Bird Lady Blog

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.


June 16, 2013

Falcons, Ospreys, and “Oops”!

Osprey courtesy of Gordon Karre

Osprey courtesy of Gordon Karre

I will start with the “oops”!  One of my golfing friends said to me after the last article was published, “We’ve been seeing these beautiful yellow and red birds you mentioned – you know, the Summer Tanagers.”  I replied, “Oh, you mean Western Tanagers”.  No, she countered:  “The birds you mentioned in the last Pinewood News – the Summer Tanagers.”  “Really?” I said.  So I went back and read and article and lo’ and behold, I realized I had goofed.  I meant Western Tanager but wrote Summer Tanager.

Maybe it’s because I wrote that article at 30,000 feet up flying back from the Horicon Marsh birding festival in Wisconsin.  Or maybe it was because I was thinking about spending the SUMMER in Munds Park.  Regardless, I goofed and apologize.  The Western Tanager likes coniferous forests.  The Summer Tanager can be found in Arizona, but usually not at an elevation as high as in Munds Park.  So if you see a slender, medium-sized bird with a brilliant red head and bright yellow body, black back, black wings with white wing bars, and a black tail – that would be the Western Tanager.  One did show up around our back deck and I hope it will again.  By the way, the first written record of it dated back to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

While golfing I spotted a Peregrine Falcon.  It was in the air, flying more than soaring, and then after a while took a dive down behind the condos off the 10th fairway.  The wing structure was right, the view from the bottom was just like that in my field guide, and the head had a black hood and sideburns.  So that is a first for me for Munds Park.  I’m glad I carry a pair of binoculars in my golf bag.

Peregrine Falcons were on the endangered species list for many years, almost decimated from exposure to DDT in insecticides.  They have had a successful recovery since DDT was banned and were taken off the endangered species list in 1999.  I have seen one of these birds during migration over the Grand Canyon (that was my first spotting) and also saw two way above the Chicago skyline when we were touring at the top of the old Sears Tower – about 100 stories up.  Peregrine Falcons do live in cities, preying on Rock Pigeons.  So just like the City Mouse and the Country Mouse, there are City Peregrine Falcons and Country Peregrine Falcons.

I was very happy to see the Osprey back.  You can find it at Lake Odell, flying and fishing, perched on the dead tree on the south side of the Lake, or perhaps in a nest.  The nest in past years has been on the east side of the Lake.  Since I don’t spend winters here, I have no idea how long the Osprey family stays in Munds Park.  If any of you year-round residents have seen it over the winter months, I would like to know.

The Osprey feeds entirely on fish.  When it takes a large fish to the nest or perch, it moves it around so that the head faces in the direction it is flying – presumably to increase the aerodynamics.  It’s all about survival of the fittest, and this species has its own techniques to increase its chances of success in the wild.

Spring Has Sprung

Steller’s Jay courtesy of Gordon Karre

May has been a month of transition for all of us:  spring cleaning, raking fallen pine needles, putting away our winter clothes and bringing out the summer wardrobe, and moving up to Munds Park if we were away for the fall and winter.  Our Munds Park birds are making similar transitions:  changing their drab winter feathers to bright colors so they can attract a satisfactory mate, building nests, and finding the best sources for food.  Two Munds Park birds that come to mind with striking colors are the Black-Headed Grosbeaks and the Lesser Goldfinches.  The males of these species are especially beautiful with their contrasting colors of orange or yellow against black and white.

So what should you be doing in preparation for migration and nesting?  First, if you have a nest box, open it up and clean it out.  Discard the old nesting material, shoo out the spiders that may have taken temporary residence, and wash or scrape out any residue.  Make sure your next box is still firmly secured to its post or tree.

Second, if you attracting birds by putting out feeders, make sure they also are cleaned.  You can wash them in a solution of water and a small amount of bleach – don’t forget to rinse them thoroughly.  The same goes for your bird baths.  Keep the water fresh.  If you hang a hummingbird feeder, remember the following:  the nectar should be made out of white granular sugar and water  – one part sugar to four parts water.  Do not use red food coloring.  The color of your feeder will be enough to attract the birds, and they will be back as long as you keep a fresh mixture.  If the mixture starts turning cloudy, discard it immediately and replace.

