Nikon D300, AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E III (2x), tripod, ISO 400, 1/200th second @ f/8
I was delayed a couple days in starting my 2013 Year List (a tradition among birders for as long as I’ve known), only getting out to the Gilbert Water Ranch on the afternoon of Thursday, January 3. I spent two hours making a clockwise loop beginning at the parking lot on Guadalupe, taking me past pond 1 (where I looked for a Canvasback reported 12/31/12 that I couldn’t find), and pond 2 (where I couldn’t find neither the Winter Wren nor the recently discovered Northern Parula at Honeybee Point). I had better luck at pond 5 where the three Hooded Mergansers rom the past few days were still hiding under the overhanging brush, and at pond 7 where the Common Merganser was active as far from the edge as possible. That got me to 42 species – a good start on my Year List.
As I reached the paved walk around the freshwater pond on my way back to the parking lot I paused near a small wet area under dense brush that I think of as “the swamp” since it sometimes holds a Common Yellowthroat. The first bird here was deep in the tangle of branches and facing away, but that was perfect to see the rusty color on the back that meant it could only be a Rufous-backed Robin! I only managed two usable shots of the bird through the tangle and couldn’t get it to come out in the open.
This is a species from South of the Border that shows up in small numbers in Arizona almost every winter. I always look for one at my other favorite spot in central AZ – Boyce Thompson Arboretum – and see one there about every 2-3 years.
But this was my first for the Water Ranch, and a new bird for the cumulative list now over 270 species. It is probably the same bird reported by Steve Ganley in the same general area on 12/15/12 – it didn’t give Steve enough of a view to be sure of the ID so he reported it as a possible Rufous-backed Robin. Since neither Steve nor I know of any fruiting trees here we are surprised that the robin is still hanging around; we just wonder if it has been in this same small area all along.
I used my old iPhone to take this shot of the brushy tangle where the robin was seen in case others wish to look around for it. This is on the west side of the paved walkway. There’s plenty of places for a shy bird like this to skulk between the walkway and the fisherman’s pond so it is probably worthwhile to poke around a bit.
I’ve grabbed an aerial view from a Google map and labeled it for a better idea of where to check.