Bird Lady Blog

July 23, 2011

Around Lake Odell

Filed under: Osprey,Pied Billed Grebe — Munds Park Birding @ 9:31 am

Whenever I have some spare time, I drive, walk or ATV down to Lake Odell to see what birds might be around.  Depending on the time of day and how much time I actually have, I can see quite a few of our regulars.  I get good looks at Western Bluebirds, American Crows, American Coots, Mallards, any of our Swallow species, and sometimes a Northern Flicker, Acorn Woodpecker, or Steller’s Jay.  Of note again are the Ospreys that are nesting in their usual spot, high at the top of a tree on the east side of the lake.  With a good pair of binoculars, or better yet a spotting scope, you usually can see one of the Ospreys sitting on the nest.  Sometimes visitors to the lake who see it soaring erroneously identify this bird as an eagle, and yet they are partially right.  The Osprey is nicknamed “Sea Eagle”, and its name comes from the combination of the Greek words “hals”,
which means salt or sea, and “aetos” or eagle. It is the only bird that preys exclusively on live fish.  As a side note, there is also a large active
Osprey nest on the tall dead pine tree in the middle of the fairway of Hole #2 of Pine Canyon Golf Course in Flagstaff.  Our Ospreys have chosen a much more secluded spot to raise their young.

Some other birds I saw recently at Lake Odell are Canada Geese, which are usually sunning themselves at the far southeast side of the lake in the meadow-like area.  I wrote about this species last year in a waterfowl article, and it looks like they are breeding here.  I counted nine adults and
three juveniles. One waterfowl bird I haven’t written about until now is the Pied-Bill Grebe, which I saw a couple of times already in Lake Odell.  There are several species of grebes found in the U.S. – Clark’s, Eared, Horned, Least, Red-Necked, Western, and Pied Billed.  The Pied-Billed Grebe is found in 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii not included), and it is a medium-sized stocky bird with grayish brown upperparts and white upper parts.  The word “pied” in its name has always intrigued me, and I even use the word when playing Scrabble or Words With Friends on my iPhone.  So I finally looked up the definition of “pied” and found that it means two or more contrasting colors, which indeed describes this bird’s bill – white, black white.  The Pied-Billed Grebe is almost always found in the water all by itself, unlike groups of ducks or coots milling together.  You will see it dive under the water as it hunts insects, crustaceans, and fish.  This bird also dives to escape danger, is rarely seen in flight, and when it does migrate, does so at night.  It builds its nest on a floating mass of dead vegetation that is usually anchored to a log or dead trees.  What I would really like to see is a Pied-Bill Grebe swimming on the water with its young chicks on its back.  I’m afraid that to do that I’d have to camp out at Lake Odell a good part of the spring, and then I would be missing too many tee times.

In the last issue I mentioned the Abert’s Squirrel we nick-named Rex who learned how to climb along the three-foot extended metal pole from which our sunflower feeder hangs.  I put up a make-shift baffle (made from two McDonald’s plastic chocolate shake cups) on that pole and Rex has since avoided that feeder.  The cups look tacky, but at least I now know I can now invest in a real baffle and solve the problem.  However, Rex has instead found he can make a small leap onto our flat feeder tray instead and get the same meal there.  I finally decided that’s OK.  That tray is at the side of the deck, mostly used by the Band-tailed Pigeons, and Rex is sort of cute to watch anyways.  On the other hand, he also will chew through any fabric item left on our desk, so beware – cuteness has its limits.

For those of you who missed the answers from the Quiz in the last issue, they are:  1B; 2D; 3B; 4C; 5C; 6D; 7A; 8C.

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