Friday, March 20, 2015

Birding Arizona - Tres Rios Wetlands Corridor

The "Tres Rio Regulating Wetlands" - Reclaimed water flowing out of a Phoenix Treatment Plant has created a premier birding area in the Sonoran Desert, consisting of large ponds filled with a variety of water fowl.  In the many tall Cottonwoods nest Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, and Egrets.  The ponds, out of bounds to the public, may be viewed if one does not mind looking thru chain link fencing.  Water from the pond system flows into a wetland corridor, dense with birds.  After about a mile the water that has passed thru the wetland corridor pours into a riparian channel.  For your viewing pleasure, a 12 second video on the reclaimed water flowing into the desert.
Miles later the water will settle into a vast wetland restoration project where the Salt, Gila, and Aqua Fria Rivers converge. 

In the photo, the wetland corridor is on the right.  Many open areas in the reeds allowing for excellent bird sightings.  On the other side of the fence is the pond system (second photo) 

Before I get into bird sightings, I want to share how the unexpected can color one's day. 

Arizona Gun Laws - 1) A person over the age of 21 may legally carry a concealed firearm without a permit .  2) A person must be at least 18 years of age to possess or openly carry a firearm.

I was walking on an elevated berm 300 feet south of the wetland corridor and about 30 feet above a putrid creek dense with brush, trash, and trees (not a pretty sight), when I noticed an old SUV meandering slowly along a rough track.  My first thought was hunters; I had noticed shotgun shells littering the ground.

The SUV stopped in a open spot and a man and woman got out, walked around as if looking for something.  The woman came back to the vehicle and placed a hand weapon on the back seat.  They're looking for a place to shoot, I thought.  Time to announce my presence.

"Hi there," I called out. "Just wanted to let you know I'm up here."
"We're not shooting," the woman said.
"What kind of birds are you looking for," said the man.
"Anything with feathers.  Have a nice day," I replied and walked quickly back to the wetland area.

On a previous visit one of the workman told me that illegal hunting was a problem in the area.

Before the distraction I had just watched an Osprey, clutching a fish in his talons, land in a tree (top photo - the Osprey is the little center dot in the dead tree), and prior to the Osprey sighting observed a Canyon Towhee (first time sighting), similar to the California Towhee, scratching in leaf litter.

Saw many great and a few memorable birds.  The most memorable were an Abert's Towhee and a soaring Black Vulture.  Yellow-headed, Tricolored, and Red-winged Blackbirds were in the thousands.  Sora and Moorhen were numerous, here and there clusters of Cinnamon Teal (photo  sleeping Cinnamon Teal). Total Species seen 74.
Great-tailed Grackle were doing their boisterous best to impress the ladies.   Fencing can be very useful to birds.  The Grackle, a large blackbird, is posturing while Great Blue Heron appears to be using the fence for spotting something to eat. Twice I had seen, the usually secretive, Green Heron,  perched on the fence.
   Posturing is part of the male Grackle's breeding rĂ©pertoire. 
What I find most amazing about the Tres Rios Reclaimed Water Project is how it has transformed a dessicated area of the Arizona desert into a haven for birds.