Five California condors were released into the wild last Saturday at the Vermilion Cliffs. (Eric Moore/Courtesy)

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started over a year ago, the opportunity to gather with other bird watchers and do activities together has been somewhat limited. Historically, in our community, there have been at least two ways to participate in free bird walks — through Jay’s Bird Barn and through the local Prescott Audubon Society chapter.

While COVID hasn’t gone away, I am happy to announce the Prescott Audubon Society is once again offering bird walks on a monthly basis. A free field trip to Watson Woods on the first Saturday of each month is available to birders of all ages and skill levels. The walks are about two hours long and are led by experienced birders from the Prescott Audubon Society chapter.

If you would like to participate, simply show up at the Peavine Trailhead parking lot on Sundog Ranch Road — no registration is required, and everyone is welcome. You will need to purchase a parking pass for $3. The next walk is this Saturday, Oct. 2, at 8:30 a.m. I hope you can attend!

For many years, Jay’s Bird Barn has been offering free guided bird walks in the Prescott area. One advantage to participating in guided bird walks is that a local guide is usually an expert in finding and identifying birds in the area. Our bird walks have literally helped hundreds of people grow their fledgling interest in wild birds to a full-blown hobby.

Last week, I led a Jay’s Bird Barn-sponsored bird walk to Watson Woods and Watson Lake. While our species count wasn’t too impressive, it was the quality of the birds that we saw that really made our day special. Watson Lake was particularly birdy, with several migratory bird species already present, including northern shovelers, gadwalls, belted kingfisher, hooded merganser and white-faced ibis, to name a few.

The highlight for most of the participants was seeing a sora — a small rail that is usually quite difficult to see. While it wasn’t very close, it was right out in the open (which is unusual). I had my Swarovski scope, so everyone was able to get great looks at it. This was a ‘life bird’ for almost everyone in the group! As a leader, it is a bit of a thrill to help individuals see a new bird for the first time.

Another good find was a marsh wren. While this is not a particularly uncommon species, it is just uncommon to get good ‘out-in-the-open’ looks of it. Marsh wrens are typically much easier to hear than to see. They are pretty secretive, and their preferred habitat is reeds and cattails in water habitats. On this particular day, we had a very cooperative bird that perched out in the open for a minute or two, affording everyone with a wonderful look. Again, this was a new species for many of the participants.

It has slipped my mind to mention this in my column until now, but today is the last day to submit pictures for our 13th annual wild bird photography contest. If you have a few great shots you’d like to bring by, you have up until 5:30 p.m. to drop them off. Our wild bird photography contest exhibit opens to the public on Friday, Oct.1, and we invite you to come by and vote for your favorite pictures.

Last week’s California Condor release at the Vermilion Cliffs turned out great. Five condors were released, bringing the population in Arizona to 110 birds! Good progress is being made, which is very exciting.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

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