I was able to get out in nature this past weekend and had several interesting observations—the first being in my own yard. I was standing near a large alligator juniper tree when a ruby-crowned kinglet started raising a racket with a distress call that elicits a response from other song birds in the area.
As soon as the kinglet let out a continuous stream of “danger” calls, countless other birds flew into the tree where the kinglet was scolding. In a matter of seconds, I saw a juvenile male Anna’s hummingbird (which surprised me, as I hadn’t heard or seen a hummingbird in my hard for probably two weeks), along with yellow-rumped warblers, dark-eyed juncos, and chipping sparrows all joining in and exhibiting “mobbing” behavior.
Typically when this behavior is observed, it is an indication that something is out of place – that there is a source of imminent danger to birds. My first thought was perhaps a small owl was roosting in the tree, sleeping the day away, only to be disturbed by this jumble of birds. Try as I might, in spite of my best efforts, I never was able to see the source of their distress.
After that experience, I headed out to Lynx Lake in search of a Pacific loon. It has been seen at the lake for several weeks, and I had yet to make it out there to see it. As you can imagine, by the name of this species, its normal winter range is in the Pacific Ocean, not inland on a fresh water lake.
Well it didn’t take me long to find it, and I got great looks at in on several occasions. It kept diving under the water and would disappear for what seemed like a minute or more before it would resurface a hundred yards away or more. It is amazing how long they can hold their breath and stay under water, and how much “ground” they cover before resurfacing.
Later in the day, my wife and I hiked the Centennial Trail – one of our favorite urban trails here in Prescott. There are three access points for this trail, two on either end and one in the middle. We usually use the trailhead in the middle, which is at the end of Kile Street, on the south side of Iron Springs Road.
From this trailhead, you can go either left, towards the trailhead on Westridge, or right towards the trailhead on Enchanted Canyon. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong in either direction, as it is an awesome trail. Even though you are in the city, you don’t get that feeling at all as you hike through granite boulders, ponderosa pine, pinyon, juniper, and all kinds of scrubby vegetation such as mountain mahogany, scrub oak, manzanita and Wright’s silktassel.
As soon as we went right on the trail, I noticed that the silktassel plants were absolutely loaded with berries – to the point that the branches were drooping under the weight of the berries. If you want to landscape your yard with a native plant that attracts berry-eating birds, Wright’s silktassel is a homerun.
On our hike, we saw flocks of American robins, cedar waxwings, and I saw hermit thrushes as well—all berry-eaters. The advantage of berry-producing shrubs is that they hold their fruit into the winter months and provide a food source for birds. Other bird species attracted to berries include western bluebirds and phainopeplas.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving! Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona – Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at email@example.com.