130706aHow do you mark the seasons? The arrival or departure of migratory birds is a reliable indicator. I remember my father talking about the arrival of robins in Maine where he grew up in the 1930s. A fond memory of his was knowing that when the robins arrived, spring was not far away.

I have certainly noticed a change in bird activity in my yard recently. All of the dark-eyed juncos that were here for the winter are gone. I’m not seeing any more ruby-crowned kinglets, and yellow-rumped warblers are becoming scarce. I still have a good number of white-crowned sparrows, but they will be leaving soon, along with the chipping sparrows I’m seeing in my bird feeding area.

Recent new arrivals in my yard include a Lincoln’s sparrow that is just passing through. One of my employees had a green-tailed towhee in his yard this past weekend. Kingbirds are starting to show up, and they will soon be followed by orioles, grosbeaks and buntings.

This past Sunday I was thrilled to see my first Swainson’s hawk of the season. Interestingly, the best place to see this magnificent bird of prey is in a high-traffic area right in town. The two hawks there don’t seem to mind the constant coming and going of vehicles and foot traffic.

Normally I don’t reveal the location of nesting sites, but since this pair has chosen the same busy location in a very urbanized area, I don’t think there is any risk of disturbing the birds. If you want to get great looks at the pair of Swainson’s hawks, park on the west side of Ruth Street

by the Prescott High School tennis courts. The hawks nest across the street in a large non-native pine tree on the front lawn of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building. The nest is easy to see from the west side of Ruth Street. Afternoons are the best time of day to view the nest, as the sun will be behind you instead of in your eyes.

A week from today is the first day of the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood. The festival runs from Thursday, April 24 through Sunday, April 27. Jay’s Bird Barn will host the ‘Arm Chair Birding’ event on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We will also be providing two classes-one on beginning bird identification, and the other on optics. For more information visit the festival website at www.birdyverde.org.

This past Saturday, I spent a few hours at the Gilbert Water Ranch. The water levels in most of the retention ponds were low, but there was one large pond with shallow water, which is ideal for wading birds. I didn’t count, but it seemed as if there were hundreds of long-billed dowitchers and least sandpipers, along with countless black-necked stilts, American Avocets, Killdeer, and a lone solitary sandpiper, which was a new bird for my 2014 state list.

Just a quick reminder-this evening at 7 p.m. is the monthly Audubon meeting. The speaker for tonight’s program is Micah Riegner, and he will be talking about his trip to Brazil where he worked as a birding guide last summer. The title of his program is ‘Brazil Revisited-Birding Adventures in the Southern Amazon.’ Audubon meetings are held at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Prescott. Be sure to arrive early, as I am sure it will be standing room only.

Until next week, Happy Birding!