Sure signs of spring

Sure signs of spring

It’s that time of year. There may still be more snow coming, and some cold weather, but the signs of spring are a joy to birders and nonbirders alike. Reports of woodcock have been showing up. Hearing the first woodcock calling and watching their nightly show is one of the joys of the changing seasons.

Blackbirds also are arriving, ready to deal with some inclement weather as they get ready for the nesting season. Seeing a red-winged blackbird strutting at the side of the road and hearing their welcome calls are another sign of spring.

For Helen and I, the end of February means getting in the car and driving from our two-month home here in Green Valley, Arizona to our place in Goshen, Indiana. We have done a lot of hiking, visited new places, seen a lot of birds and spent time with Goshen friends who are staying nearby in Tucson. We also have met birders from all over the U.S. and beyond, something I always enjoy.

As often is the case, I’ve been missing some interesting birds while far from Ohio and Indiana. For the second year in a row, there has been a slaty-backed gull in Ohio, a bird I would really like to see. In Indiana, a cooperative ferruginous hawk has been reported for the last several weeks. Maybe these rarities will be around in another week when we get home.

The last week here has been very productive. Yesterday, Feb. 23, we drove up to Phoenix to visit the Gilbert Water Ranch. This is an amazing park that has been developed in connection with waste-water treatment. There were hundreds of people there, walking the many trails, having picnics and just enjoying being outside. It had rained almost an inch the day before, so everything was wet and even fairly green for Arizona.

There are three or four large impoundments with perfect shorebird habitat. Taking advantage of that were over 150 black-necked stilts, 40 American avocets, over 400 long-billed dowitchers, plus both yellowlegs, Wilson’s snipe and sandpipers. Several snowy egrets were a first for the year and were joined by great egrets, black-crowned night-herons and at least six green herons.

Probably the rarest birds at Gilbert were a northern parula, which we were able to see, and a black-and-white warbler that a friend located but we failed to find. A total of 60-70 species is quite normal at the park for a good birder this time of year.

Having really enjoyed the water ranch, we drove across Phoenix to a golf course where a Eurasian wigeon has been wintering with hundreds of ducks at a pond on the course. After seeing the wigeon, our last stop was in a rural area southwest of Phoenix. At a small farm we looked for and found four ruddy ground-doves, a new bird for us for North America. At the same location there is a rookery with great blue herons nesting high above the buildings. Peacocks roam the farmyard. While we were looking for the ground-doves, 14 white-faced ibis flew by. We had seen 150 ibis in the irrigated fields nearby.

By the time we stopped to eat at a Cracker Barrel in Tucson and drove on south to Green Valley, we had been gone for 13 hours, but it was a day to remember.

Good birding!

Email Bruce Glick at

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