As you know, many factors dictate how much birding one does. Currently my outings are limited. But I did have a few hours this weekend to bird two Tucson parks. It was birding not dictated by recent reported rarities, but a chance to go out and just enjoy the birds and beautiful weather. This is something I wish I could do more often, but doesn't everyone?. You see, Southeast Arizona has so many good birds and such an active rare bird alert in terms of reporters and rarities, that my few birding adventures are often of the chasing variety. Not a bad problem for a birder to have. This makes it hard to keep that little Sandy Komito on my shoulder quiet- that drive to go, tick, and conquer. But this weekend the little Kaufmans (Kenn and Kimberly) on my other shoulder reminded me that it's refreshing and relaxing to just go out and enjoy all the birds, even the common ones. It's a delicate balance, right? Not when little Sandy is screaming at you to get your butt out of bed and go find a rare bird! More like a tug of war.
My first stop found me at a park with a decent sized pond, which we call a "lake" here in the desert. Here I've ticked such rarities as Greater White-fronted Goose, Pacific Loon, Tricolored Heron, Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, Least and Elegant Terns, and both pelican species. Wait, I said I was going out to enjoy the common birds, right? Yes, in a minute. First I scanned the water for any vagrants, maybe a Eurasian Wigeon or California Gull? No luck, only lots of Coots and a few Mallards. But they need love too. Then I noticed a large flock of blackbirds across the water. I could make out a couple yellow heads among them and decided to go around and check them out. Yellow-headed Blackbirds are uncommon in the city and are most often found in my neck of the cacti in marshes or on farm land. When I do see them, they're usually distant, hidden in the reeds, or flying away. I rarely get an opportunity to photograph one in the open. When I saw this bird perched on a bare branch, I observed it for a moment in my binoculars. Then I moved in a little closer with my camera and snapped a few (dozen) photos. It's nice to finally have a shot of one without a feed lot in the background. After taking advantage of the photo op, I took time to enjoy the bird in my binoculars again.
It was a gorgeous and relaxing outing just like I had hoped, until I got home and read the rare bird alert...
*Note: Sandy Komito and listers are not evil. If they were, I'd have horns. But the Kaufmans probably are angels.