Swainson Hawk

This past week I had the opportunity to lead bird walks on three consecutive days.

The first birding activity was an outdoor bird talk for the residents of Las Fuentes in the park adjacent to their facility. It was a pleasant, overcast morning, as we sat under the trees and talked about the birds of the area. Following my presentation we walked over to the parking lot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to check out the Swainson’s hawk nest.

The nest was empty, and we couldn’t find the juvenile anywhere. As we lingered in the parking lot, we heard the vocalization of a Swainson’s hawk in flight. Then as we turned around, we saw an adult fly by and land in a tree more than 200 yards from where we were standing.

I got my spotting scope on the adult, when an observant participant noticed that the juvenile was in the same tree where the adult had landed. The juvenile made its way up through the foliage and joined the adult near the crown of the tree. Using the spotting scope we could see both the adult and the juvenile side-by-side at the same time!    

The following day, I led a free Jay’s Bird Barn-sponsored bird walk to Goldwater Lake. One of the highlights was seeing several red crossbills. This is one of those species that is usually easier to hear than to see.

However, by hearing them we were able to locate them and we were able to get the spotting scope on them.

Another highlight was getting great looks at a cordilleran flycatcher — a summer resident in high-elevation mountains here in the Arizona Central Highlands. We saw 29 species that morning, but I felt the list of birds we didn’t see was equal in number to those we did see.

It was quite surprising how many species we missed — such as Woodhouses’s Scrub jay and Steller’s jay.  We didn’t see — or even hear — a bushtit.  At the lake we didn’t see a single coot or a pied-billed grebe. There were a lot of gaps in our bird list for the day, but some days are like that. 

The next day I led a private bird walk to Watson Woods and Watson Lake. We took the Peavine Trail just out to the lake where we used a scope to check out the bird activity on the lake. One surprise was a northern shoveler. This is an abundant winter resident, but it is not typically found here in summer. It would be interesting to know if it never left in the spring, or if it has already returned.

Our Prescott store manager, Ryan, and I are headed down to Sierra Vista this week to participate in the Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival.  This is one of our favorite off-site events to attend each year.

It is basically a working vacation. We get up early each morning and bird watch until it is time to open our vendor booth. Then, each evening, after the vendor area shuts down, we go birding until it gets dark. We should see at least 100 species this week — many of them specialty birds of southeastern Arizona. 

This weekend is the Sedona Hummingbird Festival at the Sedona Red Rock High school. The festival starts on Friday and runs through Sunday. It is always a very nice event.  Check out their website if you are considering going over, as registration is required for most of the activities. 

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 eric@jaysbirdbarn.com