Earlier this week, I took the Jay’s Birds Barn truck down to Mesa for service. This provided me the perfect opportunity (excuse) to make a quick visit to the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, also known as the Gilbert Water Ranch.

This is the second time in less than a month that I have birded at the Water Ranch. It is truly one of my favorite places to bird in Arizona. My only regret was that I didn’t have more time. However, even though my time was limited, it was productive. I birded for one hour and saw forty-four species, so I was adding a species to my list at the rate of about one species every minute and a half.

Knowing in advance that I would be visiting the Preserve, I got onto eBird the night before to see what bird species had been reported over the last few days. There were two specific species that really captured my attention—a chestnut-sided warbler and a black and white warbler.

Based on the information in eBird, I knew right where the warblers had been seen by other birders. I quickly made my way down the Cattail Crawl trail between ponds one and seven where there is a small cluster of cottonwood trees.

It was in this group of trees where I had to sort through all of the different kinds of birds in the trees—mostly yellow-rumped warblers, orange-crowned warblers, and ruby-crowned kinglets. Fortunately, I was able to quickly locate the chestnut-sided warbler. Unfortunately, I struck out on the black-and white warbler, which was disappointing.

The chestnut-sided warbler is a very pretty bird with very unique coloration and markings. It was actively foraging and vocalizing, and I was able to see it multiple times over the course of several minutes. Eventually, I gave up looking for the black and white warbler and decided I needed to move on, time-wise.

At one point, I watched a flock of egrets flying over the preserve—their white plumage glistened in the afternoon sun. When they settled, I counted forty snowy egrets and eight great egrets. Ironically, I didn’t see a single great blue heron, which seemed a little odd for this location.

An hour is certainly not enough time to canvas the 160-acre preserve, and I felt I barely had time to scratch the surface. I felt like I was racing from one bird species to the next, and missing a lot of common species that I should have easily seen such as house finches and Say’s phoebes.

In the end, though, it wasn’t so much about what species I did or didn’t see. For me, it was the joy of spending time in nature observing the beauty of birds, their plumage, their behavior, and their interactions. I love spending time in nature, and even when I am in a hurry it is worth every minute.

On a separate note, I am including in my column today a picture from one of my customers. This picture was taken on Friday, Dec. 16, in Sedona. This picture has, according to my best efforts to count, twenty-nine western bluebirds drinking from two water pans. As our dry weather continues, I encourage you to provide a source of water for the birds in your yard.

As Christmas draws near, I express to each of you my gratitude for your friendship, support and encouragement. I wish each of you a joyous Christmas and a prosperous New Year in 2018.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona – Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.