A northern waterthrush. (Courier stock photo)

This past Saturday I led a free Jay’s Bird Barn guided bird walk to Granite Basin. This is one of my favorite places to go birding locally. I’ve had a lot of amazing discoveries there — birds that “shouldn’t” be in the Prescott area, yet somehow end up in this unique confluence of habitats.

A few examples of some of the rarities I’ve discovered at Granite Basin over the years include black-throated blue warbler, golden-crowned sparrow, varied thrush (on three different occasions) and rose-breasted grosbeak.

Many other birders have found equally, if not even more amazing, discoveries in the basin over the years, including hooded warbler, crescent-chested warbler and purple gallinule. This past December I had a Lewis’ woodpecker on the day of the Christmas Bird Count, and last year I had a red-breasted sapsucker on the day of the count.

On our bird walk this past Saturday we were extremely fortunate to discover yet another rarity —a northern waterthrush. The name is a little misleading — it might make you think this species is a type of thrush, when in reality, it is a type of warbler.

We’d been birding for over two and a half hours, and we were making our way back to the parking lot to wrap up our bird walk when I saw the waterthrush in the middle of a trail near the edge of the lake. I had eleven birders with me, and I made sure everyone got on the bird — I didn’t want anyone to miss it. Fortunately, we had a very cooperative bird—it stayed out in plain sight long enough for everyone to get great looks at it.

To emphasize what a good find this was, I pulled out my iPhone and opened the iBird Pro app. The range map, showing the distribution of this species, doesn’t even show it as occurring in Arizona. I guess the bird didn’t look at the map! That’s not to say it hasn’t been seen in the Prescott area before, but it is certainly considered a rare bird for Arizona.

What a way to cap off a spectacular morning. Even before we’d seen the waterthrush I considered our morning to be a tremendously successful bird walk. We’d seen so many beautiful birds including western and summer tanagers, Lucy’s, yellow and yellow-rumped warblers and a zone-tailed hawk — to name a few.

Last Wednesday I experienced a very birdy morning in my yard. In a 10- to-15-minute time span I saw a male northern cardinal, a male Bullock’s oriole, a male western tanager, a male lazuli bunting, a male Wilson’s warbler and a male yellow warbler. I specifically mention that I saw males because of their striking colors and plumage. Additionally, I still had cedar waxwings and white-crowned sparrows in my yard. It was a banner day for birds.

The white-crowned sparrows have since moved on. I still have a few lingering cedar waxwings, but they will be leaving soon. At this point I’m still seeing lazuli buntings, western tanagers and a lot of black-headed grosbeaks in my yard. Most of all, I am thoroughly enjoying the male cardinal that seems to have claimed our yard as his home.

What a thrill to hear him singing morning and night. I can only assume he is looking for a mate. I’ve yet to see a female in my yard. I’m crossing my fingers he can attract a mate and they’ll nest either in our yard or at least near our property.

Birding tip of the week: Don’t forget to join the Prescott Audubon Society this Saturday from 4 to 7 pm at the Highlands Center for Natural History as they celebrate Migratory Bird Day!

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott, Arizona. He 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.