lgf0020wlSunday, Jan. 1, was the first day of the year-long Birding Arizona Centennial Challenge. For me, Sundays are a church and family day, so I didn’t go birding, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t see any birds. Bird-watching is as easy as looking out the window!

My first species of the New Year was no surprise – dark-eyed Junco. In fact, the first three times I peered out the window early Sunday morning I saw dark-eyed Juncos and nothing else. Eventually, throughout the day, other species filtered in and out of the yard and I ended up with a variety of birds such as lesser goldfinch, American robin, spotted towhee, yellow-rumped warbler, and, of course, tons of house finches.

On Monday, the second day of the challenge, I was determined to get out to the west end of Willow Lake, north of the Cottonwood peninsula. A white-winged scoter – a very rare bird for Arizona – has been hanging out in one of the coves at Willow Lake for a little over two weeks. This species is so rare in Arizona that it is listed in the Birds of Prescott Checklist as an “accidental” species, meaning it has been seen in the Prescott area fewer than five times over the last 35-plus years!

I wanted to get the scoter on my 2012 list, and I figured this would probably be my only opportunity to include this species as part of my Centennial Challenge count. I am of the attitude that every species counts, and one of my goals this year, as part of the Centennial Challenge, is to see as many species in Arizona as I can.

I am happy to report the scoter was cooperative – it was right in the same general area where I saw it this past Saturday. I couldn’t count it then because it was a few hours prior to New Year’s! If you want to see this species, park at the Willow Lake trailhead parking lot just behind the dog park on Willow Creek Road. Take the trail to the north (left) to the cove closest to Willow Creek Road.

Another one of my goals during the Centennial Challenge is to be a facilitator in communicating what rare birds are being seen, and where. Thus, here is a tip on an uncommon species that you might what to go see. Currently there is a group of eight tundra swans that are splitting their time between Watson and Willow Lakes.

As their name would indicate, tundra swans are not common in Arizona. This is a rare opportunity for you to see this species in the state of Arizona. If you go out in the morning, check Watson Lake first, from the pull-out off of Highway 89. If you don’t see them there, then head over to Willow Lake. They are easy to spot as they are huge! They measure 52 inches long, with a 66-inch wing-span.

As a part of the Centennial Challenge, you are encouraged to attend one or more of the Birding and Nature Festivals that take place throughout the state. The first birding festival of 2012 is Jan. 13-16 in Willcox. See www.wingsoverwillcox.com for information.

Our first weekly bird walk of the New Year is filled. Call the store at 443-5900 if you would like to sign up for future bird walks. We would love to have you join us, and it will help you with your species count for the year.

I will present more information on the Centennial Challenge in the near future.