Bird Lady Blog

May 19, 2014

Getting the Season Started


Photo Courtesy of Gordon Karre

Photo Courtesy of Gordon Karre

Another spring is upon us, and the birds have been busy.  Their main goals right now are to find a mate and successfully reproduce to carry on the species.  Let’s start with the cavity-nesting birds – meaning those that will nest in a bird house or nest box, a hole in a tree, or even a cavity in a stump, fence post, or flower pot.  

The common cavity-nesters in Munds Park are Mountain Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Western Bluebirds, and Tree Swallows.  There are House Wrens around as well – very small and busy brown birds that may also use your nest box.  From a human’s viewpoint, these birds have the most obvious nest sites because if we put up a bird house, you know darn well that we are watching to see if it will be used.  And when that does happen, it is exciting and entertaining to watch the parent birds fly back and forth first bringing in nesting material and later feeding their young.  If we are around to see the birds fledge out of the nest box, then we are proudly sharing the experience with our grandkids or spouse or neighbors.  We get satisfaction knowing that the nest box we built or bought, secured to the tree, cleaned out season after season, and diligently watched actually produced a new generation of birds.

Other birds’ nests are much less obvious.  We know that Ospreys have nested high in the trees on the east side of Lake O’Dell.  That nest can be spotted with a good pair of binoculars or scope.  Turkey Vultures, which soar regularly in groups over the golf course, I-17, and the western Pinewood Boulevard area, most likely have their nests very far from the heart of Munds Park.  They prefer to nest away from civilization, and the sites are typically cooler than the surrounding area.  Turkey Vultures nest on rock crevices, ledges, fallen trees, and abandoned hawk or heron nests.  

Another large bird, the American Crow, hides its nests in a large crotch of a tree and prefers evergreen trees like our Ponderosa Pines.  Both the male and female contribute to nest building, and the nest is made of medium size twigs and lined with pine needles, weeds, and a variety of other soft material.  Part of the success of raising a brood is having a nesting site that is safe from predators and weather disturbances, so expect to look hard and be very observant to identify a nesting site other than a nest box.

 Let me end with the sighting of the month:  Dan and Laurie reported a Yellow-Headed Blackbird at their bird feeder on April 26th – when Munds Park had a spring storm that dumped a few inches of snow on the ground.  Usually we only see these birds mid-summer and around the ponds at the Pinewood Country Club golf course, so this one was probably passing through and got way-laid with the bad weather.  But as I always say, you never know what bird you might find at a moment you least expect it.

 

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May 2, 2014

Mish Mash


Red-Faced Warbler courtesy of Gordon Karre

Red-Faced Warbler courtesy of Gordon Karre

Usually I like to have a theme for these articles, but sometimes it’s good to try something different, so instead I’ll ramble a bit.

After the woodpecker article, I was contacted by Mel and Marsha who live on Caribou Road.  They reported that this winter, beginning February 16th to be exact, they had a “bully bird” at their feeder for two months.  They described it as a pretty bird, but it was so dominating that it kept other birds from coming to their feeders.  It had a greenish-black back and a pinkish-salmon colored belly, and yes, they identified it as a Lewis’ Woodpecker.  I really appreciated hearing from them because no one else to-date has reported seeing this woodpecker here in Munds Park.  For those of you who are year-round residents, this will be good bird to keep watch for during the winter.

A while back I wrote about Martha and the bird-friendly environment she has created in her front and back yards on Reindeer.  After seeing her water set-up, I went to Wild Birds Unlimited in Scottsdale and bought the same equipment.  It consists of a hose hook-up to our outside water spigot, quarter-inch tubing, a valve that controls the drip or spray of water into my birdbath, and brackets to position the drip or spray over the bath.  It really works well, and this last Sunday right before heading out the door for golf, I spotted the Red-Faced Warbler flitting in the trees near the bird bath drip.  That was my first spotting of the Red-Faced Warbler all year.  The previous time it was in the same area but I was running a hose sprinkler – so this bird is definitely attracted by running or dripping water.

The Red-Faced Warbler is a small, mostly-gray bird with a brilliant red head and neck that is only found in the high mountains of Arizona and New Mexico.  If you have seen this bird and have birder friends back East, you should definitely brag to them about the sighting because this bird is really quite rare.

