A pair of White-Faced Ibises showed up at the pond at Hole 1 of Pinewood Country Club over Labor Day weekend. Standing on sometimes only one leg in the fairway grass at the edge of the water, an ibis is hard to miss. Its most distinguished feature is its long, down-curved beak. It is a very dark bird, and in the right light you can see it is actually an iridescent brown-bronze color. Without a pair of binoculars, it’s otherwise difficult to see the thin band of white feathers around its beak. But those white feathers give the bird its name: “White-Faced” Ibis. I have seen this species over the years infrequently in Munds Park, always around the golf course, and also at Kachina Wetlands. I’ve seen their relatives, the White Ibis, in Florida and the Africa Sacred Ibis in Botswana. For those of you who travel in the West, the White-Faced Ibis ranges from Oregon east to Minnesota and south to Texas. Often you will find it wintering in Southern California, generally in preferred habitats of salt water or fresh water marshes.
Two much smaller birds are next on my list to tell you about. One is relatively easy to spot, the other more difficult. The easy one is the Yellow-Rumped Warbler, probably the most common warbler found on the entire North American continent. It is medium-sized for a warbler, has dark-streaked blue-gray upperparts, and a yellow throat and white belly, but what makes it easy to identify is the patch of yellow on its rump when flying away. That yellow rump is exactly what I saw on Hole 16 the first week of September. This was the first time I saw a Yellow-Rumped Warbler in Munds Park, but I often see them on the golf course in central Phoenix during fall and winter, and all over the country when I travel. The research says they breed in coniferous forests, so maybe they are here more than I’ve noticed. If you leave Munds Park for the winter, look for the Yellow-Rumped Warbler in parks and golf courses – you may first notice the yellow spot on their rump as they fly from you into the trees.
The last bird I heard, but did not see. However, I spent a lot of time trying to track down its distinctive call, which we golfers heard over and over this summer coming from the more open areas around the cattails and reeds. I found a site on the Internet that provided bird calls based on the number of syllables – in this case, a “chee-ree” that was loud and always went from down to up in key and repeated usually three times in a row. After going through about 140 different bird songs, I settled on Hutton’s Vireo. Then I checked my two birding aps on my phone and a site or two on the Internet, listened to more song samples, and concluded that what we were hearing was indeed a Hutton’s Vireo. This bird is a first for me, and hopefully next summer I can stalk out the areas (when not golfing) and actually see the bird. It is mostly olive-green with some white, including a white eye-ring. But for such a small little bird, it sure puts out a mighty song!
By the way, a Bald Eagle was spotted by some golfers in early and late September soaring over the PCC Golf Course and also perched on a dead tree limb over Lake Odell. It made a special appearance for a special wedding held at Lake Odell the morning of September 20th. Continue to watch the skies and tree tops for this species and other migrating raptors.
Finally, if you want to visit a cool birding site on the World Wide Web and even help report sightings, check out http://www.ebird.org.