Bird Lady Blog

August 23, 2010

Pine Siskin, Downy Woodpecker, and Checklists

Filed under: Downy Woodpecker Pine Siskin and Checklists — Munds Park Birding @ 2:32 am

During our first Munds Park birding get-together, one of our attendees mentioned the Pine Siskin and how this species visits her nyger seed feeders.  Her comment made me realize that I had been seeing them at our feeders, but I was not really identifying them.  As the Pine Siskins came to our tube feeders and more or less blended in with the female and juvenile Lesser Goldfinches, I at first just “assumed” from afar that all the birds at our nyger seed feeders were the same species.   So I was forgetting a birding rule-of-thumb:  when there are large numbers of a bird type feeding or flocking together, look for other species intermingled with them. 

After our birders meeting in July and Susanna’s comments, I paid more attention to the visitors at our nyger feeder, and for sure it was being frequented by Pine Siskins.  Pine Siskins can best be described as small, finch-like brown birds with a lot of brown streaking on their white breasts and a little yellow on their wing bars.  At five inches in length, they are slightly larger than Lesser Goldfinches (See Article #1).  Pine Siskins are found throughout the United States and often do not migrate as long as there is a sufficient food supply.  They construct their nests on a horizontal tree limbs, and they are very social, often building their nests very close to other nesting pairs.

If you remember article #2 from summer 2009, I wrote about the Acorn Woodpecker, the most common woodpecker found in our area.  In article #14 this year, I focused on the Red-Shafter Flicker, which is another member of the woodpecker family.  Just three weeks ago I saw a third member of this family – our smallest woodpecker of all – the Downy Woodpecker.  This little bird, about seven inches in length, was right outside our bedroom window climbing up and down a tree, picking on the bark surface.  The Downy Woodpecker has a black back with a broad white patch down the center, a white checker-board pattern on its wings, a white belly, and a small red spot on its crown.  Because it is so small and can forage in small spaces, it uses food sources in its natural habitat that larger woodpeckers do not.  Downy Woodpeckers are found throughout the United States, from Florida to Alaska, and are a welcome sight with their bright red cap on a wintry, white day.  They will feed at your birdfeeders and during the winter will often be seen in flocks of other birds, such as Mountain Chickadees.  Birds know that there is “safety in numbers.” 

A small flock of Canada Geese has been staying around the ponds at the first and second holes on the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course.  I have yet to see a Yellow-Headed Blackbird this season (see Article #10) and would appreciate hearing from any of you who have seen one in 2010 in Munds Park anywhere.

I was recently e-mailed a question asking if there were any birding books specific to Munds Park.  I know of none specific to Munds Park, but there are other sources of information that I’m sure you would find useful. 

Birding the Flagstaff Area, an 80 page book by Frank and Linda Brandt, provides birding locations and directions to sites in and around Flagstaff, including Upper Oak Creek Canyon and the Kachina Wetlands.  Munds Park is not listed specifically, but I think one of the great benefits of this book is the checklist.  The list references 254 regularly found species in this area, and an Abundance and Status Key (e.g., common, permanent resident, summer resident, etc.) to help you more easily confirm your sightings.  You can order the book for $14.95 plus shipping through the Northern Arizona Audubon Society at or purchase it at the Arboretum at Flagstaff.

If you would like a free, downloadable Field Checklist of The Birds of Coconino County, go to, the Arizona Field Ornithologists website.  This list does not have any comments or information about where to find the species listed, and it includes vagrant, casual, and accidental species. 

We will have a second get-together of Munds Park Birders on Saturday, August 28th, at the Pinewood Country Club.  Meet in the lobby at 3:00 p.m., and if weather permits, we may carpool to Lake Odell and see what we can find there.  Wear sturdy shoes and comfortable clothes and bring your binoculars.

One final note:  remember to protect the birds from window kills.  Place Window Alert stickers on your windows, hang a strip or two of halogen tape in front of them, and/or place your feeders further away from your windows.  Save a bird today.

