Bird Lady Blog

August 17, 2017

Belted Kingfisher


Belted Kingfisher

I took the grandkids to Odell Lake/Lake Odell (I do get its name mixed up, but think it’s the former that is correct) for a quick exploration and to see what birds are around. The result?  Not many.  The Red-Winged Black Birds, Yellow-Headed Black Birds, and all the Swallows were gone.  We saw some Mallards, American Coots, Canada Geese, a Turkey Vulture, and heard American Crows and a White-Breasted Nuthatch.  However, the find of the day was a Belted Kingfisher.

The Belted Kingfisher seems to show up toward the end of summer, probably on its migration route, and we’ve seen it at the ponds of the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course during early fall. It is a fun bird to see and hear – definitely can be identified by its call, which has been described as a loud, penetrating rattle.  It often calls when in flight.

Like the Steller’s Jay, the Belted Kingfisher has a bushy crest, and it is a similarly-sized bird with a big head but much larger beak. It is a blue-gray with a white breast that is accentuated with rust flanks and a belly band.  Observing one up close or though a pair of binoculars gives you an opportunity to see what a striking bird it is.

The Belted Kingfished is found throughout the continental United States, so if you miss the one at Odell Lake, you might find it, like I do during the winter, at your Phoenix-area golf club or city park, assuming there is a pond or two. It consumes mainly fish and dives right into the water to capture an unsuspecting prey from a little below the surface.  It also takes mollusks, small reptiles, young birds, small mammals, and even berries.  Clear water is essential, and course it migrates south when ponds and lakes freeze over.  It often is perched on a dead or tall branch of a tree as a good look-out spot, its flight is slow and direct, and sometimes it can be seen hovering over the water as it waits for that perfect moment to capture its next meal.  Soon, however, it too will be headed further south in search of a more satisfactory food source.

Going, Going, Gone


Black-Headed Grosbeak

‘Tis the time in northern Arizona when many people start asking: “So when are you closing up and heading back to (fill in the blank)?”  After all, pine needles are dropping like crazy, occasionally the lovely smell of a wood-burning fireplace permeates the air, fall decorations adorn our doors and tabletops, and we hear about plans for Halloween costumes and parties. It’s that transition time from summer to fall, and the days are usually gorgeous, with the monsoon rains long gone and the spring’s strong and gusty winds hardly thought of anymore.

But where are the Black-Headed Grosbeaks and Anna’s Hummingbirds? They have already headed south to Mexico and South America.  The Western Bluebirds, though, are still showing up all over the Pinewood Country Club golf course, pulling out grubs and worms that are just underneath the trail of the electric carts and golfers’ steps.  The Yellow-Headed Blackbirds are gone as well, but the Swallows – Barn, Tree, Violet-Green, Rough-Winged – are still around as long as there are plenty of the insects to catch on the fly.

Why do some birds move on and others don’t? Well with people, we’d say “follow the money”, but with birds, it’s all about “follow the food source”.  The insects that are sources of food to American Robins, Black-Headed Grosbeaks, Western Bluebirds, and Red-Winged Blackbirds do not exist in our cold northern Arizona winters, so these birds migrate to follow food sources and survive.  Other bird species, such as our American Crows, Steller’s Jays, Western Chickadees, and Pygmy and White-Breasted Nuthatches, stay in Munds Park because their food sources extend into the winter.

I recently had a reader approach me and ask if it was normal to see a Steller’s Jay taking peanuts and burying them into the ground. “What was going on, weren’t the birds hungry?”  Actually, this is normal behavior for a lot of birds.  They were taking the food and caching it for a rainy day, or in bird-speak, for later consumption on a cold and wintry day.  Many bird species take nuts and seeds and store them in crevices in trees or in the ground for future use.  Acorn Woodpeckers are notorious for this behavior; sometimes there are thousands of acorns in a “grainary” tree, and the woodpeckers even move seeds and nuts from larger holes to smaller holes as the seeds or nuts shrink.  It’s all about survival and being prepared for the worst.

The birds that stay year round in Munds Park are the ones that have dependable food sources. Those that migrate need more of an insect diet.  Right now is an exciting time for birders in Arizona – everyone is on the watch for the migrants coming through their neighborhoods.  For example, the Bird List Serve run by the University of Arizona mentions a migrating Blackpoll Warbler in Chandler, White-Crowned Sparrows showing up, (I always hear them in Scottsdale about the first week of October), and a Blue-Throated Hummingbird in Green Valley.

