Bird Lady Blog

January 1, 2016

Birds of Prey


Zone-Tailed Hawk

Zone-Tailed Hawk

The common names for birds of prey are eagles, hawks, falcons, kites, harriers, vultures, and owls.  In ornithology, “bird of prey” has a narrow meaning: those birds with very good eyesight for finding food, strong feet for holding food, and a strong curved beak for tearing flesh.  Most birds of prey also have strong curved talons for catching or killing.  So as I recently discovered, a sea gull, which forages for fish with its beak, would not fall into the bird of prey category, but an osprey, which catches fish with its talons and then rips it apart with a curved beak, would.

In and around Munds Park we have several birds of prey, and I recently spotted a new one while I was golfing (again) one afternoon.  A single bird of prey was soaring above us at the 8th hole of Pinewood County Club, and it got low and close enough for a real good look through my binoculars.  My first thought was that it looked different from our Turkey Vulture, but not that different.  When it got closer I could see a distinctive white band across its tail and broader wings without the distinctive coloration of a Turkey Vulture.  Plus, it was solitary – whereas most of the Turkey Vultures soaring above the Golf Course are in a group.

I pulled out my trusty iPhone and used the bird ap iBird Plus 7.2 and whittled it down to two species:  Common Black-Hawk or Zone-Tailed Hawk.  Both are black-ish, with the underside wing pattern a bit similar to that of a Turkey Vulture, but where they live is different.  The Common Black-Hawk is found primarily in southern Arizona; the Zone-Tailed Hawk, according to my bird aps and books, has a preferred habitat of deep, wooded canyons and mountainous, rugged areas, hunting in grasslands or sparse forests.  So even though I only got one good look at this bird (in between golf shots), I am going to say that it was a Zone-Tailed Hawk.  I can remember what hole I saw the hawk on, but for the life of me I cannot remember what my next golf shot was like.  I guess I have my priorities straight.

Other birds of prey we can see here are Bald Eagles (occasionally spotted soaring or perched on the limbs of a dead tree), Red-Tailed Hawk (the most common hawk in the U.S.), Northern Harrier (I saw one hunting just one time in my 15 years here), Peregrine Falcon (occasionally) and our resident Ospreys.  The Ospreys used to have a nest on the east side of Lake Odell, but for the last two or three years have now built their nest at the top of a tall dead tree to the south of Hole 13 at Pinewood Country Club.   We have seen as many as four Ospreys at a time – presumably the parents and two offspring.  Other golf courses in the area that also have resident Ospreys with nests are Forest Highlands Country Club and Pine Canyon Country Club.

The bird of preys I haven’t seen in Munds Park are any kind of owls.  No sightings, no hearing their hooting – nothing.  I suppose there may be owls here, but for the life of me I don’t know where.  If anyone thinks they have seen or heard an owl, I would be interested in hearing from you.

September 11, 2013

My Favorite Birding Things – Part 2

Filed under: Birding,Birding Technology and Us,Plumbeous Vireo — Munds Park Birding @ 9:47 pm
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Plumbeous Vireo courtesy Gordon Karre

Plumbeous Vireo courtesy Gordon Karre

In Part 1 I wrote about bird baths and feeders.  Part 2 is all about technology, binoculars, books, and magazines.  Let me start with how much information and fun technology brings to the birding experience.

For the past several weeks I’ve heard a bird calling high in the trees around our house.  I finally was able to spot it with my binoculars, but it was a bit of a challenge to get a really good look as I strained my neck peering straight up into the Ponderosa Pine.  It was mostly pale underneath and had a narrow beak – indicative of insect-eaters, not seed-eaters.  It also seemed larger than a warbler, so my first thought was a vireo.  I whipped out my smart phone and pulled up the iBird application.  Scrolled to “vireos” and looked at the pale-breasted vireo options.  Assumed this was a breeding bird since I had been hearing it for a few weeks now.  Considered the Plumbeous Vireo because its habitat and range were right – including breeding in northern Arizona in coniferous and mixed forests.  But to finally put the nail in the coffin, so to speak, I hit the “sound  icon” on my phone ap and heard the vocalization.  Bingo!  Within just a couple of minutes using my binoculars and iBird, I confirmed that the bird I had been hearing was indeed a Plumbeous Vireo – another life bird for me, and right here in our Munds Park front yard.

Technology has helped me a lot when birding.  I use the internet to learn all about bird festivals and their schedules and to search for a bird and learn more about it.  The Cornell University Lab of Ornithology site is excellent – http://www.birds.cornell.edu.   I’ve pulled up nest box plans from the North Dakota State Game and Fish Department’s website and built Screech Owl, Chickadee, and Bluebird houses.  For my Pinewood News articles I go to Gordon Karre’s Flickr account and download one of his wonderful photos to supplement the text.  Just a cut and paste, and then I send everything off via e-mail to our paper’s editor for uploading.  I have two bird field guides on my iPhone:  iBird and Peterson’s Birds of North America.  The first one was $20, and I got the Peterson’s ap for $1 during a special sale.  I also have traditional book field guides including several of Peterson’s and Sibley’s, which are great, but wow, what handy resources to have when out and about – two comprehensive field guides in my smart phone!

Of course, binoculars are a must when birding.  Telescopes and binoculars were invented in the early 17th century, and today they are refined into many different types at varying costs.  I have six pairs – one I keep in my golf bag.  My favorites are a Swift Audubon 8.5×44 that my husband bought me over 20 years ago.  It’s just a good solid wide-angle choice that works well with a neck/shoulder harness.  I also really like my smallest pair – a Leopold 6×32 that is great around the house here.  It is light-weight, focuses at a distance of six feet, and fits well in a carry-on when I travel.

Finally, let me quickly mention the magazines I subscribe to:  1)  Bird Watchers Digest – family-owned publication, also with an on-line version, small enough to carry in a purse, with a variety of articles about species, birding destinations, Q&As, humor, and special interest articles.  Need a great gift for someone who likes birds?  Get them a subscription for $30 a year.  2)  Birds and Blooms, for a light/fun reading about gardens and birds.  I was introduced to this magazine by my Munds Park neighbor who gave me her back issues to read a few years ago.  The special price now is $20 for two years.  3)  Arizona Wildlife Views, a publication of the Arizona Game and Fish Department for the nature-lovers and hunters in Arizona.  The cost of an annual subscription is $8.50.

Last but not least – I am happy to report that two of my golfing friends spotted the “blue-billed” duck on the pond at Hole 18 on different days – so the Ruddy Duck has come back, at least for a few days.  I will let you know if we see it again.  That’s why binoculars in my golf bag come in handy!

August 4, 2010

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 listserv@listserv.arizona.edu 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 (www.allaboutbirds.org) 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 www.ebird.org 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:   http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/wildlife/ndblinds/ndblinds.pdf.  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 www.birdwatchersdigest.com 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 margaretdyekman@cox.net, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments, if you are so inclined, 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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