Bird Lady Blog

June 13, 2011

Western Tanager, Abert’s Squirrel, and Quiz

Filed under: Quiz,Uncategorized,Western Tanager — Munds Park Birding @ 9:20 am
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In the last issue I wrote about the beautiful red, yellow, and black Western Tanager,  and I commented that although my friends have seen one in Munds Park, I have not.  On Friday, May 27th, I was having breakfast before golf and had the last issue of the Pinewood News open on the  counter. Surprise, surprise,  moving through branches of a Ponderosa Pine and seen through my kitchen window was a Western Tanager!  It is a gorgeous bird – almost tropical looking – and that sighting just drove home the point that you just never know when you will have a great and unexpected birding experience.  Since that sighting I’ve also heard it singing  – I pulled out my handy iBird Plus application on my iPhone to  onfirm using the recorded song.

We have an Abert’s Squirrel that visits our deck, and in the past it would take long sips of water from the bird bath clamped to the top rail.  Our son nick-named the squirrel Rex, so that’s what we call him.  Abert’s Squirrels are known as the tassel-eared squirrel because of the long tufts of fur on its ears.  These squirrels are found only out West in coniferous forests with Ponderosa Pines, so they are not your run-of-the-mill plain brown squirrels in the forest preserves, parks, and lawns of the Midwest.   Well it seems like this spring Rex has picked up a bad habit and can now climb along the three-foot extended metal pole from which our sunflower feeder hangs.  Rex has taken to gorging himself on the seeds, over 20 feet above the ground, as he happily sits on the bottom round tray of the feeder.

I will now have to do some research to figure out how to prevent Rex from his daily raids.  I have ruled out putting WD-40 or Vaseline on the pole because it would get on his fur or the birds’ feet and would cause problems.  I am probably going to have to get some type of baffle that hopefully
won’t obscure our view of the feeder.  I will keep you posted and let you know what happens – my feeling is that Rex is going to be very persistent now that he’s had a taste of the good life on the Dyekman Deck. Here’s a short quiz to get us started for the summer. I will try to feature each of the “answer birds” in coming articles:

  1. What is the little yellow and black bird that visits our niger/thistle see feeders?  A.  Arizona Canary;  B. Lesser Goldfinch;  C.  Mountain Chickadee;  D. Yellow-Rumped Warbler.
  2. What jay is common is Munds Park?  A. Blue Jay;  B. Pinyon Jay;  C. Gray Jay; D.  Steller’s Jay.
  3. What swallow is not found in Munds Park?  A. Tree Swallow;  B.  Cave Swallow; C.  Barn Swallow;  D. Northern Rough-Winged Swallow.
  4. What large bird nests on the east end of Lake Odell high in the tree tops and eats fish exclusively?  A. Bald Eagle;   B. American
    Crow;  C. Osprey;  D. Black-Crowned Night Heron
  5. Where do Mountain Bluebirds build their nests?  A.  Under the eaves of a deck;  B.  On the ground on a pine needle mound; C.  In a tree cavity or nest box;  D. On a V-shaped branch configuration of an Aspen tree.
  6. What food is not part of the American Robin’s diet?  A. Berries;  B. Earthworms;  C.  Grasshoppers; D.  Carrion.
  7. What warbler is only found in the U.S.  in our part of Arizona and some parts of New
    Mexico?  A;  Red-Faced Warbler;  B. Black-and-White Warbler;  C. Yellow-Rumped Warbler;  D. Pine Warbler.
  8. What woodpecker common to Munds Park is also known as the “clown-faced woodpecker”?  A.  Downy Woodpecker; B.  Lewis’ Woodpecker;  C. Acorn Woodpecker;  D.  Pileated Woodpecker.

I hope you have some fun with the quiz.  Answers will be in the next blog post.

June 1, 2011

Nesting Western Screech Owls

Filed under: Uncategorized — Munds Park Birding @ 9:57 pm
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Here’s a photo of one of two of the fledgling Western Screech Owls that are in my nest box in our back yard at about 48th street and Camelback, Phoenix.  Just discovered both of them poking their heads out on June 1st – and they flew out of the box well after dusk and after a parent bird showed up on the telephone wire.  Very exciting!  See my Birding Technology and Us post for a link to the nest box plans.

Spring Catch-up and Western Tanager

Filed under: Uncategorized — Munds Park Birding @ 9:47 pm
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This is a busy time for all of us – year-round residents tackling spring cleaning, summer residents hauling belongings back up to a welcoming Munds Park, all of us opening windows and letting the warmer breezes flow through the house, and yes, listening to the birds’ mating songs and watching them begin nest building and raising their broods.
So what else should we birders be doing this time of the year? For starters, clean out your bird feeders and birdbaths with a very mild solution of chlorine bleach and water. Rinse well and re-hang, and try to do this cleaning routine every couple of weeks. If you have a nest box, I hope you emptied and re-hung it last fall so it’s ready now. I built a couple of new nest boxes this winter and have given them away already, but I intend to bring up my clamping table and battery-powered hand tools and spend lazy afternoons building a few more. I find this activity very relaxing, and if my angles are not exactly squared or the wood screws not spaced perfectly, it doesn’t matter to the birds – so I don’t get stressed.
There are two types of nest boxes that best fit the needs of birds in Munds Park – one for our Western Bluebirds/Tree Swallows, and the other for Mountain Chickadees/Nuthatches/Brown Creepers. The former has an entry hole that is one-and-one-half inches in diameter, while the latter has an entry hole that is one-and-one-eighth inches in diameter. There are many on-line resources from which you can order a nest box or bird feeders. Start with the online site of Wild Birds Unlimited and then search the web for other on-line stores. You can also review my “Birding Technology and Us” article that includes a link to a free downloadable booklet with nest box and bird feeder plans at www.birdladyblog.wordpress.com.
What birds should you be on the watch for right away? American Crow, Steller’s Jay, Lesser Goldfinch, American Robin, Western Bluebird, and Mountain Chickadee. And of course the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, with its distinctive buzzing sound.
I received a report from Cindi S. and Kathy K. that early in May they saw a Western Tanager. That is a bird I had not written about yet, and it is a beauty. First recorded during the Lewis and Clark expeditions of 1803 to 1806, the Western Tanager is a medium-sized songbird with striking colors of red, yellow, and black. Of the Tanager family, it nests the furthest north. From March to August the breeding male has a bright red head; the female is mostly greenish-yellow with a dusky black back. According to ornithology research, the red pigment in the male’s face comes from the insects that it eats. The first time I saw a Western Tanager was in Durango, Colorado in 1990, and then another in Reno, Nevada, in 1998 on a business trip. I have yet to see one in Munds Park, but I know they are out there. This bird will come to a feeder that has fruit it in, but otherwise it is primarily an insect eater.
Stepping back into what happened over the winter, I have two note-worthy bird sightings to report. First was a Roseate Spoonbill I saw while golfing at Pebble Creek, in Goodyear, in December. Along with Jackie Riley, I was representing the Pinewood Women’s Golf Association in the State Medallion Tournament. The bird was hanging out with Great Egrets on one of the golf course ponds. And to think I made a trip all the way to Texas several years back to see that bird! Arizona is way out of the Roseate Spoonbill range – normally it is found on the southern coasts, and it is a wading bird. It is still being seen in western Maricopa County as I write this article. The second sighting worth mentioning was an adult Bald Eagle soaring over the ASU Karsten Golf Course in early May while I played in another tournament. How very cool was that? That was the only “eagle” I got that day – for those of you who golf, you understand what I mean!

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