This past week, I led a free Jay’s Bird Barn bird walk to Watson Lake and Watson Woods. Early morning bird walks to Watson Lake are most productive if the lake is viewed from the vantage point of the Peavine Trail—so the sun is at your back.
We took a leisurely pace, walking about three quarters of a mile out and back on the Peavine before making a detour through Watson Woods. Here are some takeaways from our bird walk:
• Anna’s hummingbirds are back — in good numbers, already. It is one thing to see Anna’s hummingbirds in February — either in your neighborhood or yard — where there are feeders. It is another thing to see them out in nature, away from feeders, and we saw three — two males and a female. If you don’t have a feeder up, it is time, even if it is only the first week of March.
• Natural seed sources are depleted. In a normal year, walking the Peavine Trail in winter would result in flocks of both dark-eyed juncos and white-crowned sparrows being flushed up from the edges of the trail. It would not be unusual to see 40 to 50 juncos and sparrows while covering the distance we traveled on the Peavine. We did not see a single junco, nor did we see a single sparrow.
• American robins are starting to show up. A year ago, we had thousands of robins that wintered over in Prescott, taking advantage of the berries on Bradford pear and purple plum trees. This year, robins have been very scarce. Seeing robins is an indication that they are starting to migrate through the area.
• Swallows are back, which seems early. We saw small numbers of violet-green swallows flying high over the power line marsh area. Swallows are aerial foragers, catching flying insects in mid-flight. While we are still experiencing freezing temperatures each night, there are sufficient flying insects to sustain the arriving swallows. Over the next few weeks, other swallow species will be arriving as well, including northern rough-winged, tree, barn, cliff and bank.
• Water fowl numbers are starting to thin out at the lakes. While we still saw a number of ducks, grebes and mergansers, we certainly saw fewer varieties, and lower quantities than just a few weeks ago. For example, we didn’t see any northern pintails or American wigeons, and only two goldeneyes. It is apparent our wintering ducks are starting to head north. The three Tundra swans that were here this winter are gone as well.
• Last Thursday I hiked the segment of the Prescott Circle Trail that goes from Pioneer Park over to Willow Lake. While on my hike, I was surprised to see two turkey vultures flying overhead. In all the years I have lived in Prescott, I don’t ever recall seeing a turkey vulture in Prescott in the month of February. If you keep records of the first time you see a bird species each year, it is recorded as ‘First of Season,’ or FOS.
The final takeaway is that we are entering a time of great transition — a lot of ‘our’ wintering birds are now on their way out, and some of our transient and summer birds are starting to show up. All the more reason to get out and go bird watching! If would like to join us on one of our free weekly guided bird walks, come by the store or visit our website to look at the schedule and sign up. We limit each walk to 12 individuals.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.