Moore: Spring — birding at its best
Each year I donate a guided bird walk to be auctioned off at the Highlands Center for Natural History’s “Wander the Wild” fundraiser event. On Tuesday of this week, I led a private birding tour for the winning bidder and several of her friends.
We spent six hours birding at various habitats in the Prescott area, including urban settings, riparian habitats, lakes, wastewater treatment facilities and Granite Basin. We purposely stayed local to maximize our “boots on the ground” time instead of sitting in a car driving to some far-off birding destination.
As we spent time birding in each location, we were rewarded with great birding discoveries. Here is a brief run-down by location on some of the species we saw.
We began our day by driving over to the church on Ruth Street in hopes of finding the Swainson’s hawks. Not only did we find them, but we got to watch them as they brought sticks to the nest they are building! We also saw a flock of about 25 cedar waxwings, and found a western kingbird.
Watson Woods was filled with bird activity — especially yellow-rumped warblers in breeding plumage. Wow, what a stunning bird! We also saw yellow warblers, Lucy’s warblers, northern flicker, hairy woodpecker, bridled titmouse, white-crowned sparrow, and cliff, violet-green and northern rough-winged swallows. Some of our best sightings at Watson Woods included an adult bald eagle, common black hawk, red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, American kestrel and a great horned owl sitting on its nest!
Watson Lake still had a small number of coots, grebes, and wintering ducks. We saw both pied-bill and eared grebes, bufflehead, gadwall, ruddy duck, mallard, northern shovelers and Canada geese.
At the Sundog Ranch Road wastewater treatment facility, we saw a small flock of brown-headed cowbirds (they’re back!), European starling, common ravens, killdeer, spotted sandpiper, and a variety of duck species including a number of lesser scaup.
We did some birding near the airport and about got blown away by the high winds. In spite of being in a typically good habitat for birds, the weather conditions really hindered our birding efforts. Highlights included both yellow-headed and red-winged blackbirds, loggerhead shrike, white-faced ibis, American wigeon, ring-necked duck and a good number of cinnamon and green-winged teal.
Our last stop was Granite Basin, where we spent time birding around the lake. By then it was past noon, and the basin was very quiet. Few birds were singing, and even fewer were stirring. However, we did add a few species to our day list including house wren, turkey vulture, and best of all, zone-tailed hawk.
We had such a great day for raptors — we saw an eagle, five hawk species, one falcon species and one owl species. For the day, we tallied 67 species during our six-hour bird walk—it was a wonderful day!
As a reminder, the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood starts on Thursday, April 25th. For more information on fieldtrips, workshops and other activities, I invite you to visit their website, www.verderiver.org/birding-festival/.
At 7 p.m. Thursday April 18, is the monthly membership meeting for the Prescott Audubon Society. I will be the guest speaker this evening and will present a program titled, “Native Plants are for the Birds.” My program will include a power point presentation, live plants and a question-and-answer period. This free event is open to the public. I hope to see you tonight at Trinity Presbyterian Church located at 630 Park Ave. in Prescott.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona – Prescott 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.