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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August 6, 2012

Munds Park Bird Walk


Photo Courtesy of Gordon Karre; Immature Pied-Billed Greve

Our Munds Park Bird Walk on Sunday, July 15th, was held after a day and night of heavy rain.  However, a morning sun and blue sky greeted the dozen birders who met up in the Pinewood Country Club parking lot at 7 a.m.  We Munds Parkers were joined by two gentlemen from Mesa and one from Flagstaff, all of whom helped make our bird walk a very pleasant and informative session.

Our first stop was at the Pinewood Country Club golf course.  Because of the heavy rain the night before, golf was delayed for an hour, so we could bird to our heart’s content without interfering with any golfers.  We spent about 45 minutes at the pond between holes 1 and 18, and immediately we were rewarded with sightings of several Yellow-Headed Blackbirds.  We believe they have nested here this year because we spotted a couple of juveniles in the group. The Red-Winged Blackbirds, Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows, and Violet-Green Swallows were abundant, as were the American Coots.  We were treated to great looks at three recently-hatched Pied-Billed Grebes following a parent and begging for food.  A surprise was a young Red-Naped Sapsucker that was spotted by Gordon Karre, one of the men from Mesa, who had along his camera and recorded many of our sightings.

Next we moved on to Lake Odell.  We spotted the Osprey nest pretty easily, with no Ospreys in sight, but an unexpected find was a Great Blue Heron nest, again on the opposite side from where we were.  Through the spotting scope we were able to see at least one youngster in the nest, and later that week I received reports from two different Munds Parkers that they had seen the nest as well, occupied with more than one juvenile bird.  At the lake we saw Canada Geese, Mallards, Great Blue Herons, a male Ruddy Duck, Eurasian-Collared Dove, Northern Flicker, Black Phoebe, Western Bluebird, and Pygmy Nuthatch.

Our last stop was at two friends’ front yard on Turkey Trail.  We birders sat on deck chairs graciously provided by our hostesses and saw the following birds come to feeders and bird baths:  House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches, White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, a Hairy Woodpecker, and a Mountain Chickadee.  We were hoping for the Red Crossbills to show, but alas and alack, we were not that lucky that morning.  We have since heard they still show up almost daily, with a youngster in tow.

Shortly after 9 a.m. we called it a successful birding walk, and some of us went to the Pinewood Country Club as planned and had breakfast.  There we did a recap of our sightings and just visited with our new birding friends.  Zack Zdinak is the president of the Northern Arizona Audubon Society in Flagstaff and was a great help in finding and quickly identifying some of the birds we saw.  Gordon Karre, who came up to Munds Park for the cooler weather and birding, was our surprise photographer.  He has a blog with photos of many of the birds we saw.  Check it out at http://desertwing.blogspot.com/2012/07/munds-park-az.html.  This wonderful photo of a juvenile Pied-Billed Grebe is courtesy of Gordon.

For those of you who want to venture out of Munds Park for a day and participate in a bird festival, check out the first Hummingbird Festival in Sedona August 3rd through 5th.  You can find more information at http://www.hummingbirdsociety.org/index.php.  For hummingbird lovers here, remember that you do not need to and should not add red food coloring to your feeder sugar water.  Just one part of white sugar to four parts of water is sufficient.  The red feeder will attract the hummers, without the food color additives.

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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