Even though the daytime temperatures the past few days have been downright balmy – especially for mid-January – it has been interesting to see how much snow is still on the ground on north-facing slopes and in shady areas. In the fall when we have unseasonably warm weather, we refer to it as Indian summer. I am not sure what to call a warm spell in winter.
I am fascinated by how quickly wild birds react to subtle changes in weather. You get a few beautiful days, like this past Sunday, and the birds start acting as if we are on the verge of spring. I have to admit, I was feeling it too. It was nearly a perfect day-sunny, cloudless, with temperatures in the mid to high 50s.
At one point when I was outside, I heard a male Anna’s hummingbird singing. This immediately caught my attention because, after all, it is only January. Also, the lesser goldfinches in my yard were singing their varied melodic songs as if it were April or May.
In the past week, I have seen several Say’s phoebes (an insect eater) out and about. There are, apparently, enough flying insects to be found to sustain phoebes, even when one would think otherwise. I cannot help but wonder how they got through the previous week when we had three back-to-back days with snowy weather.
This past week, an experienced bird watcher discovered a yellow-breasted chat near Willow Lake. Chats are a large species of warbler, and are a summer resident in the proper habitat. I have never heard of one being here in winter, so that was an absolutely amazing find. All of this spring-like weather is a little premature, as I am sure we still have plenty of winter weather ahead.
On a different note, earlier this week we received brochures for the 2016 Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, which runs from April 21-24. You might be wondering why I am writing about this event now. Registration for field trips, workshops and seminars opens up on Feb. 1, which is less than two weeks away.
The theme for this year’s festival is “Night in Flight.” There are several events scheduled to support this theme, including two different “Owl Prowl” field trips, a “Bat Patrol” field trip and separate workshops on nighttime bugs, owls and bats.
I encourage you to get online at www.birdyverde.org, or stop by the store to pick up a hard copy of the festival brochure so you can start making plans for the field trips you want to attend. It is important to register early; many of the more popular trips fill up within a day or two of open registration.
Speaking of field trips, I will be leading a free Jay’s Bird Barn-sponsored field trip this Saturday, Jan. 23, at 8 a.m. to Willow Lake. Next Thursday, Jan. 28, Ryan Crouse will be leading a free bird walk to Chino Valley on one of our more popular trips-looking for raptors! We limit bird walks to 12 individuals. If you would like to participate, call the store at 928-443-5900 to sign up.
And finally, mark your calendar for Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. for the first Audubon meeting of 2016. Micah Riegner will be the guest speaker, and he will be presenting a program titled “Explorers of the Amazon.” The meeting is held in the social hall at Trinity Presbyterian Church located at 630 Park Ave. in Prescott.
Until next week, Happy Birding!