Bird Lady Blog

June 1, 2011

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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