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Fri, Dec. 13

Get out in nature to spot rare birds

The typical casual backyard "birder" is perhaps content with seeing the usual birds at his feeders-house finches, mourning doves, spotted towhees, lesser goldfinches and western scrub-jays, to name a few. Truthfully, the birds in the backyard don't change a whole lot from day to day.

When I am at home, I am constantly checking my feeding area to see if anything new is out there. I keep a pair of binoculars right by the window that looks out over my bird-feeding area. I get quite excited when I see something new in the yard that perhaps I haven't seen for a long time.

However, the best way to see something new is to get out in nature. Over the past week, a variety of winter arrivals have been reported, as well as some transient species still passing through. A few of the species reported are very uncommon and only show up every few years.

Here are some examples of what has been seen this past week in the Prescott area. At Lynx Lake, there have been several surf scoters. What is a scoter? It is a water bird that summers in northern Canada and Alaska and winters primarily in coastal areas. It is a big deal to see surf scoters in the Prescott area, as they are very rare here.

Other interesting birds this week include common loons observed at both Watson and Willow lakes. Few people think of loons and Arizona in the same sentence. Loons are an infrequent winter visitor here. To find them, it is necessary to have either a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope to scan the surface of the water at the lakes.

To whet your appetite even more, here are some other unusual field sightings: a single Bonaparte's gull, 11 ring-billed gulls, a handful of white-faced ibis, an American avocet, as many as four great egrets, and some long-billed dowitchers have all been reported at Willow Lake this week.

Getting out in the field is the key to expanding your bird list. In the field, the possibilities are endless, and with this gorgeous fall weather we are enjoying, there is no excuse not to get out! The best places to go right now are where there is water.

Willow Lake is probably the best place to visit if you have limited time and can only visit one destination. My second recommendation would be to visit Watson Lake, followed by both Lynx and Goldwater lakes.

This past Saturday a customer brought in great pictures of two adult bald eagles sitting together in a tree on the southeast side of Willow Lake. Other birds of prey observed at Willow Lake this past week includes peregrine falcon, merlin (falcon), America kestrel, red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk and northern harrier. There is a virtual smorgasbord of wild birds to be seen by those who are able to get out into the field.

If you need help identifying birds when you are in the field, there are two guided bird walks coming up later this month sponsored by the Prescott Audubon Society that are open to the public. On Saturday, Nov. 13, at 8:30 a.m., there is a bird walk at the Highlands Center for Natural History facility located on Walker Road. On Saturday, Nov. 27, at 8:30 a.m., there will be a bird walk at Watson Woods. For more information on these free bird walks, call Jay's Bird Barn at 443-5900.

Until next week, happy birding!

Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, with two locations to serve northern Arizona - 1046 Willow Creek Road in Prescott, and 2370 State Highway 89A in Sedona. Eric has been an avid birder for more than 40 years. If you have specific questions related to wild birds which you would like discussed in future articles, e-mail Eric@JaysBirdBarn.com.

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