A sudden death in the family this past week resulted in a quick trip to Utah. On Monday, I had a few free hours so I went birding in the Salt Lake area at Decker Lake Park.
This small, urban lake is flanked by a freeway on one side and commercial development on the other three sides. And yet, this small piece of ‘natural’ habitat, surrounded by asphalt, buildings, and the busyness of city life, supports a good number of bird species (I saw 26) and provides a destination for migratory birds that breed and rear young each summer at this small lake.
One of the things that intrigued me was how many of the birds I was seeing at Decker Lake are some of the same species we see in the Prescott area using our local lakes as either a winter destination, or a spring and fall stopping point to refuel before continuing their migration.
For example, each spring Willow Lake hosts flocks of American white pelicans for brief visits as they stop over on their way north. Another example is American Avocets. These long-legged wading birds love the shallow waters at Willow Lake, and stay briefly to feed and rest before continuing their migration. Forester’s terns and ring-billed gulls also occur at the lakes in Prescott during migration.
During my brief visit to Decker Lake I saw all of these species-pelicans, avocets, gulls and terns. One difference, however, is that these birds I was seeing in Utah are now in their summer range, meaning their migration is over, and this is where they will breed and rear young.
Each of the lakes in the Prescott area (Granite Basin, Lynx, Goldwater, Watson and Willow), and even the effluent treatment facilities-where there is nutrient-rich water for migratory birds-is critical habitat that sustains and supports wild birds during a portion of the time they spend migrating between their winter and summer ranges.
It is easy to think about the birds that we enjoy here in the Prescott area during the spring and summer months as ‘our’ birds, when in reality they perhaps spend more of their lives in their winter ranges than they do here in North America in their summer, breeding range.
Over the last few weeks, I have received so much feedback from customers on the thrill of having lazuli buntings, western and summer tanagers, black-headed grosbeaks, and several oriole species in their yards, visiting their water features and feeding stations.
The habitat we provide in North America is important for migratory birds, but equally important is where they winter. If this habitat is not protected and preserved, it will impact our ability to see these birds in our yards here in Prescott-just like the lakes in Prescott provide habitat for birds that will summer in Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and on up into Canada.
It is interesting to contemplate the significance of habitat in both the summer and winter ranges of birds and how these habitats ensure the successful continuation of species as new generations carry on the pattern of migration and rearing of young that is repeated year after year.
When you think about the migratory birds that occur in your yard, maybe you will have a new perspective such as, “When I feed birds in my yard during the summer, I am making it possible for someone in Mexico, Central America, or even South America, to see these species in winter because of the breeding success they had in North America.”
Until next week, Happy Birding!