Probably only one more article to go this season; we are headed to Bryce and Zion Canyons in Utah soon. I haven’t yet researched what special birds we might see on that trip, but I will for sure let you know what I find when I write the last article of 2016.  I’m hoping for a Clark’s Nutcracker.  In the meantime, please let me know what you see or hear in Munds Park (birds only, please!) while I’m gone!

Our Busy Nuthatches


Pygmy Nuthatch

One of my most favorite bird species in Munds Park is the Pygmy Nuthatch. I think I like them so much because they are so unafraid, and bold, and gregarious.  And they come in groups – never one at a time.  You hear them and then you see them, coming within a few feet of you to your sunflower seed feeder or birdbath.

Pygmy Nuthatches are considered small song birds, but what they sound like is a series of chirps, mostly on a single pitch – not melodious at all, but certainly getting your attention when a group of them arrives. They mostly flit from branch to branch looking for insects such as caterpillars, moths, and spiders, and for conifer seeds.  They readily will take sunflower seeds and chopped nuts from your feeders.

Pygmy Nuthatches are very communal, roosting together in the cavities of trees in cold weather and also providing nesting help to others of their species. We have Pygmy Nuthatches at our feeders daily, but I always wonder where their nests are and how they are raising their young.  The nest is most likely tucked away somewhere in a tree cavity or crevice 15 feet up and out of our sight.

The other nuthatch species we have here regularly is the White-Breasted Nuthatch. It is much larger than the Pygmy, relatively speaking, is solitary unless it has young around, and spends more time climbing up and down trees than the Pygmies.

The third species that comes through Munds Park is the Red-Breasted Nuthatch. I have seen it only during a couple of seasons, towards the beginning of fall, and it was mingling in with the Pygmy Nuthatches.  It has a distinct black eye stripe, and of course a red breast.  If any of you readers spot one, I sure would like to know.

Nuthatch predators include squirrels, owls, and woodpeckers. And according to Wikipedia, there are over 20 nuthatch species across the world, including in India, China, Thailand, Burma, Turkey, Russia, the Bahamas, Mexico, England, and Wales.

Finally, two sightings are worthwhile noting these past two weeks: a Zone-Tailed Hawk soaring above the front nine of Pinewood Country Club, and a single White-Faced Ibis at the pond off of Hole #10.  You gotta’ love golfing when you can catch an unusual bird or two at the same time!

 

A Real Turkey of a Life Bird


Wild Turkey

I think most of you who read these birding articles regularly know that a Life Bird is one that you see for the very first time. Most birders have at least one story and usually several about when and where they initially saw a certain species of bird – it is a pretty exciting moment for a birder.  The stories go like this:  “I saw my first Barred Owl at Horicon March in Wisconsin, my first Bald Eagle when golfing at the Victoria Golf Club in Canada, and my first Brown Creeper at my house on Thunderbird in Munds Park.”  Some birders, me included, keep a list of when and where they see birds – called a Life List.  You can keep a Year List, a Big Sit List, a County List – most birding doesn’t have a lot of “rules’ and you can be pretty creative on how you wish to record, if at all, your sightings.

Well, two weeks ago we took our newly-bought, second hand Yamaha Rhino out for a drive up Pinewood Boulevard and then along Forest Road 700 to have a burger at Mountainaire Tavern. We were hoping to find some Elk along the way.  However, the first wildlife sighting we found was a group of Wild Turkeys!  There were seven of them silhouetted in the forest light and they were pretty far off, but not far off enough to not identify them as turkeys without using binoculars.  The only other time I saw a Wild Turkey was on Maui – yes, strangely – and I really didn’t want to count that as a Life Bird, but in some ways I guess it was.  But it certainly was not native to Hawaii.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, there are three types of Wild Turkeys in Arizona: 1) Merriam’s turkey found in the ponderosa pine forests, 2) Gould’s turkey found in the sky islands in Southern Arizona, and 3) Rio Grande turkey introduced again at the Arizona Strip at Black Rock Mountain, in Mohave County.  I most likely saw the Merriam’s turkey, and according to what I read, they were probably hens and young birds, because the toms do not mingle much with the hens except for breeding season.

