Monday, June 2, 2014

June 1 (Day 152) - Lovebird accomplished, Observations about Phoenix, A few nice photos

I planned to spent most of today schlepping around Phoenix looking for the introduced and now ABA-countable Rosy-face lovebird. I had a very nice ride from Casa Grande this morning. I got out early enjoyed cool temps and quiet roads for the ride north to the greater Phoenix area.

Morning ride

76 miles today

At one point on the ride I was thinking how perfect the roadside agricultural habitat looked for Burrowing owl. It took 30 minutes for me to spot one standing on a pipe on the side of the road. This guy was incredibly cooperative. His gazed was fixed down most of the time and this really did nothing for composition.  I had to take close to 50 frames in order to get 1 where he looked up long enough to get catchlights in both eyes. 

Burrowing owl
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 320
Went with headshot to keep pipe out

The first stop I made for the lovebird was the Gilbert Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, AZ. This series of impoundments south and east of Phoenix is great for waterbirds. Very notable was a Baikal teal that was found at the preserve several years ago. There have been scattered eBird reports of the lovebird from this spot, so I figured the spot was worth a few hours this morning. Water levels in the impoundments were very low today, and there were no signs of lovebirds anywhere - ugh.

I left Gilbert and headed over towards Mesa where I birded the perimeter of Leisure World, a gated community from where lovebirds have also been reported. I knew I would not be permitted access to the community, but a ride around the perimeter might produce the birds. The first 3/4 of the loop was very quiet, but a single lovebird did fly right across the road and across the front of my bike towards the end of this segment. The view was short but good enough for an identification. I could count this bird, but it was far from a satisfying view. I still had several spots to check after this, so I hoped I could get a better view and perhaps even a photo.

The next spot on the Loverbird Tour De Force was the neighborhood south of Arizona State University in Tempe. The best way to to find these introduced species, particularly parrots, is to slowly cruise the quiet side streets of the area listening for what noises the desire bird might make. This task was complicated a bit today by the cacophony from the mockingbirds and Great-tailed grackles that also inhabited the neighborhood. Each of these species makes lots of funny and odd noises that could be mistaken for a lovebird. After several false alarms, I heard the actual lovebirds in someone's backyard. I did not want to tromp onto their property, so I went around to the back alley to investigate -  BINGO! There were 3 lovebirds foraging on the back lawn! These guys were funny since they never wanted to crawl out of the shade of the various trees. When they were done in one shady area, they would fly to the next.

Rosy-faced lovebird hat trick!

I will say that I was thoroughly impressed with the bike lanes here in the greater Phoenix area. Granted I never made it into Phoenix proper, but Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, and Scottsdale all had smooth, well-delinaeted bike lanes on every major street on which I rode. Today was on the quiet side since it was Sunday, but I think weekday biking in the Phoenix area would be as safe as anywhere else. I did find this very cool bike store in Tempe today. The Bicycle Cellar is a small bike store right next to the major commuting hub. They actually have a locker room in the store that bike commuters can use to shower and change clothes. I think this is a really clever idea to encourage people to buy bikes and actually use them for their commutes. This is the type of creative thinking we need more of moving forward. 

Besides the Burrowing owl, I did finally crush a White-winged dove on top of a saguaro this morning. This is a shot I have wanted to get on this trip. It has alluded me until this morning. I am very happy with the result. I feel that the 7D is a different camera at ISO 320 than at 640; It has much less noise at the lower ISO.

White-winged dove
1/1600 at f/8, ISO 320
Light conditions same as owl, but I stopped down 
a full stop to get more depth-of-field on the cactus.

There are 2 other notes that need be made after today. First, the Red Sox have now won 7 in a row after dropping their previous 10. Second, the LA Kings avenged their conference finals defeat of last year by beating the Chicago Blackhawks in OT of game 7 of the conference finals this year. I am sure Sonia will be highlighting this a some point, but I figured I would mention it to prepare everyone for the nonsense that is sure to follow should she decided to highjack the blog in the next day or so!

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