Last week I had the opportunity to go bird watching at a variety of locations in central Arizona, including Page Springs Fish Hatchery, Sedona Wetlands, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Mingus Mountain, Stricklin Park, Granite Basin and Willow Lake. Whew!
When I wasn’t out in the field looking for birds, I was looking at the birds in my own yard. This past week I had both a male rufous hummingbird and a male broad-tailed hummingbird at our feeders. I am receiving daily phone calls and emails about migrating birds showing up at backyard bird feeders, including lazuli buntings and black-headed grosbeaks. Be on the lookout!
This is a very exciting time of year to be a backyard birder, as the scenery in your yard can change almost daily with the coming and going of migratory birds. I encourage you to make sure you have clean water, fresh nectar and quality seed out for the birds. Many of the visitors to your yard are stopping to refuel before they continue on their northward migration.
At Sedona Wetlands last Tuesday, I saw a large flock of Franklin’s gulls – there must have been at least 75! I also saw Wilson’s phalarope and spotted sandpipers, which are all examples of transient species passing through central Arizona from wherever they wintered to wherever they will be spending their summer.
I saw a tremendous variety of birds at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, including vermilion flycatcher, wood duck, blue-winged teal, as well as my first summer tanager, Bullock’s oriole, and lesser-nighthawk for the year. I went to the park to prepare the armchair birding area for this week’s Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival. I weeded the area under each of the seed feeders, filled all of the feeders with fresh seed and hung up a new nyjer sock.
Mingus Mountain wasn’t as birdy as I was hoping it to be, but time of day probably had a lot to do with my lack of success. I saw a lot of chipping sparrows, and there were the usual high-elevation species such as Steller’s jay, white-breasted and pygmy nuthatch and western bluebirds. I also saw the red-backed form of the dark-eyed junco-a year-round resident, which breeds at the higher elevations in central Arizona.
On Thursday, I had the honor of taking five individuals on a private guided birding trip. Last year I donated to the Highlands Center for Natural History a half-day birding package for five people. The successful bidders of the silent auction redeemed their birding tour this week, and we had such a nice time. Our first stop was Stricklin Park on Sherwood Drive here in Prescott. It was so birdy! It was hard to know where to focus our attention, as we were distracted by both the variety and the quantity of birds we were seeing.
Some of the highlights for the day included observing an active Cooper’s hawk nest, the discovery of a hummingbird nest under construction, and watching a pair of bushtits as they gathered nest-building material from a caterpillar tent. The bushtits were fearless as they stripped off the silk webbing that encased the developing caterpillars. We were standing so close (just two or three feet) to the bushtits, we could see the color of their eyes with our naked eye!
Prescott Creeks’ “One Man’s Treasure” fundraising event is on Saturday, May 3, from 4 to 7 p.m. The last day to RSVP is tomorrow, so jump on their website at www.onemanstreasure.org or call 445-5669 to secure tickets for an extraordinary evening of wine, music, art auctions, food and fun!
Until next week, Happy Birding!