As I drive around the central highlands of Arizona, I am so impressed by the unusually lush green landscape. I cannot remember a better monsoon season in the recent past. It seems that ever since the Fourth of July, the rains have been frequent and abundant-we have been so blessed.
Yet, in spite of the abundant summer rains, the water levels at both Watson and Willow Lakes remain well below normal. However, some of the benefits of the low water level at Willow Lake are mud flats and shallow surfaces for shorebirds to feed in.
Probably the biggest impact of our summer rains is the profusion of “weeds”-grasses, flowers and wild sunflowers. All of these plants are creating an alternate food source for seed-eating wild birds that would normally frequent seed feeders.
Here at the bird store, we have seen a big dropoff in the sale of nyjer/thistle seed-not that the finches are not here, because they are. Since there is so much food for them in nature, they are not nearly as dependent on human-provided food sources. It is a good thing for the birds.
Our summer rains each year are critical for wintering bird species that rely on seeds produced as a direct result of our monsoon season. In drought years, the lack of adequate summer rain results in little production of seeds for the wild birds, leaving them more dependent upon seed feeders. Not this year!
We are only a few weeks away from the arrival of some of our most common winter birds-white-crowned sparrows and dark-eyed juncos-which are both seed eaters. They will start showing up in the next two weeks, and there will be a virtual buffet for them to enjoy upon their arrival. They are returning to one of the finest seed crops nature has produced in years.
It will be interesting to see what impact the rains will have on whether some seed-eating species migrate or stay behind this winter. Lesser goldfinches are considered a partial migratory. How many stay here locally and how many leave varies from year to year. I’m thinking that because there is so much wild food available, maybe a lot more will winter-over this year.
With all of the rain we have had, it is a good idea to check all of your seed feeders to make sure the seeds in them have remained dry. If you have old, cracked feeders, it is likely that moisture has gotten into the feeders, and the seed may be wet or even moldy. Sometimes birdseed will germinate right inside bird feeders. Seed that gets wet can clog feeders, and the seed can be downright unhealthy for the birds to eat.
May I suggest taking down each of your seed feeders and cleaning them and refilling them with fresh, dry seed. This might be a good time to evaluate the condition of your feeders and whether any of them need to be replaced before winter, which is our other rainy season.
A quick reminder-our annual Wild Bird Photography Contest is in full swing. The submission period ends Saturday, Sept. 29. I would like to encourage you to participate if you have pictures that you would like to submit. It doesn’t cost anything to participate, and there are great prizes if you win! Stop by the store or check out the Jay’s Bird Barn website for photo contest guidelines.