The hens do not lay their eggs all at once, but when done they begin to incubate and then all the eggs hatch on the same day. The hens cover themselves up with leaves and when leaving the nest, brush the leaves on top of the eggs for camouflage.  Turkeys eat green vegetation, insects, juniper berries, acorns, and pine seeds.

The subspecies Merriam’s turkey was named after Clinton Hart Merriam, who at the early age of 16 was appointed a naturalist with the Hayden Expedition of 1871 and which later contributed to the formation of Yellowstone National Park. My, how times have changed in a little over 100 years!  What 16 year old youngster today is sent out to a new frontier to explore and document mammals and birds?  Those were quite the days for adventure if you were lucky and smart enough to seize the opportunity.  And if you were a male, which was the norm in those days.

Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird. We know this from a letter he wrote to his daughter.  Benjamin Franklin thought the turkey was a bird of courage while the Eagle’s character was not so – he had seen it take away fish from Osprey and therefore considered it lazy, and he watched it being chased by other birds, so he thought it was cowardly.

By the way, we did see several Elk and a Deer on our trip, but I thought the Turkey sighting was the highlight of the trip, followed by the burgers and beers.

 

Wha ARE These People?


 

Townsend’s Warbler

Steller. Say.  Anna.  Grace.  Townsend.

Each of the names above is found in the names of one of the birds we find in Munds Park. Steller’s Jay.  Say’s Phoebe.  Anna’s Hummingbird.  Grace’s Warbler.  Townsend’s Warbler.

I personally prefer bird names that relate to what the bird looks like or area in which it resides – for example, White-Breasted Nuthatch or Western Bluebird. But some lucky people got to have a bird named after them, and there is a little history behind each one.

The Steller’s Jay is the only jay found in Munds Park. It is large and glossy blue and black, has a crested head, loves peanuts, is noisy at times, and will nest near our homes – at the top of a garage light fixture, for example.  It will rob other birds’ nests of both their eggs and young.  Its range is confined to the Western United States and it likes coniferous and mixed forests.  It was named after the naturalist who discovered the bird, George Wilhelm Steller, who is considered a pioneer of Alaska natural history.  He died at age 37, most likely of scurvy and fever, on an expedition, and several of the other animal species he identified are already extinct.

Our Say’s Phoebe, a medium-sized flycatcher, is found mostly on the Pinewood Country Club golf course. This bird is named after Thomas Say, an American naturalist who focused primarily on insects.  He explored the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains.  He died at the age of 47 from typhoid fever.

Anna’s Hummingbird was named after an Italian duchess, Anna De Belle Massena. A naturalist named Rene Primevere Lesson named the bird after her in a time when “collecting” new species was all the rage.  Supposedly a specimen of the bird was given to Lesson by John James Audubon, and Lesson, a French naturalist, named it after the duchess.

I identified what I think was a Grace’s Warbler one afternoon in our front yard. I spent a good 10 minutes watching it flit in the highest parts of the Ponderosa Pines and ended up getting “warbler’s neck” after those 10 minutes.  Grace’s Warbler was named by Spencer Fullerton Baird, at the request of Dr. Elliot Coues, in honor of Dr. Coues’ sister Grace Darlington Coues.  Dr. Coues was a naturalist and discovered the bird in the Rocky Mountains in 1864.  His sister was 18 at the time.

A couple of years ago I identified a Townsend’s Warbler heading through Munds Park during migration. Its distinctive head pattern of a yellow face and dark cheek patch made it easier to identify than other warblers.  John Kirk Townsend was trained as a physician and pharmacist who also had a strong interest in nature and bird collecting.  Besides the warbler, he has the following named after him;  Townsend’s Vole, Townsend’s Mole, Townsend’s Chipmunk, Townsend’s Ground Squirrel, Townsend’s Pocket Gopher, Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat, and Townsend’s Solitaire (a bird which I found on a trip down Schnebly Hill on the way to Sedona).  Mr. Townsend died in 1851 of arsenic poisoning – he had developed a potion for taxidermy and the secret ingredient was arsenic, which he himself got too much of.

It’s pretty fascinating I think to learn how these birds were named. Also makes me grateful for modern day medicine – treating scurvy and typhoid fever and having warning labels on poisons like arsenic!

What Dead Bird Is This?