The Yellow-Headed Blackbirds have reappeared at the pond at Pinewood Country Club.  Also in the same pond we recently spotted a Great Blue Heron.  It is the largest and most widespread heron in the U.S., and you can find one pretty easily at Lake Odell, your local golf course, and urban ponds or fishing lakes in the rest of Arizona.  These herons migrate all the way into Mexico and Central America.

What I have not seen here in a number of years is a Brown Creeper.  They are small, brown, inconspicuous birds that “creep” up the largest trees they can find searching for insects.  On our second house-hunting trip here in Pinewood, I spotted a Brown Creeper in a tree on the property of the first house we ended up buying.  Can you imagine what Rosie our realtor was thinking?  “Yes, my client bought that house on Thunderbird because there was a bird she liked on the property”.  Well, if any of you see one around here, please let me know and I’ll make sure the rest of Munds Park gets the update.

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 29, 2012

Uncommon Birds


Photo Courtesy of Gordon Karre

In early July I saw two species of birds I had never seen before:  Red Crossbill and Cassin’s Finch.  Both of these birds are found in Munds Park, but they are not as prevalent or as easily seen as others I’ve written about.  And a third uncommon species, the Yellow-Headed Blackbird, has reappeared on the pond between the 1st and 18th hole of Pinewood Country Club’s golf course after having not been seen for a couple of seasons.

Thanks to the observations and wonderful bird-friendly Turkey Trail front yard of two friends, I was able to see the Red Crossbill and Cassin’s Finch.  On July 2nd we just sat on their front porch chairs and watched the activity around their bird feeders and baths.  About 10:30 a.m. male and female Red Crossbills showed up at the feeders.  Red Crossbills are peculiar birds because of their beaks:  the upper and lower bills are very obviously crossed.  These birds are dependent on conifer cones, and their bills are adapted specifically for extracting seeds from the cones.  They are part of the finch family, a bit on the large side, and the males are mostly a dull red, while the females are a greenish-yellow.  Their distinguishing feature is the crossed bill, and they appear often in small flocks when there is an abundance of seed cones.

A second surprise that morning was a Cassin’s Finch.  Recently I wrote about the House Finch, which appears in many locales, including Phoenix, but the Cassin’s Finch is found in the West’s mountains.  The male is rosy pink on the head and chest, but its distinguishing characteristic is a bright red “crown” on its head.  The crown is the brightest part of the bird in this species and also contrasts with the brown back of the neck.  A narrow, whitish eye ring may be visible at close range, and that is another of the ways we were able to identify the Cassin’s Finch we saw on Turkey Trail.

Yellow-Headed Blackbirds are exciting to find – the males have bright golden-yellow heads that contrast with their otherwise black bodies.  The males do have white wing bars that are easy to see in flight.  Yellow-Headed Blackbirds nest in the tall reeds of a pond or wetland, sharing space with Red-Winged Blackbirds, but using the deeper parts of the wetland or body of water.  Females are considerably smaller than males and have unstreaked, brownish-black bodies, no wing-bars, and yellowish-brown heads.  These birds prefer larger, deeper wetlands, so the only place we have seen them in Munds Park is on the Golf Course pond to the left of the green on Hole #1.

A number of people have told me about nesting activity, baby birds fledging from their nests, and parent birds feeding young ones.  We have had reports of nesting House Wrens, again on Turkey Trail, and I saw two House Wrens duck into a cypress tree, again on the Golf Course.  Diane on Zia Place has Violet-Green Swallows nesting in one of her nest boxes, Pat and Roy H., and Carol D., have nesting Tree Swallows in their nest boxes near Lake Odell.  And I saw four juvenile Steller’s Jays that must have just fledged from their nest – all sitting in a row on a log below our deck.  The parent bird came back now and then to feed them, and by dark they had moved to a hidden area.  But those four young birds looked as if they were in awe of the big world around them as they perched side by side, looking around and waiting for their parent to return and show them how to pick up seeds and insects from the forest floor.  I hope they are now surviving and thriving on their own.

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