Earlier this month we drove to Provo, Utah, to attend graduation for our youngest son, Landon, from Brigham Young University. If you have ever been in a car with me, you know that time spent driving is time spent bird watching.

Not long after we got onto west bound Interstate 40, close to mile marker 122, I saw a “blob” perched on top of a pile of dirt. I recognized that blob, even though I was going almost 80 miles an hour — it was the characteristic look of a burrowing owl. My immediate reaction was to slam on the brakes (I should have a bumper sticker that reads, “I brake for birds”) and pull onto the shoulder of the road.

Prior to me slamming on the brakes and pulling quickly into the emergency lane, my wife was calmly reading the newspaper. As soon as I started going off the road she reacted and attempted to steer the car back onto the road. She probably thought I wasn’t paying attention and had drifted into the emergency lane. I had to quickly tell her, “No, I’m trying to pull over!”

Grabbing my binoculars, I exited the car and got a look at the owl before it disappeared from view behind the pile of dirt.  It wasn’t until this point that I realized there was a pasture with a prairie dog town — the perfect habitat for burrowing owls. Gazing out over the field, I saw several more burrowing owls amidst the prairie dogs. 

I was excited to see the burrowing owls, as I had yet to see one this year and I am keeping a record in eBird of the species I have observed this year. This was species number 584! 

For me, birding adventures can occur anywhere, anytime. This past week I had an interesting experience while I was walking on the Peavine Trail where it borders the normally shallow end of the lake. With our recent rains, the area that is normally somewhat marshy was completely under water.  

With the naked eye, I saw a bird perched in the tall grasses about 4 feet above the surface of the water. I assumed it was probably just another red-winged blackbird, but when I got my binoculars on the bird I was surprised to see it was a sora (a type of rail). In all the years I have been birding, I have never seen a rail perched out in the open on vegetation.  Bird watching inherently comes with its share of surprises, and this was a first for me.

Other birding sightings this past week include first hearing and then seeing a great horned owl near the Watson Woods trailhead at the intersection of Rosser and Highway 89. Earlier this week, while biking on the Peavine Trail I saw a

Foresters tern flying over Watson Lake. Encounters with nature, especially wild birds, are really a result of spending time outdoors. 

Also this past week, one of our Sedona store employees had an interesting experience. A rufous hummingbird, hell-bent on chasing other hummingbirds, miscalculated and flew directly into a window screen. Its beak went into the screen with such force that it got stuck. Fortunately the employee noticed the hummingbird’s predicament. From the opposite side, she pushed the hummingbird’s beak out of the screen, freeing it from certain death! 

Saturday, Sept. 1, is the first day to submit pictures for our 10th annual wild bird photography contest. For more information on this year’s contest, stop by the store or check out the Jay’s Bird Barn website at www.jaysbirdbarn.com

 Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona – Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.