blue-grosbeakThis past Saturday I led a Jay’s Bird Barn-sponsored bird walk to Granite Dells, where we hiked the Flume Trail. It was such a “birdy” morning – birds were abundant and active. It seems as if our monsoon rains have revitalized all of nature. There was water flowing in numerous seasonal creeks and the vegetation was lush.

We saw a good variety of birds, including ash-throated flycatcher, summer tanager, hairy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch and more Phainopeplas than we could count! We also saw three different species of wrens – Bewick’s, rock and canyon. The canyon wren was particularly enjoyable as we not only got to see it, but we got to hear its distinctive song, which is so unmistakable.

Bird-watching is so much more enjoyable when birds are vocalizing. When you can hear birds, it makes finding them much easier. I led a bird walk a few weeks ago to the south shore of Lynx Lake, and it was virtually silent. We could hardly wrestle up a bird sighting in spite of our best efforts. Some days are like that.

When I lead bird walks, I try not to focus too much on the birds that we don’t see, but I do find myself reflecting on the birds that we miss. When I go birding, no matter what type of habitat I am in, I know what kinds of birds should be present in that area. However, that is no guarantee we will find them. Some of the bird species we missed Saturday included canyon towhee, juniper titmouse and red-tailed hawk.

Probably the most satisfying part of leading bird walks is when I can help someone see a new bird species for the first time in his or her life. It is especially rewarding when the new bird is a really pretty one! I had this experience this past Saturday when I was able to help a birder see several blue grosbeaks, including a juvenile male, a female and a male in breeding plumage.

Few birds in North America are as pretty as a male blue grosbeak, with its deep blue color and chestnut colored wings. Not only are blue grosbeak pretty to look at, but they also have a beautiful song, which I never tire of hearing. The ability to hear and identify birds by their songs adds so much to my love affair with birds.

While the blue grosbeak is considered to be a fairly common summer resident here in the Central Highlands of Arizona, I think few backyard birders see them. In spite of its beautiful blue plumage, it is surprisingly hard to find in foliage, as it seems to blend in with the leaves of deciduous trees.

While they may be hard to see, they are not hard to hear! Just this week I have heard Blue Grosbeaks singing in the Pioneer Cemetery behind the store, in the riparian habitat adjacent to KAHM Radio, and in the trees bordering Merritt Avenue.

Our next scheduled free bird walk is Friday, Aug. 9. We’ll meet at Jay’s Bird Barn at 7 a.m. and we’ll carpool up into the Bradshaw Mountains for a few hours of birding. Call the store if you would like to participate, as bird walks are limited to 12 individuals.