Bird Lady Blog

September 25, 2010

2010 Spring/Summer Recap


2010 started out with my own “New Year’s Birding Resolutions for Munds Park”.  Since this is my last article for the year, a recap of events is in order.  I am a list maker at times – lists help me stay organized and focused – so this article is going to include two lists, starting with my six Birding New Year Resolutions and their results:

1.  Visit the Grand Canyon during the HawkWatch season. Result:  Didn’t make it this year, but did attend a HawkWatch presentation held at the September meeting of the Northern Arizona Audubon Society in Flagstaff.  Susannah J. and I were the two birders from Munds Park who attended. We met some very interesting and helpful people, plus learned a lot about the HawkWatch International non-profit organization and its mission and operations.

2.  Bird the Kachina Wetlands with new birding friends from Munds Park. Result:  Yes, did this with Rita G. over Labor Day weekend – and among many other birds, we saw a Sora and a Ruddy Duck.

3.  Hold at least one gathering of birders in Munds Park this summer so fellow-birders get to know each other and begin networking. Result:  Yes, accomplished this goal with two meetings and made some new friends.  Thanks again to the Pinewood Country Club for the meeting room space.

4.  Do a better job of protecting the Cordillean Flycatchers on our new deck, assuming they nest again, from the predator that was most likely a Raccoon and which knocked down the nest last summer. Result:  Moot point because the Flycatchers did not nest on our deck this year.  However, I am pretty sure a pair did nest under the eaves of the wooden shelter on the 6th hole of the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course.

5.  See the Red-Faced Warbler. Result:  Darn, did not accomplish.  Next year I am going to have to try harder and possibly hold a stake-out on one of our friends’ deck where these warblers often show up at their bird bath.  However, a surprise and uncommon bird that did visit our birdbath this year was a Painted Redstart – a “lifer” for me.

6.  Begin a campaign in Munds Park to minimize, if not completely stop, the bird-kills from birds flying into our homes’ windows. Result:  Hopefully I made some progress on this goal by informing other residents that they can purchase halogenic tape and hang a few strips in front of their windows to deter bird crashes.  Or purchase Window Alert stickers over the Internet to do the same.  Or move feeders away from windows.  This is a resolution I will carry over into 2011.

 The other list I will share is a recap of 40 birds I have seen and written about in Munds Park over the last two years and in what Article they appeared: 

1 American Robin 5 Rufous Hummingbird 11 Black Phoebe
1 Mountain Chickadee 5 Black-headed Grosbeak 11 Say’s Phoebe
1 Lesser Goldfinch 6 Barn Swallow 12 Black-crowned Night Heron
1 Western Bluebird 6 Violet-green Swallow 12 Dark-eyed Junco
2 Acorn Woodpecker 6 Tree Swallow 13 Birding Technology
2 Steller’s Jay 7 American Coot 14 Red-shafted Flicker
2 Pygmy Nuthatch 7 Mallard 14 Painted Redstart
2 White-breasted Nuthatch 7 Canada Goose 15 Pine Siskin
3 Brown Creeper 8 2010 Birding Resolutions 15 Downy Woodpecker
3 Red-faced Warbler 9 Turkey Vulture 16 Broad-tailed Hummingbird
3 Cordillean Flycatcher 9 Common Raven 16 Black-chinned Hummingbird
4 Red-tailed Hawk 9 American Crow 17 Mourning Dove
4 Bald Eagle 10 Red-winged Blackbird 17 Great-tailed Grackle
4 Osprey 10 Yellow-headed Blackbird 18 Recap of Spring/Summer
5 Band-tailed Pigeon        

You can read all my articles at www.birdladyblog.wordpress.com and print copies if you wish.  An index is on the right under “categories”.  You can also subscribe to the RSS feed, on the left side of the web page, which will ensure you are e-mailed each new article as it gets posted.  Your e-mail address is not used for any purpose except to send you a copy of the latest Munds Park birding article.

If you are year-round resident or a part-time resident who visits in the fall and winter, I would love to hear about your bird sightings and experiences over the coming months.  Just drop me a line at margaretdyekman@cox.net.  Some folks have asked me,  “When are you going to run out of birds to write about?”, and I think that will take a very long while as we have lots of bird species in Munds Park. 

