Last week I led a Jay’s Bird Barn-sponsored bird walk to the recharge ponds near the Prescott airport. Despite cold morning temperatures and a chilly breeze, we had a delightfully birdy morning.
As I was driving through the industrial area south of the airport, enroute to our meet-up spot, I observed a small bird of prey down on the ground—which piqued my interest. I quickly made a U-turn and pulled over to get my binoculars on the bird. I discovered it was a merlin, eating a small bird!
After meeting up with my group of hardy birders, we were immediately treated to a loggerhead shrike and a singing western meadowlark, perched in the same tree! I grabbed my scope so I could get the birds into view when a large ferruginous hawk flew in, landing awkwardly in the same tree, and scaring away both the shrike and meadowlark. Wow, our day was off to a great start!
I was able to get the hawk in the scope, and everyone in our party got to have long looks at it. For many individuals, this was a life bird. It is always exciting to be able to share with bird walk participants the opportunity to see a new bird for the first time in their lives.
From there we made our way onto the recharge property where we were greeted by a large flock of American pipits. We then saw an even larger flock of red-winged blackbirds. The red-wings seemed unsettled and agitated and were flying in large swooping flocks, as if they wanted to land but were afraid to do so. This was an indication that there must have been a predator in the area.
At one of the ponds, we were fortunate to discover not one, but two sora. This small water bird is typically very secretive and is rarely seen. We were able to get the sora in the scope—another life bird for most of the participants. At one point, one of the sora was chasing the other which was really fun to watch.
It was definitely a good day for sparrows, even though they wouldn’t sit still long enough to get a good look at them. We saw countless white-crowned sparrows, and a good number of Savannah sparrows, as well as song, Lincoln, and Brewer’s sparrows.
There was a good variety of ducks present, including mallard, northern pintail, American wigeon, northern shoveler and green-winged teal. We also found a small flock of least sandpipers and we saw several American killdeer as well.
As we were wrapping up our bird walk, we found a small flock of horned larks down in a dry basin. With the naked eye it was pretty much impossible to find them. With a pair of binoculars, it was still difficult to see them. However, with the aid of my spotting scope, everyone eventually got good looks at the larks.
This evening, Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m., the Natural History Institute Speakers Series is hosting a presentation titled, “The biocultural riches of the Gulf of California, Mexico.” The event is free, but space is limited, and registration is required to attend (email@example.com).
In this Speaker Series talk by Kino Bay Center Director, Lorayne Meltzer, learn about the Center’s efforts to promote sustainable use and conservation of resources in the Midriff Island Region of the Gulf of California, as well as ongoing research and collaborations with local communities.
The meeting is free and takes place at 126 N Marina St. in Prescott. Masks are encouraged. I hope to see you there.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, Arizona Field Optics, and Hallmark 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.