Situated to the east of Phoenix, Gilbert is one of the many municipalities that make up the sprawling Phoenix metro area. Once known as the hay capital of the world, Gilbert began its urban sprawl in the 1970s and its growth doubled every five years from 1980 – 2000. The current population is over 270,000, and growing fast.
Tucked into the suburbs and industry that make up this growing city is the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch. This 110-acre wetland and wildlife habitat includes seven 10-acre storage ponds, or recharge basins for wastewater storage, located along 4.5 miles of hiking trails. With over 200 species of birds, spending the day bird watching at the Riparian Preserve is always a good idea at any time of the year. Fall weather, however, brings migrating birds to the state, adding new energy to the bird watching activity.
A recent late October visit brought a flock of American White Pelicans. A common bird that most are familiar with in coastal regions, they typically don’t arrive in Arizona until the fall. It is a real delight to see this bird in the desert!
Another surprise was the Greater Yellowlegs seen wading in the shallow marshy waters. During this time of year they migrate from their nesting grounds in the boreal zones of Canada to the marshes in the southern tier of the United States. They are in the same family with Sandpipers and share a strong resemblance.
Of course, while it isn’t a migrating bird, no visit to the Riparian Preserve would be complete without a nod to the graceful resident Great Egrets that we enjoy year round. Their elegance always impresses. We are so lucky to have them!