Thank you for your interest in the Birds of Munds Park and your feedback.  I look forward to a new spring and summer of articles in 2011.   Good Birding to you all!

Northern Harrier

Filed under: Uncategorized — Munds Park Birding @ 3:14 pm
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Yesterday, September 24th, about noon, we spotted a Northern Harrier flying over the small field immediately to the south of the 12th/13th holes of the Pinewood Country Club. The white rump patch and low flight were the identifiers.

September 17, 2010

Mourning Doves and Great-tailed Grackles

Filed under: Mourning Dove and Great-tailed Grackle — Munds Park Birding @ 5:38 am

I for one do not want to rush the summer away, but it is inevitable – soon fall will be here and some of us will be headed to our residences away from Munds Park.  We’ll be “down in the Valley”, in Tucson, Yuma and maybe even further.  So in this article I decided to write about two species of birds that are found here as well as in our winter home towns.  I will also tell you about our trip to the Kachina Wetlands.

The Mourning Dove is very common across all of the United States and southern half of Canada.  There are not many here in Munds Park because they tend not to inhabit high forests, but on occasion I hear their four-syllable, mournful call or see one or two on the ground below our deck feeders, pecking at the dropped seeds.  Mourning Doves are very numerous in other parts of our state, including urban areas.  If you have one of those bird clocks that everyone (well, not “everyone”, maybe only birders) seemed to have received as presents a few years ago, the kind that on the hour “chimes” one of 12 bird calls, the Mourning Dove is probably one of those birds included on your clock.  It is a small, slender, long-tailed dove that is a strong flier, and it is the leading game bird hunted in the country.  One estimate I read stated that 40 to 70 million birds are shot each year in the U.S.  (Keep in mind that a single bird yields only about 2 ounces of meat, so why they are hunted as “game” is beyond me.)  In spite of that, Mourning Doves proliferate because a pair can have up to six broods a year.  The Mourning Dove has a “wing whistle” that is quite noticeable on landing and takeoff.  Back “in the Valley” when I am golfing, this is a very common bird on the golf course – especially when over seeding is taking place.  If you have a tube seed feeder, most likely the Mourning Doves will be below on the ground, eating the seeds that have dropped.

The Great-tailed Grackle is a noisy, large, long-tailed blackbird that thinks golf courses, irrigation ditches, and lawns with sprinkler systems were custom-made for them.  This is another species that is found in metro Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, and any other part of the state that has open to semi-open habitats, including farmland, marshes and wetlands, brushy forest edges, and suburban areas.  In Munds Park I have seen them only around the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course at the ponds and water ditches.  Great-tailed Grackles love being around water, and they have steadily increased in number in Phoenix, for example, because of irrigated lawns, golf courses, and grassy parks.  You will not find them in the real desert areas or mountain areas.  The males have glossy black feathers with an iridescent purple sheen, and in the spring they will strike a distinctive strutting pose to attract females.  The females are smaller and brown with a pale breast. Both the males and females always have yellow eyes.  There are two close relatives of the Great-tailed Grackles in the U.S.  Boat-tailed Grackles are found in Florida and along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.  Common Grackles are smaller than the other two species and are found primarily in the East and Midwest.  All three are rowdy, raucous, and somewhat aggressive towards other birds.  They are all significantly smaller than the Common Crow.  For our Arizona Great-tailed Grackles, look for the long, sleek, black, iridescent body and yellow eye.

 A couple of Sundays ago, two of us ventured to the Kachina Wetlands, which are just west of I-17, for a quick birding trip.  If you go, take the #333 Kachina/Mountainaire exit, then go north on the frontage road (Tovar Trail) on the immediate west side of the freeway all the way until it dead-ends.  The entrance is on the right.  There are eight wastewater treatment ponds, half of them filled with water, and the birding is good.  Highlights of this trip included Yellow-headed Blackbirds, a Sora, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, and Ruddy Ducks. 

 Keep in mind the Hawk Watch is going on right now at the Grand Canyon.  For more information, go to www.hawkwatch.org.

