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.

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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!

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!

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

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.

Birds and Butterflies

Filed under: Bald Eagles,Birding,Migration — Munds Park Birding @ 8:51 pm
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I have been to Munds Park only once since October, but friends informed me that birds are nesting (watch for activity of Mountain Chickadees and Steller’s Jays) and spring is moving forward and teaming with bird commotion. Here in Scottsdale I had an interesting winter – a female Northern Cardinal hung around for a few weeks, partaking of the black oil sunflower seeds, and a Coopers Hawk visited the back yard several times trying to snap up the feeding sparrows or doves for his/her next meal.  One morning we awoke to see the Cooper’s Hawk poised on our birdbath, and nary another bird in sight.  The White-Crowned Sparrows arrived in Scottsdale in early October, signaling the start of fall, and the Lesser Goldfinches were present all winter at my niger seed feeders.  I like to think these same ones are now on their way back to Munds Park.  Other birds of note were one Rufous-Sided Towhee and a Bewick’s Wren.

Some of you may have read in the Arizona Republic about the nesting Bald Eagles in North Scottsdale (on an un-named golf course to protect the birds from too much human activity). It’s really great to see that our Bald Eagle population continues to be on the rise, and certainly that is a species that tugs at the heart strings of all of us.  I am hopeful we will continue to see Bald Eagles occasionally again in Munds Park this year.

My new activity this fall and winter was putting in a butterfly garden. I became interested after reading articles written by Desert Botanical Garden staff stating, to put it very simply, that while we humans rip up native vegetation to build houses and “nice” landscaping, we fail to replace native plants.  Those native plants, especially varieties of milkweed, are critical to maintaining our butterfly population.  Milkweed is the only plant that Monarch Butterflies lay their eggs on.  So, in Scottsdale, we dug up the front lawn, which was our plan anyway, and put in Desert Milkweed, Wooly Butterfly Plant, Penstemon, Red Fairy Duster, and Desert Lavender.  I subsequently learned that Arizona Milkweed was preferred by butterflies for egg-laying in the desert, so I am growing some Arizona Milkweed from seed and will start incorporating that into our garden.

But what if you want to make a butterfly-friendly garden in Munds Park or the Northern Arizona surrounding area? First, we know that Monarch Butterflies and other species do pass through here, so planting a butterfly-friendly garden will eventually pay off.  I had a great conversation with Nigel of the Flagstaff Native Plant and Seed nursery while doing research.  This nursery sells milkweed varieties that grow in the northern elevations, and Nigel is very knowledgeable about what to plant and when.  In addition, your local landscape companies can assist with plants that attract butterflies once they “grow up” and are off the milkweed.

Next stop: A friend from Chicago-land and I are finally going to attend the full four days of the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival in late April.  I will report on that in my next article.

January 1, 2016

White-Faced Ibis, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Hutton’s Vireo


White-Faced IbisA pair of White-Faced Ibises showed up at the pond at Hole 1 of Pinewood Country Club over Labor Day weekend.   Standing on sometimes only one leg in the fairway grass at the edge of the water, an ibis is hard to miss.  Its most distinguished feature is its long, down-curved beak.  It is a very dark bird, and in the right light you can see it is actually an iridescent brown-bronze color.  Without a pair of binoculars, it’s otherwise difficult to see the thin band of white feathers around its beak.  But those white feathers give the bird its name: “White-Faced” Ibis.  I have seen this species over the years infrequently in Munds Park, always around the golf course, and also at Kachina Wetlands.  I’ve seen their relatives, the White Ibis, in Florida and the Africa Sacred Ibis in Botswana.  For those of you who travel in the West, the White-Faced Ibis ranges from Oregon east to Minnesota and south to Texas.  Often you will find it wintering in Southern California, generally in preferred habitats of salt water or fresh water marshes.

Two much smaller birds are next on my list to tell you about.  One is relatively easy to spot, the other more difficult.  The easy one is the Yellow-Rumped Warbler, probably the most common warbler found on the entire North American continent.  It is medium-sized for a warbler, has dark-streaked blue-gray upperparts, and a yellow throat and white belly, but what makes it easy to identify is the patch of yellow on its rump when flying away.  That yellow rump is exactly what I saw on Hole 16 the first week of September.  This was the first time I saw a Yellow-Rumped Warbler in Munds Park, but I often see them on the golf course in central Phoenix during fall and winter, and all over the country when I travel.  The research says they breed in coniferous forests, so maybe they are here more than I’ve noticed.  If you leave Munds Park for the winter, look for the Yellow-Rumped Warbler in parks and golf courses – you may first notice the yellow spot on their rump as they fly from you into the trees.

The last bird I heard, but did not see.  However, I spent a lot of time trying to track down its distinctive call, which we golfers heard over and over this summer coming from the more open areas around the cattails and reeds.  I found a site on the Internet that provided bird calls based on the number of syllables – in this case, a “chee-ree” that was loud and always went from down to up in key and repeated usually three times in a row.  After going through about 140 different bird songs, I settled on Hutton’s Vireo.  Then I checked my two birding aps on my phone and a site or two on the Internet, listened to more song samples, and concluded that what we were hearing was indeed a Hutton’s Vireo.  This bird is a first for me, and hopefully next summer I can stalk out the areas (when not golfing) and actually see the bird.  It is mostly olive-green with some white, including a white eye-ring.  But for such a small little bird, it sure puts out a mighty song!

By the way, a Bald Eagle was spotted by some golfers in early and late September soaring over the PCC Golf Course and also perched on a dead tree limb over Lake Odell.  It made a special appearance for a special wedding held at Lake Odell the morning of September 20th.  Continue to watch the skies and tree tops for this species and other migrating raptors.

Finally, if you want to visit a cool birding site on the World Wide Web and even help report sightings, check out http://www.ebird.org.

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.

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