Pine Siskin (James Morris/Courtesy)

I spent some time birdwatching over in the Verde Valley this past weekend.  Gayla and I spent two nights at the Jerome Grand Hotel and took day trips throughout the valley.  I don’t know how many times (hundreds?) I’ve driven through Jerome, but I’ve never really stopped and acted like a tourist. 

It was nice to slow down a little, relax and enjoy the Verde Valley.  One day we hiked the Jail Trail—the trailhead is in Old Town Cottonwood, and the trail meanders through the riparian habitat bordering the Verde River. 

The trail eventually connects with Dead Horse Ranch State Park—one of my favorite places to birdwatch.  I observed a variety of birds, including both house and Bewick’s wren, Gila and ladder-backed woodpecker, northern flicker and a surprising number of Lincoln’s sparrows.

We also spent some time at Sedona Wetlands.  The large pond in the back of the property is visible from the observation deck and had a good variety of water birds, including double-crested cormorant, western grebe, canvasback, ring-necked duck, ruddy duck and mallards.

Earlier in the week, a dunlin was observed at Sedona Wetlands. Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be found on Saturday. In fact, I didn’t see any wading birds such as killdeers, sandpipers, ibis, stilts or avocets.  I did see a male phainopepla—and pointed it out to a couple from Ontario, Canada.  They were both very happy, as this was a life bird for them!

One surprise at the wetlands was a flock of pine siskins.  This is not the typical habitat for siskins.  I suspect this was a flock in the process of migrating.  It is not uncommon for migratory birds to occur outside of their ‘normal’ habitat during migration.  As they migrate from point ‘A’ to point ‘B,’ they stop and refuel from time to time.

Another stop was the Fish Hatchery at Page Springs, along Oak Creek—what a lovely setting.  The show pond by the parking lot has crystal clear water and is filled with huge, gorgeous trout.  While I didn’t see a lot of birds, I saw good birds — including an osprey and a common black hawk.

While spending time in Jerome, I observed another flock of pine siskins. Over the last three weeks, I have seen pine siskins in Granite Basin, in my yard, and now in the Verde Valley. It will be interesting to see if we’ll have large flocks of pine siskins wintering in the Prescott area this year.  If so, you’ll want to keep a nyjer/thistle feeder out, as they eat the same food as the lesser goldfinches that are so common in summer. 

I would like to invite you to attend the Prescott Audubon Society’s ‘Window on Nature’ presentation this evening, Thursday, Oct. 24. The presenter is Clay Taylor, a professional nature photographer and the Naturalists Manager for Swarovski Optiks North America.  Clay will be talking about the birds of south Texas.  I guarantee you will be impressed with his photography and his knowledge of the birds of the Rio Grande Valley!   

This is a free event, and, as always, the public is welcome.  Arrive at 6:30 p.m. to socialize, mingle and enjoy refreshments before the meeting begins at 7 p.m.

I also invite you to come to Jay’s Bird Barn this Saturday, Oct. 26, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. as we celebrate our 16th anniversary. Jay’s Bird Barn will provide a free lunch, have live birds of prey on display, and I will announce this year’s winners for our wild bird photography contest. I hope to see you at both events! 

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona — Prescott 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