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2:03 PM Tue, Sept. 18th

Outing to Crown King was a hummer of a trip

On Memorial Day my family and I took a family drive to Crown King. It was a gorgeous day ­ the weather was perfect for a drive in the country. En route we saw a white-winged dove in Spring Valley, mockingbirds in the area between Spring Valley and Cleator and phainopela as we started our climb up into the Bradshaws. Each of these species has very bold patches of white in its wings that jumps out at you with each wing beat.

On our drive to Crown King, I finally joined the 2006 "I saw my first family of baby quail" club, as mama, papa and about a dozen babies crossed the road in front of us. The babies could not have been more than a few days old, and it was amazing to witness how quickly they could run.

Crown King was delightful. Having never been there, I had a mental imagine as to what it would be like ­ and I was totally wrong. I had pictured in my mind a small, well-kept mountain community with narrow, paved streets, sidewalks and little shops. What I found was that there are actually more ATVs than there are cars, and there are no paved streets, no sidewalks and lots of dirt. It was certainly a throwback to earlier times.

There are only a handful of businesses in town, including a general store with one gas pump, a curio shop, a saloon and two restaurants. One of my ulterior motives for going to Crown King was to visit a restaurant called The Mill, as several customers had told me about all of the hummingbird feeders hanging outside the restaurant.

Eleven hummingbird feeders and one oriole feeder hung from the front of the building. I wish to point out that they use only the "Best-1" hummingbird feeder, which is our best-selling nectar feeder. The number of hummingbirds was amazing. There was a steady hum of activity as three types of hummingbirds ­ Anna's, black-chinned and broad-tailed ­ drank from the feeders.

While we had planned to have lunch at The Mill, we were disappointed to find it is open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. However, even though The Mill was closed, the owner kindly invited us in to have a look around and to talk birds, of course. We found that everyone in town was extremely friendly and helpful.

We had lunch at Cindy's café, (located behind the saloon) where their: "You never drove further for a better burger." While waiting for our meal, I did some birding in the area around Main Street and saw a good variety of beautiful birds including yellow warbler, hepatic tanager, Grace's warbler and blue grosbeak. I also saw brown-headed cowbirds, black-headed grosbeaks, white-breasted nuthatches, bridled titmice and robins, to name a few others.

After lunch we stopped by the ice cream shop located at the General Store and had a scoop of Thrifty ice cream before heading home. If you are looking for a day-trip close to home, I would recommend Crown King. Lodging is available if you want to stay longer. The road is dirt once you leave Spring Valley, but the condition is good enough for a passenger car. Just be forewarned that your car will need a good washing when you get home ­ I think there was enough dirt on our car to make a small adobe building.

If you have specific questions or issues related to wild birds which you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit them to Jay's Bird Barn, 1046 Willow Creek Road, Suite 105, Prescott, AZ 86301, or log onto www.JaysBirdBarn.com and click on "Ask Eric,' which will link you with my e-mail address, Eric@JaysBirdBarn.com. Until next week, happy birding.

Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, a backyard wild bird store located at 1046 Willow Creek Road in the Safeway/K-Mart shopping center. He has been an avid birder for more than 40 years.