This past week I spent a few days at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It wasn’t specifically a birding trip, but, then again, I don’t go anywhere without looking for birds! I added four species to my 2014 state list – California condor, juniper titmouse, downy woodpecker and golden-crowned kinglet.
Truthfully, most of the birds I observed around the rim of the canyon were common birds that I could have easily seen right here in Prescott in some of our forested neighborhoods, such as Timber Ridge. I saw both white-breasted and pygmy nuthatches, Western scrub-jays and Steller’s jays, common ravens, mountain chickadees, hairy woodpeckers and plenty of juncos.
There was one bird species in particular that was really thrilling to both see and hear. I took a short hike down the Bright Angel Trail and got to hear and see canyon wrens. There is something very special about hearing the vocalization of a canyon wren in the Grand Canyon. I cannot think of a more fitting location to see and hear a canyon wren.
The one species that I was really happy to see was the California condor. The Grand Canyon is probably one of only two places to observe this species in the entire state of Arizona, and I wanted to make sure I saw it so I could add it to my 2014 list. I knew if I didn’t see it on this trip, I probably wouldn’t have a chance to see it again the rest of the year.
As I was hiking the rim trail, with the naked eye I spotted a lone condor flying well below the horizon, deep in the canyon, probably at least two miles away. That might sound like boasting, but I don’t believe in luck, so I felt blessed to find one in flight that was so far away.
I was able to get my binoculars on it, and in spite of the distance, with my 10×42 Swarovski binoculars I was able to positively ID the bird. This is a bird with a wingspan of approximately 10 1/2 feet. It is enormous! The black and white pattern in the wings and the bald, orange head are unmistakable, and are dead giveaways.
I had some great birding moments this past week right here in Prescott at Stricklin Park, off Sherwood Drive. In fact, I picked up another species for my state list – a pine siskin. Most backyard birders this year have noticed a dearth of pine siskins and lesser goldfinches this winter. Now that we are experiencing spring-like weather, goldfinch numbers are really on the rise.
If you haven’t changed out the seed in your nyjer/thistle feeder since last summer, I would recommend taking down your feeders, giving them a good cleaning, and starting over with a fresh batch of seed. Nyjer seed, like black-oil sunflower seed, has a high oil content. It can go bad, so it’s a good idea to replace the old seed with fresh seed.
A quick reminder that today, Thursday, Feb. 27, is the Prescott Audubon Society’s monthly membership meeting. Kim McCall, with the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary, will be the main speaker, and she will be displaying a variety of live birds of prey and will be talking about each of the different species. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 7 p.m. in the fellowship hall of the Trinity Presbyterian Church at the corner of Park Avenue and Copper Basin Road in Prescott.
Until next week, Happy Birding!