Lesser Goldfinch

That is a sad question: What Dead Bird Is This?  Hardly ever do you find a dead bird in the street, under a plant, or in the middle of a fairway or hiking trail – but you do find them under your windows.  That is because it is estimated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that 100 million birds (yes, 100,000,000) are killed each year by flying dead-on into a window pane.  That number does not even account for the ones that strike a window and fall to the ground stunned and are put into jeopardy.  Many of these are small song birds, like the female Lesser Goldfinch you see in the photo, which was sent to me by a fellow Munds Park resident after it hit her window.

Birds collide with windows because they “see” a landscape reflection of trees or clouds or sky and think it is an escape or fly-though route. And instead what happens is “bam!” — they hit the glass and either fall down stunned or break their necks and fall dead.

So what can you do to prevent these devastating window collisions? The Cornell Lab of Ornithology lists several suggestions on its website, and I will paraphrase here.

First, identify which windows might be the problem. If you stand outside and look inside, do you right see a reflection of our beautiful blue skies and Ponderosa Pines?  Well if that is what you see, so will the birds.  Take some of the following steps.

  1. Either move your bird feeders much closer to your window (one to two feet away), or more them much farther away.
  2. Break up the windows’ reflections with stickers, metallic ribbons, or another type of decoration of your choice, such as a mobile, that will deter the bird flying into your window in the first place.
  3. Consider some less-obvious options (most of these would not be acceptable to us because of their aesthetic effects): spray the window with fake snow or draw streaks on your window with bar soap, place light-weight netting across your window, install windows that tilt downward, or hang tree branches in front of the window.

OK, so probably none of the options listed in #3 are palatable to you (and me!), but I do hope you will consider options #1 and #2. I ordered bird strike window decals over the internet and they have worked quite well over the past few years.  Occasionally a bird hits one of our deck windows, but the windows are close enough to the feeders so that the bird only becomes stunned temporarily and flies off.

 

 

Garden Birds


Dark-Eyed Junco

I received a couple of e-mails lately about small, secretive, brown-reddish birds building nests in planters around Munds Park and Flagstaff. One of the writers sent me this great photo of her bird near the planter it built a nest in, on the deck of a home in Forest Highlands, and another reader in Munds Park sent me a photo of the eggs in her nest – in an artificial plant on her property.  Both asked if I knew what bird it was, and luckily these are pretty easy to identify.  Their garden bird is a Dark-Eyed Junco, a sparrow-like bird that favors our yards in search of nesting spots as well as food, typically insects and seeds.  Most of the time I see this bird on the ground foraging and only very rarely do I see it at one of my deck feeders.  But one spring it was the first bird that showed up at my feeders after they were just hung.

The American Robin is another bird that frequents our gardens. A friend named Robin told me she specifically plants strawberries each year to attract Robins – and it works!  The American Robin, probably best known for pulling long earthworms and grubs out of lawns in the Midwest and back East, also eats fruit, so berry plants are another good way to attract them.  The American Robin is the state bird of Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  Although the American Robin is a true thrush, it was named a Robin by English settlers who were homesick for their native Robin.  The General Assembly of Connecticut adopted the American Robin as its state bird in 1943.  It joins the Sperm Whale as the state animal and the Praying Mantis as the state insect.  In Wisconsin, school children selected the American Robin as their state bird by voting during 1926 and 1927.  In Michigan, the Audubon Society selected the “Robin Redbreast” as the official state bird 1931.  Later, in 2003, school children lobbied the legislature to change the Michigan state bird to Kirtland’s Warbler, but they were not successful, and that’s another story in itself.

Another garden bird is the House Wren, a small, plain brown bird with a big voice. It loves to nest in human-made small places, including nest boxes, but it can be found nesting in a fence hole, an old shoe, a basket, shoe box, or empty can.  While doing my research I even read about a pair of House Wrens that built a nest on the rear of an automobile axel in 1937 in a car that was used daily.  When the car was driven, the Wrens went along.  In the end the eggs hatched and the birds fledged successfully.  One golfing friend told me there was quite a scene for a while in her front yard as a pair of House Wrens bickered back and forth about which nest box the female wren would settle on.  Male House Wrens start multiple nests and then the female chooses the one she prefers.  Sounds like a good arrangement to me.

March 13, 2017

What I Learned in Ireland About Northern Arizona Birding


Hooded Crow

Eight of us took a trip to Ireland in late May/early June to golf, see the country, and, of course for me, to informally bird watch. In the meantime, while I was abroad, I heard from three Munds Park residents who sent me their photos of two birds we have here:  Western Tanager and Yellow-Headed Blackbird.

