This past week, my wife and I attended the Ute Mountain – Mesa Verde Birding and Nature Festival in Cortez, Colorado as a vendor. This was our first time attending this small festival in southwestern Colorado, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. What a beautiful area, with the snow-capped San Juan Mountains in the distance. It was so green there!
Even though we were there as a vendor, I managed to squeeze into one of the bird watching trips, due to a last-minute cancellation. I went on an evening owling trip in the San Juan National Forest, near the Dolores River.
It was a pretty typical owling experience, as owling trips go. Not much success in terms of seeing any owls, although we did hear several different species. The only look we got at an owl was a flammulated owl, for about half of a second. The leader got a light on it, I saw it with the naked eye and the owl flew away as I raised my binoculars to my eyes. In my opinion, it wasn’t even a good enough look to count it.
On Saturday, as we were returning to Arizona, we made a brief stop in Teec Nos Pos, a small Indian community about six miles from Four Corners. I have stopped at that exact same spot on previous occasions over the years, in the hopes of seeing a black-billed magpie, but never managed to find one. Black-billed magpies are a fairly common bird in much of the Interior West—but its range barely extends down into northern Arizona.
Years ago, when I lived in Provo, Utah, this was a common yard bird—as common as western scrub-jays in my yard here in Prescott. In all of the years I have lived in Arizona, though, I had never seen a black-billed magpie. Well, that all changed on Saturday when, within a minute of getting out of the car, I heard the vocalizations of magpies in the distance, and within seconds I had my binoculars on several. Success—a new ‘state bird’ for my life list!
Back in Prescott, I had a sweet encounter with a little bushtit. Bushtits are really small—weighing in at just 5.3 grams, only one gram more than an Anna’s hummingbird. Bushtits are common in the Prescott area in pinyon/juniper and oak/pine habitats. In winter, they form large flocks as they flit through the trees gleaning the foliage for insects, larvae and insect eggs.
The other day, a bushtit discovered the side mirror on the passenger side of my car, and he was bound and determined to chase away the intruder he was seeing in the mirror. He would move from the mirror to the window sill on the passenger door, then back to the mirror, then to the antenna, then back to the window. When I got in the car, he didn’t fly away even though I was only a few feet from him. After watching his antics for a while, I turned on the car, put it in gear and started driving. After a few seconds, he decided to fly away. It was the cutest thing to witness. I wonder if he thought he was successful in driving away the intruder!
I would like to invite you to attend the Prescott Audubon Society’s monthly meeting on Thursday May 26, at 7 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 630 Park Ave. in Prescott. I will be presenting the program, and will be sharing pictures and stories of my recent trip to Belize. I hope you can come.
Until next week, Happy Birding