Column: Unusual bird sighting at the Pioneers Home Cemetery
When I am working at the store, I usually spend most of my time inside the store - but not this week. Ever since the fire at Jay's Bird Barn on Sunday, I have been spending most of my time on the phone - outside, behind the store. Since I no longer have an office, it is the one place where I can deal with insurance companies, utility companies, vendors - even the Consumer Product Safety Commission!
Behind the store is the Arizona Pioneers Home Cemetery. Believe it or not, cemeteries are a great place for birdwatching - especially in Arizona. Growing up as a bird-watcher in Tucson, I learned quickly how attractive the habitat in cemeteries is for birds in the desert. Large expanses of grass and mature trees in the desert are like an oasis for migrating birds.
When I look out the back door of the store, I have a good vantage point of the birds that perch in the trees at the Pioneers Home Cemetery. Depending upon the time of year, I see a good variety of birds. For example, this time of year I see western bluebirds on a regularly basis.
In the summer months, I see a good variety of hawks - usually flyovers as they check the area for potential prey. I have seen red-tailed hawks, Swainson's hawks and zone-tailed hawks behind the store.
If you were to ask me which is the most common and abundant bird species I see behind the store, what do you think would be my answer? Mourning doves? House finches? Pigeons? All of those are good guesses, but they are incorrect. By far, the most common and abundant species that I see on a daily basis is the common raven. That might sound strange at first, but the dumpsters behind businesses are like a raven magnet!
When it comes to dumpster diving, ravens get the gold medal. Every day they congregate in the back of the store looking to see what treasures they can find. On Monday of this week I was taken aback when a new visitor showed up - one that I had never seen at this location before.
My new discovery was an American crow! Believe it or not, I was actually very excited by this. I ran into the store and grabbed Ryan, our store manager. We each grabbed a pair of binoculars so we could get a better look, as it was near the top of a tree in the cemetery. Its unique and unmistakable vocalizing was all I needed to hear to know what I was seeing. It was active and animated. Perhaps with all of the ravens around, he felt the need to say, "Hey, I'm not a raven. I'm a crow!"
When I made the discovery, I was talking on the phone with someone in Minnesota. I mentioned my exciting find, and she wasn't the least bit impressed. In fact, she had a high disregard and disdain for crows, as they are a nuisance in her yard. I explained to her that where we live, this is a big deal.
Our "new" store is up and running, just 75 feet up the sidewalk from our old location. Gayla and I offer a sincere thank you to friends and customers for your support and concern since our tragedy this past Sunday. We are grateful to be open - and we are certainly appreciative of everyone's help.
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 2360 State Highway 89A in Sedona.
Eric has been an avid birder for more than 45 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email email@example.com.