Bird Lady Blog

May 26, 2015

What I Learned in Africa About Munds Park Birding


African Fish-Eagle

African Fish-Eagle

This past January we took a three-week trip to southern Africa to golf and go on safaris.  I of course also planned to do some semi-serious birding.  Semi-serious in that I made no changes to our itinerary to see specific birds, but I did take with me a field guide of the most common 500 birds of southern Africa and my lightweight Leopold binoculars.  I learned several things on this trip.

  1. There are many families of birds in southern Africa (in our case Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa) that are similar to birds here in Munds Park and were easy for me to identify. For example, we have the Pied Grebe species here, seen regularly in Lake Odell or the Pinewood Country Club’s ponds.   The Little Grebe species of southern Africa is similar but even smaller.  We were golfing, and there it was in a pond near the 1st tee box.  It is so small that at first I thought it was a baby or juvenile.  Another example is the African Fish-Eagle.  It has a white head and dark body and you would think “Bald Eagle” when you first spot it.  We see an occasional Bald Eagle in Munds Park soaring in the sky or perched high in a tree limb. We also get Canada Geese in Munds Park, and in Africa they get the Egyptian Goose.  Both species are often considered pests at parks and golf courses because they are so common and so messy.  One of the smaller, similar birds I identified was a Barn Swallow – almost exactly like the ones we have in Munds Park.  And we have our Band-Tailed Pigeon, which is unique to the western United States.  In Botswana I saw the Speckled Pigeon and the African Green Pigeon species.
  2. Another thing I learned is that there are many families of birds in Munds Park that have no connection to any in southern Africa, at least in my non-scientific opinion. I didn’t see nuthatches (we have White-Breasted, Pygmy, and Red-Breasted), or hummingbirds (we have Anna’s and Rufous) or anything similar to our Munds Park’s Black-Headed Grosbeak or Western Bluebird.
  3. There were a lot of bird families I had to become familiar with, and I was helped greatly because we had very knowledgeable safari guides with us. Bee-eaters, Barbets, Bulbuls, Hornbills, and Weavers were just some of the new bird families I saw, and within those families there were different unique species.  The feather colors and sizes and shapes of their bills or head feathers always made for challenging and fun bird watching by all of us on the trip.
  4. Speaking of all of us on the trip, there were 12 of us, and everyone became a mini-birder during those three weeks. Everyone commented that seeing all the birds in between Lion or Hippo watching, for example, made the trip much more interesting.  All in all I was able to identify 125 new bird species – without trying very hard.
  5. The last thing I learned is to be prepared. I took one pair of binoculars – I should have taken at least a second pair.  I could have used stronger binoculars (such as a 10×50) for longer distances, plus others on the trip could have used my spare when I wasn’t.  Having the field guide in advance was a real advantage.  To translate that to Munds Park, I would suggest you have a field guide of US Western Birds, at minimum, handy in your house and invest in a decent pair of binoculars.  I have used Eagle Optics and Amazon when ordering online, and you can find a satisfactory pair for under $200.
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July 26, 2014

Who Will be the First?


“Who will be the first?” That was my question when I drove up on April 30th to meet our Munds Park plumber and to accomplish two other things: bring up a couple cases of wine and some 30 pounds of bird seed. After all, I have to get my priorities straight. But my question was really meant for the birds: after I filled up our bird feeders, which bird species will be the first this season to come to one of our feeders? The answer surprised me.

As I was driving up I-17, I was thinking it would be the Lesser Goldfinches to come to the nyger seed feeder. Or perhaps the Pine Siskins. Then again, maybe it would be the Mountain Chickadees that frequent the black oil sunflower seeds, or possibly the Nuthatches – I thought if any Nuthatches showed up right away, it would be the Pygmy Nuthatches instead of the White Breasted Nuthatches.

The first thing I did was clean the bird feeders: some mild detergent, a stiff brush, and a good rinsing. Then I dragged the wine and bird seed out of the car and set to work putting in place the metal deck poles on which I hang the feeders. While I was still assembling the deck poles, a Dark-Eyed Junco landed on the railing, not too far from me, and called out with its “chip, chip, chip” for about a minute. I was surprised because normally Juncos are quite secretive and I don’t see them at the feeder too often. They like to stay on the ground searching for dropped seeds, not at 30 feet up. The Junco flew away. I proceeded to fill the feeders and then went inside to tend to indoor chores. While I watched through the window, the Junco came back right and landed on the tray feeder at the corner of the deck. That is where I had put the “premium song bird mixture” which consisted mostly of black sunflower seeds, millet, some peanuts, and small pieces of dried berries. So there was the answer to my question: the Dark-Eyed Junco was the first on our deck this season.

Since then, we have had the usual feathered-friend suspects mentioned above at our feeders, plus Black-Headed Grosbeaks. In fact, a female Grosbeak took a major bath in our deck birdbath and most exuberantly splashed its feathers 16 times in a row for a very thorough bath. At one time we had five Grosbeaks on the tray feeder.

It’s been a good start to the season, and I for one am happy to make the return to Munds Park. A good glass of wine, a few sociable birds, the usual May/June blowing winds, and dear friends and neighbors – we are very lucky indeed.

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