This past Thursday I hiked the Willow Lake trail, which, as a bird flies, isn’t far from the Prescott airport. As usual, I had my binoculars with me, for which I was grateful, as I saw an osprey! But this wasn’t the type of osprey that catches fish with its talons – it was a Marine Corps V-22 Osprey, a Bell Boeing tiltrotor aircraft that combines the features of a helicopter with a turboprop aircraft.
What a sight – it was almost better than seeing a real osprey! Using my binoculars, I got great looks at it as it made its approach to Love Field. Like I always say, you never know what you are going to see when you go bird watching!
On Friday, I hiked from the Watson Lake overlook on Highway 89 over to the dam and back. It was getting late, and the light conditions were not favorable for birdwatching, but sometimes you don’t have to rely on sight to see a bird – you can “see” it by hearing it. This was the case as I neared the dam. I spooked a female belted kingfisher from its perch over the water.
My sudden appearance startled her, and as she flew away she gave the characteristic rattling call that kingfishers often sing in flight. I love hearing that sound. It is so distinctive and unmistakable. Even without seeing the bird, I always know instantly that what I am hearing is a belted kingfisher because of its unique vocalization.
This past Saturday, I enjoyed hiking at the Community Nature Center, just off of Williamson Valley Road. In the course of my hike, I stumbled upon a mixed flock of small songbirds exhibiting ‘mobbing’ behavior. The vocalization could best be described as scolding, and the variety of birds gathered together indicated that something was certainly out of place.
I saw bushtits, Bewick’s wren, dark-eyed junco, yellow-rumped warbler, ruby-crowned kinglet, chipping sparrow and white crowned sparrow – all in the same shrub live oak tree at the same time. Surely there was something there that had them agitated. But what was it? Was there a small predator in the area? Perhaps a small owl? Only a few months ago a saw whet owl was discovered at the Community Nature Center.
I never did discover the source of their discontent. Chances are I was probably looking right at whatever was causing the disturbance, but the mystery remains unsolved.
A quick reminder that this Saturday, Jan. 31, is the free, one-day symposium at Prescott Collegetitled, “Get Off the Couch: The University of Outdoor Recreation.” I will be speaking at 11:30 a.m. on “Birding in Central Arizona.” I will also be exhibiting optical equipment and field guides – essential gear for those who want to participate in the hobby of bird watching and bird identification. Space for the symposium is limited, so it is important to pre-register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Include in your email your name and the breakout sessions you want to attend.
Also, online registration for the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival opens this Sunday, Feb. 1. Register at www.birdyverde.org.
Finally, the Great Back Yard Bird Count sponsored by Cornell Lab of Ornithology takes place President’s Day weekend. The store will be offering guided bird walks on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13 and 14.
Once again, we are looking for individuals willing to open up their homes and yards to groups of birders. Please call the store (928-443-5900) if you are willing to host a group of birders on either of those dates.
Until next week, Happy Birding!