Lastly, start thinking about how you can protect your birds from window-kills – that is, preventing birds from flying into those wonderful windows we appreciate because of the forest and mountain views, but which can be deadly to our flying friends.  I will have more information about what you can do to prevent window crashes in a future article but would also like to hear what practical solutions are working for you.

For those of you who are relatively new to our Munds Park birds, here is a short list of the common birds you will see in our area:  Lesser Goldfinch, Mountain Chickadee, Acorn Woodpecker, Steller’s Jay, American Robin, Western Bluebird, Black-Headed Grosbeak, Band-Tailed Pigeon, American Crow, Turkey Vulture, and Common Raven.  And some of the harder-to-find ones will be Summer Western Tanager, Painted Redstart, Red Crossbill, and House Wren.

June 13, 2011

Western Tanager, Abert’s Squirrel, and Quiz

Filed under: Quiz,Uncategorized,Western Tanager — Munds Park Birding @ 9:20 am
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In the last issue I wrote about the beautiful red, yellow, and black Western Tanager,  and I commented that although my friends have seen one in Munds Park, I have not.  On Friday, May 27th, I was having breakfast before golf and had the last issue of the Pinewood News open on the  counter. Surprise, surprise,  moving through branches of a Ponderosa Pine and seen through my kitchen window was a Western Tanager!  It is a gorgeous bird – almost tropical looking – and that sighting just drove home the point that you just never know when you will have a great and unexpected birding experience.  Since that sighting I’ve also heard it singing  – I pulled out my handy iBird Plus application on my iPhone to  onfirm using the recorded song.

We have an Abert’s Squirrel that visits our deck, and in the past it would take long sips of water from the bird bath clamped to the top rail.  Our son nick-named the squirrel Rex, so that’s what we call him.  Abert’s Squirrels are known as the tassel-eared squirrel because of the long tufts of fur on its ears.  These squirrels are found only out West in coniferous forests with Ponderosa Pines, so they are not your run-of-the-mill plain brown squirrels in the forest preserves, parks, and lawns of the Midwest.   Well it seems like this spring Rex has picked up a bad habit and can now climb along the three-foot extended metal pole from which our sunflower feeder hangs.  Rex has taken to gorging himself on the seeds, over 20 feet above the ground, as he happily sits on the bottom round tray of the feeder.

I will now have to do some research to figure out how to prevent Rex from his daily raids.  I have ruled out putting WD-40 or Vaseline on the pole because it would get on his fur or the birds’ feet and would cause problems.  I am probably going to have to get some type of baffle that hopefully
won’t obscure our view of the feeder.  I will keep you posted and let you know what happens – my feeling is that Rex is going to be very persistent now that he’s had a taste of the good life on the Dyekman Deck. Here’s a short quiz to get us started for the summer. I will try to feature each of the “answer birds” in coming articles:

  1. What is the little yellow and black bird that visits our niger/thistle see feeders?  A.  Arizona Canary;  B. Lesser Goldfinch;  C.  Mountain Chickadee;  D. Yellow-Rumped Warbler.
  2. What jay is common is Munds Park?  A. Blue Jay;  B. Pinyon Jay;  C. Gray Jay; D.  Steller’s Jay.
  3. What swallow is not found in Munds Park?  A. Tree Swallow;  B.  Cave Swallow; C.  Barn Swallow;  D. Northern Rough-Winged Swallow.
  4. What large bird nests on the east end of Lake Odell high in the tree tops and eats fish exclusively?  A. Bald Eagle;   B. American
    Crow;  C. Osprey;  D. Black-Crowned Night Heron
  5. Where do Mountain Bluebirds build their nests?  A.  Under the eaves of a deck;  B.  On the ground on a pine needle mound; C.  In a tree cavity or nest box;  D. On a V-shaped branch configuration of an Aspen tree.
  6. What food is not part of the American Robin’s diet?  A. Berries;  B. Earthworms;  C.  Grasshoppers; D.  Carrion.
  7. What warbler is only found in the U.S.  in our part of Arizona and some parts of New
    Mexico?  A;  Red-Faced Warbler;  B. Black-and-White Warbler;  C. Yellow-Rumped Warbler;  D. Pine Warbler.
  8. What woodpecker common to Munds Park is also known as the “clown-faced woodpecker”?  A.  Downy Woodpecker; B.  Lewis’ Woodpecker;  C. Acorn Woodpecker;  D.  Pileated Woodpecker.

I hope you have some fun with the quiz.  Answers will be in the next blog post.

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