Bird Lady Blog

January 1, 2016

Reader Questions


Black-Headed Grosbeak

Black-Headed Grosbeak

It has been a busy two weeks with reader correspondence.  The most common question has been “where have all the birds gone?”  The answer, I think, is that they are migrating!  At least many of them are.  The Black-Headed Grosbeaks seem to leave in mid-August.  I haven’t seen an American Robin in a while.  But what about the Lesser Goldfinch?  They are still here in Munds Park but not that active at our feeders.  The theory:  they are spending more time on the wild flower seeds from all the vegetation that has bloomed and now is going to seed.  And the Western Bluebirds are abundant – one of the last to arrive in Munds Park and last to leave for fall migration.

On the other hand, the Canada Geese are sticking around and have been seen at the ponds of the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course.  Also at the ponds was a new hatch of American Coots – must be the second brood of the season.  At first the babies are black with red head feathers and a red beak – very cute!  Then they turn into a boring gray before the distinctive black body and white beak.

Second question:  What happened to the Osprey nest?  This question came from my women golfer friends, who exhibited much concern since the Osprey nest, often with one or two birds on it, has been part of the landscape on the back nine of the golf course this summer and last summer.  There were several theories:  1) the tree the nest was built on fell down of natural causes; 2) some terrible person cut down the tree because the Ospreys are loud, vocal birds and disturbed the human’s sleep; 3) the nest tumbled down on its own during the last very big storm, which seemed to be a micro-burst of rough weather.  My friends and I concluded that the most likely answer is #3, primarily because we see one of the Osprey perched on a tall tree that we think was the exact one that held the nest.  So the Ospreys are going back to a familiar place only to find that the house up and crashed, and they will have to build another next year.  We all hope it will be in the same place so we can keep an eye on it in between our golf club swings.

Third question:  Why don’t we have Magpies in Munds Park?  The Black-Billed Magpie is a very large, noisy, black and white member of the jay family.  I have seen them in Colorado when we visited Durango.  The only part of Arizona they inhabit is the northeast corner of Apache Country – almost into Colorado.  I did manage to find a scientific paper on Magpies in Arizona and concluded that probably temperature and humidity are the reasons they are not here.  Probably a good thing, because the American Crows are noisy enough and I’m not sure we need another bird species to compete with them!

Lastly, a reader did say that she switched to nyger seeds and safflower seeds and the Brown-Headed Cowbirds went away and the Lesser Goldfinches returned.  So that was a happy resolution to that dilemma.

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.

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.

A Special Sighting – Bullock’s Oriole

Filed under: Birding,Birdwatchers,Munds Park Birding,Uncategorized — Munds Park Birding @ 3:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

Courtesy of Gordon Karre

Courtesy of Gordon Karre

A few days ago I received an e-mail from a very excited Munds Park resident about a new visitor to her bird bath.  Martha, who lives on Reindeer Drive, had a male Bullock’s Oriole visit her birdbath on July 11th.  Needless to say, she was thrilled because 1) it is such a striking, beautiful, brightly-colored bird, and 2) all the effort she has put into making her yard bird-friendly paid off for yet another species – and this one quite special indeed.

If you are from the Midwest, you may have heard of the Baltimore Oriole.  Actually if you are a professional baseball fan, then for sure you have heard of the “Baltimore Orioles” team out in Maryland.  But not too many people have heard of the Bullock’s Oriole (no pro-sports team named after it!), yet it is found throughout the western U.S. in habitats such as deciduous and riparian woodlands, parks, and towns.  I’m guessing ours was passing through because this is the first reported sighting I’ve heard of, and based on my research I think we are at too high of an elevation to have it as a regular.  I went into my “Birders Life List and Diary” where I record my sightings and saw that the first Bullock’s Oriole I ever noted was in 1990, in Cuyamaca, California.  I also have a sighting from the Salt River area in the Valley from 1998, and another in Escondido, California.

Just how did Martha get so lucky to have this bird in her yard?  Well, it’s is by no means only luck, because the “secret sauce” is comprised of her two bird baths, complete with drippers.  She reports that her bird-watching has improved dramatically since adding the drippers, which hook onto the side of her bird bath.  She purchased them through Wild Birds Unlimited in Scottsdale.  I live about one mile from that location and did not even know WBU had moved into the neighborhood!  Martha has a great bird-bath setup and in addition to the very special Bullock’s Oriole, she has many of our regular residents:  Western Tanagers, Black-Headed Grosbeaks, Lesser Goldfinch, Nuthatches, American Robins, and on and on, all attracted by that dripping water.

I am happy to report that the male Ruddy Duck has been seen regularly this season at the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course pond between Hole 1 and 18.  There may be a female with it – we are not sure – but I can assure you that if we get ducklings, my golfer/birder friends will let me know in an instant!  We have not seen any Yellow-Headed Blackbirds, probably because the habitat is not right this year.  And last but not least, the two hatched Yellow-Eyed Juncos reported by Bill and Corrine “flew the flower pot” so to speak and left the nest in it empty.  This was the nest that originally had four eggs, was raided by a Stellar’s Jay, and ended up with two baby birds that successfully fledged.