 You can reach me at margaretdyekman@cox.net, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments at www.birdladyblog.wordpress.com.  It is always great to hear from other birders, and I welcome your questions and comments!

September 6, 2010

Hummingbirds

Filed under: Hummingbirds,Munds Park Birding — Munds Park Birding @ 6:03 am

To the best of my observation, we have three hummingbird species found regularly in Munds Park.  They are the Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, and Rufous Hummingbird.

Hummingbirds are amazing creatures.  I am reminded of my nephew, who at the age of five in Illinois saw his first hummingbird fly past and said to my sister in a frightened voice “Mommy, watch out for that big bee!”  He most likely saw the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, the only hummer regularly found east of the Mississippi River, and he was right about the resemblance to a large bee.  In fact, there is a Bee Hummingbird that is only two inches long and the smallest bird in the world.  But it is found in Cuba, not Munds Park.  The largest of hummingbirds is the Giant Hummingbird, found in the Andes Mountain regions of Argentina and Chile.  It is eight inches long.  Hummingbirds across the world range from the smallest at two inches to the largest at eight inches, and here in Munds Park, our hummers are about right in the middle – at three to four inches.

 Here are some interesting facts about hummingbirds:

  • They beat their wings 18-20 times per second.
  • They are the only birds that can fly backwards.
  • They are partial to flower nectar that is at least 15% sugar.
  • For protein they eat small insects and spiders, especially when feeding their young.
  • They spend about 20% of their time eating and 80% resting and digesting.
  • Their heart rate can be as high as 1,280 beats per minute (yes, per minute, not hour).
  • Less than 25 species of hummingbirds have been recorded in the U.S.
  • Chile has recorded 162 different species of hummingbirds!

I am amazed that one country has 162 different species of hummingbirds, but I feel fortunate that here in Arizona we can find many more species than the rest of the country.  In Munds Park, the most common hummingbird is the Broad-tailed Hummingbird.  This bird thrives in pinyon/juniper and pine/oak areas.  The most distinctive feature is its distinct trilling sound as it flies, produced only by the male.  The male has a metallic green back and crown, white breast, rose gorget, and rounded tail.  This species goes into a torpor on cold nights – literally shutting down so that its body temperature is maintained at about 54 degrees when the temperature falls below 44 degrees outside.  An interesting fact about the Broad-tailed Hummingbird is that a banded female holds the North American age record for hummingbirds at 12 years old. 

 Another species I see at our feeder is the Black-chinned Hummingbird.  The male has an iridescent purple throat with a black chin and a white spot behind its eye.  These birds are quite widespread, found from deserts to mountain forests.  This bird will often feed and then return to a favorite perch on a high snag to survey its feeding territory.

The third species is a feisty hummingbird that I wrote about last year – the Rufous Hummingbird.  Of the three in this article, but Rufous is the most aggressive, often diving at competing birds at our feeders.  It is the smallest, at only about three inches, and if any bird has a “Napolean complex”, it would be the Rufous Hummingbird as it chases off other birds around a feeder.   Males are almost all orange or rusty except for their white breast and green wings.  If you see one sitting on your feeder in the bright sunlight, I think you would agree it is gorgeous.

Another important piece of information about hummingbirds:  if you have a feeder, use one part white sugar to four parts water and do not put red food coloring in the mixture.  Artificial coloring is not necessary – birds will find your bright red feeder.  In hot weather, change the sugar water every couple of days, especially if the feeder gets a lot of sun exposure.

I am not going to describe in this article the females of these species because without a lot of study they are difficult to identify.  But if you have more interest in hummingbirds, visit the web site of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, at www.sabo.org.  Located near the San Pedro River in southern Arizona, SABO holds hummingbird banding volunteer workshops.  If you go, you might even get to meet Sheri Williams, a co-founder of SABO and author of the Peterson Field Guide to Hummingbirds in North America.  Or catch the Hummingbird Festival next year at the Arboretum at Flagstaff.  I just visited the Arboretum on a rainy Saturday in August, and even then there was an abundance of hummingbirds in their garden and at their feeders.

You can reach me at margaretdyekman@cox.net, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments at www.birdladyblog.wordpress.com.  It is always great to hear from other birders, and I welcome your questions and comments!

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