pose for a photo and others who were more than happy to oblige, and here are photos of the latter, starting with the non-water birds, then the shore and wading birds, and finally, the waterfowl.

Male Agelaius phoeniceus, Red-winged Blackbird

A pair of Columbina inca, Inca doves on their nest.

Melozone aberti, Abert's Towhee

Mimus polyglottos, Northern Mockingbird

Toxostoma curvirostre, Curve-billed Thrasher

Zonotrichia leucophrys, White-crowned sparrow 

Auriparus flaviceps, Verdin

Megaceryle alcyon, Belted Kingfisher

Ardea herodias, Great Blue Heron

Egretta thula, Snowy Egret

Gallinago delicata, Wilson's Snipe

Himantopus mexicanus, Black-necked Stilt

Anas acuta, Northern Pintail

Anas crecca, Green-winged Teal

Anas platyrhynchos, Mallard

Branta canadensis, Canada Goose

Bucephala albeola, Bufflehead, Female

Fulica americana, American Coot

Oxyura jamaicensis, Ruddy Duck, Male

Oxyura jamaicensis, Ruddy Duck,Female

Phalacrocorax auritus, Double-crested Cormorant

Lastly, here's a couple of photos of four-legged critters that were seen around the ponds.

Sylvilagus audubonii, Western Cottontail

Trachemys scripta elegans, Red-eared Slider

I spent 2.5 hours at the Preserve and only got to see Ponds 1-3 and one side of Pond 4, so there will be plenty of new area to cover on my next visit, which just may be tomorrow.

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