You can reach me at, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments at  It is always great to hear from other birders, and I welcome your questions and comments!


August 4, 2010

Painted Redstart and Red-shafted Flicker

Filed under: Munds Park Birding,Redstart and Flicker — Munds Park Birding @ 3:02 am

It is now almost the middle of August, and we are truly enjoying the wonderful warm, breezy, and sometimes unpredictable and stormy weather of Munds Park summers.  The baby American Coots found in our ponds have grown from five inch black balls of fuzz to gray-feathered adolescents still following around their parents and begging for food, but also learning how to fend for themselves.  I saw a juvenile White-breasted Nuthatch following its parent around with a half-open mouth, still hoping to be fed a meal and looking somewhat tentative as it clung head-down on a Ponderosa Pine.  And I had reports of Mountain Bluebirds and Tree Swallows fledging from their nest boxes.  In fact, Pat and Roy Heidemann again this season had a pair of nesting Tree Swallows in their front yard nest box, not too far from Lake Odell.  This nest box was built specifically for smaller birds like Mountain Chickadees, but somehow the Tree Swallows have managed to squeeze in and out of that one and one-eighth inch entry hole.  One evening while sitting on the Heidemann’s deck, we watched a newly fledged youngster learning how to fly and trying to get back into the nest box.  He/she hadn’t quite figured out how to land on the outside of the box at the entry hole and get back in.  Probably a good thing, because now the youngster should be up and about while its parents teach it how to catch insects on its own before they all head south for the winter.

About four weeks prior to this article being published, I had a “lifer” in our back yard forest.  A Painted Redstart – a beautiful, showy warbler – spent the weekend between our neighbor’s property and ours.  A “lifer” is defined in the birding world as a bird that is seen or heard for the first time by a person.  Many birders remember exactly when and where they saw a bird the first time and, like me, record the date and location in some type of list.  That could be a “life list” (all birds included) in a book or on a computer, or in a list of birds seen over a period of time (e.g., this year) or at a particular location, such as their home or office.  Yes, in addition to my life list I have kept two different lists at office locations for “Birds I’ve Seen While Working”.  We birders can be sort of “nutsy” at times I guess, but I would like to think that judgment really is all in the eyes of the beholder.

But back to the Painted Redstart.  This bird is only found regularly in Arizona and New Mexico at elevations of 5,000 to 8,000 feet.  My neighbor’s friend first shouted across our decks to me that “I think I saw one of those Painted Redstarts”, and I thought, “Oh, really?  Now that would be something!”  Lo and behold, a half hour later the Painted Redstart showed up at my bird bath, and for the rest of the weekend it flitted through the trees right in front of us in search of food.  We have been in Munds Park for 11 summers, and this is the first sighting I’ve had of the Painted Redstart, so I was telling everyone I know about the good news.  If you have a chance, look this bird up in your field guide or search for it on the internet.  It is glossy black with distinctive white wing bars you cannot miss, and it has a red belly.  When it forages among the trees, it spreads its showy white outer tail feathers to flush insects, making it easy to follow once located.   Like the Red-faced Warbler, the Painted Redstart makes its nest on the ground.

A bird that I have seen many times across the country but never get tired of is the Northern Flicker, and in the case of Munds Park, it is a Red-shafted Flicker.  The Northern Flicker is a large, brown woodpecker, and when it flies, it flashes its bright colors under its wings and tail and shows a distinctive white rump.  The Yellow-shafted Flicker is found in the Midwest and Eastern US, while the Red-shafted Flicker is common in the West, although hybrids regularly occur in their range overlap.  I have heard these birds throughout Munds Park and on the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course, often around holes 12 and 13 – closest to the west side of Lake Odell.  Listen for a single, high-pitched, strong “”keew” sound. 

The Red-shafted Flicker, like many birds, appears often in Native American lore, in part because of its strong drumming and its partial red coloring, which is associated with sun, weather, war, and the red dawn.