The Western Tanager is a brightly colored, red headed/yellow bodied/black-winged bird that appears in late spring. Western Tanagers are stocky song birds that inhabit coniferous environments, foraging though the upper parts of pine and juniper branches in a methodical manner.  They don’t frequent seed feeders but can be attracted with fresh or dried fruit.  I’ve read that their song is a hoarse, American Robin-type song, but I don’t think I’ve ever recognized it.  Note to self:  pay more attention to what bird songs you are hearing, especially right before dusk.  I need to make myself differentiate between the song of the Western Tanager and the Black-Headed Grosbeak.

The photo I received from a reader of the Yellow-Headed Blackbird was taken at Lake Odell. I saw these Blackbirds this year also at the pond on the Pinewood Country Club golf course between #1 and #10.  And, exciting news, the Ospreys are again nesting in the same tree as last year to the south of #13 on the golf course.  I haven’t been around enough to know how many birds are in the nest.  But it sure it fun to make the turn at 12 and look up to see the nest and know the birds still favor Munds Park.

As for Ireland, birding there was easier than in Africa, where we were last year.   Ireland has a human population of only four and a half million people, and the bird population parallels that statistic.  Ireland has a rather low number of bird species because of its isolation.  I bought a field guide, The Birds of Ireland by Jim Wilson, and packed my pair of binoculars along with its shoulder harness, and was able to see 35 new bird species without going off our travel itinerary.  Ireland has a Blackbird, which is the size and shape of our American Robin, and it I completely black except for a bright yellow beak.  Their Robin is red/orange from the beak to the breast, and when I spotted it, it flitted like a fly-catcher rather than moved like our Robin.  On the final afternoon we were in Dublin, I took a walk through a city park and saw three life-birds in the span of an hour:  Robin, Tufted Duck, and Grey Wagtail.  The Wagtails really do wag their tails, and I found two species, the Grey and the Pied.

Ireland’s one-and-only Swallow is very similar to our Barn Swallow, and the House Martin, which our group identified while we were in a golf course clubhouse sipping on pints of Guinness, is a lot like our Violet Green Swallow.

The Blue Tit and Great Tit resemble our Mountain Chickadees. I saw my first Ireland’s Hooded Crow in a little village we stopped at for ice cream (Irish people love their ice cream, and large ice cream cone statues in front of stores indicate that you can find some there).  Unlike our American Crow, which is all black, the Hooded Crow is part grey and part black, and therefore rather easy to contrast with another bird in Ireland, the Raven.

What was my favorite bird of Ireland? It had to be the Lapwing.  The Lapwing resembles a Killdeer, but it has a top-knot similar to our Gamble’s Quail, which is found only in our desert, not at higher elevations.  The Lapwing is featured in the logo for the Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin, so I just had to buy myself one of the golf shirts there to wear as a fond memory of our golf and birding.

Bullock’s Oriole


Bullock’s Oriole

Back in May, 2014, I wrote about a Bullock’s Oriole sighting by a reader who lives on Reindeer. This year, two readers approached me with their photos when I was at the all-member meeting at Pinewood Country Club.  They had captured on their cell phones very nice photos of a beautiful male Bullock’s Oriole from earlier in the month.  One of their photos had the Oriole on a hummingbird feeder.  I went to the iBird Plus on my phone and we compared their photos to the ones in the ap and made positive identification.  The two ladies are to be commended for keeping bird-friendly yards – nectar feeders, water treatment/bubblers, and seed feeders – and for documenting their sightings with their cameras.

Bullock’s Orioles prefer cottonwoods and streams and are the western version of the Baltimore Oriole. I don’t think this one is a resident – it was most likely passing through during migration.  But what a stunning bird with its yellow-orange and black and white!  Our male Black-Headed Grosbeaks have similar coloring but have a different beak because they are primarily seed eaters.  The Oriole feeds on insects, nectar, and fruit and the beak is much more pointed and slender than a Grosbeak’s.