September 11, 2013

My Favorite Birding Things – Part 1


Black-Headed Grosbeak courtesy of Gordon Karre

Black-Headed Grosbeak courtesy of Gordon Karre

My newest favorite birding thing is our new cement bird bath, bought this spring at the Munds Park Farmer’s Market.  It is very heavy – made of cement – and sits just about eight inches off the ground on a small pedestal that actually looks like an upside down Bundt pan.  I especially like the blue-colored bottom of the water bowl because it stands out, and I like that it is solid enough that I can hose it down hard to clean it and it doesn’t tip over.  So far I’ve seen Dark-Eyed Juncos and Lesser Goldfinch drinking from it.

My other bird bath is attached to the back deck and it is used a lot by all types of birds, including American Crows.  This one is a plastic tray and it hangs over the deck, so I keep a flat rock in it to hold down the tray if it gets dry and the wind is blowing hard.  Just today as I wrote this article a female Black-Headed Grosbeak took a bath in it.

I have three types of feeders out on the back deck.  One is an inexpensive, plastic stout feeder that has four very small perches.  I put sunflower seeds in it.  The best part about this feeder is that the Band-Tailed Pigeons cannot perch on it.  They dominated my other feeder that has a larger perch, and none of the other birds could have a turn.  So now this feeder is visited regularly by Pygmy Nuthatches, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Black-Headed Grosbeaks, Mountain Chickadees, and Pine Siskins.

The second feeder is an 18-inch tall tube just for nyger seed, and it attracts Lesser Goldfinch and Pine Siskins.  Pine Siskins are small finch-like birds, very plain brown, but with heavy striping on the breasts.    The wings have small patches of yellow, but mostly you can describe them as small, brown-streaked birds.  They usually travel in compact flocks, so where there is one Pine Siskin, there will be others.

My third feeder is a tray feeder I built from some leftover lumber and screen, about two feet square and two inches deep.  This feeder is my concession to the squirrels and the Band-Tailed Pigeons.  Mostly I put sunflower seeds in this one, but sometimes peanuts in the shell or cheaper, mixed bird seed.  The squirrel have learned to precariously climb the three-foot rod that holds the feeder, and the Band-Tailed Pigeons will sit on it six at a time and make it crooked with their weight.

Let me not forget to mention the Acorn Woodpeckers.  They also will come to the tray feeder and the other sunflower seed feeder.  And the peanuts in the tray will attract the Steller’s Jays.  They are stunning in the sunlight with their blue and black iridescent coloring.

June 30, 2012

House Birds Part I

Filed under: Grosbeak,Nuthatches,Red-Faced Warbler — Munds Park Birding @ 2:19 pm
Tags: , ,

Photo courtesy of David Cree

What birds are showing up at your house?  If you have feeders, the answer to that question will depend on what kind of bird food you are offering.  If you have a bird bath, you may attract a wider variety of birds.  If you have a shallow fountain with trickling or moving water, you will have an even better chance of attracting a variety of species.

So let’s start with the type of bird seed you might use and narrow down the obvious choices.  Even if you are only a beginning birder and your bird watching is focused on your own property, you should be able to identify the common birds with a minimal amount of effort.

With a nyger seed feeder (plastic or sock tube) you will attract Lesser Goldfinches and Pine Siskins.  The male Lesser Goldfinch has a bright yellow breast, olive back, and a black head.  Females and immature are duller, lack the black cap, and have olive backs and breasts.  Often at the same time the Goldfinches are feeding you will see Pine Siskins.  These birds are just a little bigger than the Goldfinches, and they are mostly brown with definite brown striping on a light colored breast.  The wings have a small patch of yellow and two white wing bars.

If you have a feeder with sunflowers seeds, millet, and milo, you will attract a nice variety of birds.  Look for the Black-Headed Grosbeak, Mountain Chickadee, and two types of Nuthatches:  Pygmy and White-Breasted.  The Black-Headed Grosbeak is stunning with a mix of black, orange, and white.  The Mountain Chickadee is mostly black and white with a black cap; it is a small, busy bird, also easily identified by its call, which sounds just like its name: “chick a dee dee dee”.  Nuthatches are small birds with almost no necks.  They creep up and down trees, head first, jamming nuts into tree crevices and then “hatching” them apart with their large bills to get to the seeds.  With this type of seed, you will also get Band-Tailed Pigeons, and if seeds fall to the ground, you will be visited by Mourning Doves.

When you add a feeder with peanuts, you should see Acorn Woodpeckers and Steller’s Jays.  The Steller’s Jay has a black and crested head, iridescent dark blue body, and loud call.  You may also attract the American Crow.  While sitting on our deck and writing this article, an American Crow came to our bird bath and dunked unshelled peanuts in the water, and then either opened and ate them here or flew off to eat them in the woods.  I don’t know from where the Crow got the peanuts, but our bird bath was the next stop for the Crow’s meal preparation.

Fresh water is a thrifty way to attract birds, especially dripping or spraying water.  I am thrilled to report that while taking a break from writing this article and turning on our front yard sprinklers in the late afternoon, I spotted a Red-Faced Warbler flitting from tree to tree.  I have been trying to see this bird for six years. There it was: a small, mostly-gray bird with a brilliant red head and neck, showing up at the start of a phone call with my mother in Illinois as I was sitting on the front deck and monitoring the sprinklers.  It stayed around for over 15 minutes, giving me great looks with and without binoculars, while my patient mother heard about this “lifer” during the phone call.  This bird is very rare in the United States – only found in the high mountains of Arizona and New Mexico.  As I’ve stated in past articles, you never know when you may run across that special bird, so always keep your eyes and ears open.

Blog at WordPress.com.