You can reach me at, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments at  It is always great to hear from other birders, and I welcome your questions and comments!

Birding, Technology, and Us

Filed under: Birding Technology and Us,Munds Park Birding — Munds Park Birding @ 2:44 am

For someone my age (not to be revealed), I am decently tech-savvy, but not nearly as much as someone much younger than me.  However, I have learned a lot from my 20-something friends and employees:  I can and do “instant message”, subscribe to RSS feeds, read and post to a LISTSERV, have an entire ornithology field guide on my iPhone, figured out how to post these Pinewood News articles on a free blog website, and use the wonderful resources of the World Wide Web instead of the library for most of the birding information I need. 

So for this article I want to modestly share some of my tips with you about using today’s technology to help you be a more informed nature lover and birder.  And I will also report on our first-ever Munds Park Birders get-together, which we held on July 10th.

I have subscribed for years to a LISTSERV that is hosted (at no cost to any subscriber) by the University of Arizona.  It provides subscribers with information on a daily basis posted by Arizona birders who report their bird sightings.  Think of a LISTSERV as an easy way for people interested in a topic to stay informed via e-mail.  The LISTSERV maintains a single list of subscribers that everyone can use to either send messages to or receive messages from. The benefits to subscribing to this LISTSERV are to stay up-to-date on the “hot” birding spots and sightings and to stay connected with people who are out in the field.  This LISTSERV helped me find the Green Kingfisher at the San Pedro River many years ago and the Rufous-Backed Robin at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum more recently.  You can subscribe by sending an e-mail to with the following in the subject line:  subscribe BIRDWG05 Firstname Lastname (substitute your first and last name).  You will receive at least five e-mails per day about bird sightings across Arizona, and it’s a wonderful way to learn about what birds are being seen by others.  Spring and fall migration times are especially newsworthy.

I am a huge iPhone fan – mainly because of the applications (aps) I get for free or for a small amount of money.  On my phone is an awesome field guide called iBirds that I downloaded  for $20.  So when I’m on the golf course and I spot what I think is a juvenile Black-Crowned Night-Heron, I can quickly pull up my bird guide on my phone and see its photos and typical territory and even listen to a recording of its vocalization.  The best part is that when I’m traveling I don’t have to haul around any books – I have a field guide with me all the time on my cell phone.  However, on a side note, I still would never part with my hard copy field guides, and I do take them along on driving trips. 

The really cool part about birding and the World Wide Web is that you can search (“google”, “bing”) a bird and quickly come up with all sorts of sites that will give you information about that bird.  For example, if you want to learn more about the Mountain Chickadee, just type in “mountain chickadee” in your browser’s search area and you will most likely first get the Cornell University website ( or the Wikipedia website and have instant access to key information about this bird.  On the Web you can also find birding festivals, contact a tour guide on land or sea to give you a guided birding tour on your next vacation, and use the site to view bird reports, charts, and maps about birds in our state or in others.

I found some free nest box plans on the Internet as well – and I build chickadee/nuthatch and bluebird boxes based on those plans.  A wonderful site from the State of North Dakota lets you download an entire free book for nest box and feeder plans in a PDF format:  And of course the plans work for birds in any state. 

I subscribe to Bird Watcher’s Digest, a very informative, educational, and entertaining little magazine owned and managed by a family out of Ohio.  You can subscribe to the hard copy magazine, the online version, or both.  Go to to learn more.  A subscription to the magazine costs $20 for a year and would be a great gift – for yourself or someone else.

For the next article, I will report on the Painted Redstart and the Red Shafted Flicker.  But I do want to mention here that we had our first-ever meeting of Munds Park Birders on July 10th at Pinewood Country Club.  Seven enthusiastic residents came to meet each other, share information, and give me some new ideas for articles.  We intend to have at least one more meeting before fall, so stay tuned for a date and time. 

In the meantime, you can reach me at, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments, if you are so inclined, at  It is always great to hear from other birders, and I welcome your questions and comments!

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