What birds did I see in Munds Park in mid-May during a short weekend? Pine Siskins, Mountain Chickadees, Western Bluebirds, Barn Swallows, Canada Geese, Great-Tailed Grackles, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Northern Rough-Winged Swallows, Mallards, one Dark-Eyed Junco, one Chipping Sparrow, a Pygmy Nuthatch, Common Ravens, Turkey Vultures, House Finch (heard only), possible Great-Horned Owl (heard only), Osprey, Red-Tailed Hawk, Brown-Headed Cowbirds, American Robin, possible Common Black Hawk, one Yellow-Headed Blackbird, and Purple Martins.  I saw the Purple Martins on Stallion Drive during a walk just before dusk.  They were loud, as Purple Martins are, and perched high in trees on the Munds Canyon side of Stallion.  I know I’ve heard them in seasons before, but because of the classes I took during the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival, I concentrated on their profile:  forked tail, wings that reach almost past their tail feathers, and their size.

The Chipping Sparrow is one I haven’t written about – don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. It is a medium-sized sparrow with a rufous cap and black eye stripe.  Its song – a trill on a fixed note – is similar to that of a Dark-Eyed Junco.  As I was getting a refill on my water after the front nine, I first heard the Chipping Sparrow and then saw it, perched on the wooden fencing near the putting green at Pinewood Country Club.  It prefers woodland edges, gardens, parks, and grassy clearings.  It is a bird you will possibly find while sitting around the Pine Cone Café or around semi-open areas, especially if near homes and gardens.

Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival


Summer Tanager

Just like most hobbies, birding has an entire infrastructure around it that consists of things like magazines, discussion boards, social and scientific groups, conferences, and festivals. Birding festivals are a big deal in the U.S. – you can find them in most states and they are another source of tourist income for a town/city/county.  Location-specific festivals bring birders together for viewing, educational, and social purposes.  Last month my friend from Illinois and I attended the 16th annual Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival, and it was an experience I would definitely recommend.

Exactly what happens at a birding festival? The biggest draw, as you might imagine, is to identify and watch birds and preferably find a “lifer” or two or more.  “Lifer” or “life bird” are terms used by birders for a bird seen (or sometimes heard) for the very first time in the wild. In my case, I had seven life birds during this festival, which was great considering I already spend so much time in Arizona either south or north of the festival area centered around Cottonwood and Prescott.  We went on four six-hour field trips, each starting at 7 a.m. in the morning, with each having a driver for transporting groups of about 15 people to and from the birding site.  Each group also had a guide, who typically was a very experienced amateur birder who helped us locate and identify the birds.  These field trips took us from the Dead Horse Ranch State Park, which was the central meeting and exhibit location, to Page Springs Fish Hatchery, the Rocking River Ranch outside of Camp Verde, Mingus Mountain, and on a canoe trip on the Verde River.  My canoe guide was a young woman who is a financial planner by day, outdoor enthusiast on weekends.

We also attended several afternoon lectures complete with PowerPoint slides: How to Identify Warblers, How to Identify Flycatchers, Birding by Ear, and Night Birds Workshop.  Early evening and into one of the nights we went trekking with flashlights to find owls and nighthawks and ended up at a nice restaurant for a group dinner and beverages in the heart of Cottonwood.  We did get some friendly stares from people watching 12 of us in hiking boots carrying tripods, spotting scopes, and binoculars as we walked through part of Cottonwood into a sports bar on a Saturday evening.

Who attends these festivals? Honestly, people from all over the country and sometimes from other countries.  For example, we met an avid woman birder from remote Alaska who chose this festival because it also got her a break from the cold weather.  We met a couple from Alabama who had never seen a Roadrunner before and were going to head to Tucson afterwards in search of desert birds.  Some of the guides were retired teachers, and others were in the bird “business” – one guide was starting up bird touring company out of Flagstaff that will focus on the Sedona tourist market.

My two favorite lifers were the Summer Tanager and the Lark Sparrow. The former because it is such a bright red and the latter because it is a distinctively marked sparrow we found while just sitting/resting at the bird feeders stationed around the Dead Horse Ranch festival area.  In Munds Park we have the Western Tanager (red/yellow/black).

The workshops and lectures were very helpful because they made me think about upping my game when I try to identify a bird by its call or song, or paying more attention to the bird’s structure and markings to make identification easier. The folks at the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival were all volunteers. The festival ran like clock-work, and you could not find a nicer group of people to associate with.  If you have any interest in attending birding festivals but don’t know how to start, you can go online to www.birdwatcherdigest.com and use the festival search function.  My next stop is Ireland (golf and birding), and then I will be staying put in Munds Park for the summer.  I hope while I’m gone some of you will e-mail me and let me know what you are seeing here in our own back yards.

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