malewesternbluebirdLast Saturday I led a bird walk to Fain Park in Prescott Valley. At the beginning, it was very cold and the bird activity was a little slow. However, as the day warmed up, the birding activity heated up as well!

Some of the highlights included a very vocal yet elusive loggerhead shrike, perched way up in the crown of a huge cottonwood tree. Even though the tree was bare of any leaves, I had the hardest time finding it even though it was singing constantly! It is not very often that one gets to hear the vocalization of a loggerhead shrike, so that was a really nice experience for all of the participants.

Another highlight was a female belted kingfisher. She was actively patrolling the cove north of the footbridge. On numerous occasions, we watched her dive into the water, each time coming up with minnow-sized fish.

With our recent rains, the water level of the lake was right to the top of the dam, with some water actually spilling over the dam. We saw a good variety of water birds including common mergansers, common goldeneye, lesser scaup, ruddy duck, double-crested cormorant and lots of mallards.

Surprisingly, there were no American coots on the lake, which I would have anticipated seeing. Maybe the size of the lake doesn’t lend itself to coots, as they need a lot of room to take off. Unlike “puddle ducks” that can take off from a sitting position on the water, coots have to run furiously across the top of the water, beating their wings madly until they get up enough speed to get airborne. Maybe the runway just isn’t long enough!

Some of the terrestrial birds we saw included Crissal thrashers, spotted and canyon towhees, dark-eyed juncos, white-crowned, chipping and song sparrows, American robins, hairy woodpeckers, ladder-backed woodpeckers, northern flickers, white-breasted nuthatch, Bewick’s wren, bridled titmice, bushtits and yellow-rumped warblers.

The habitat around the lake has numerous hackberry trees which are like a bird-magnet. I think the highlight had to be seeing small flocks of male and female Western bluebirds in full sunlight feeding on hackberries and drinking at the water’s edge.

It seemed the longer we stayed, the more birds we were finding. When it was time to leave, I practically had to be pulled away. I was so enthralled by all of the new birds that kept appearing, it was hard just to call it a day and walk away. I hope you will consider joining us on upcoming bird walks.

Online registration for the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival is now open. The festival takes place each year in Cottonwood at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. This year’s festival runs April 25-28. Many of the more popular field trips fill up fast, so I encourage you to register as quickly as possible. Visit to register.

The Prescott Public Library has invited me back to present my “Birding in Brazil” program. If you haven’t had a chance to see this presentation, please join me tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. in the Founders Suite in the library.

If you are willing to host a group of birders for the Great Backyard Bird Count, please call the store and let me know (443-5900). The home visits are next week: Friday, Feb. 15, Saturday, Feb. 16, and Monday Feb. 18.

If you are a birder wanting to participate in one of the bird walks, please call the store to sign up, as each group is limited to 12 individuals.