watson-woodsThis evening is the Prescott Audubon Society’s season opening meeting at 7 p.m. in the social hall at Trinity Presbyterian Church located at the corner of Park Avenue and Copper Basin Road. I hope you will come.

Dr. Gary Beverly will present ‘Viva La Verde’, a 48-minute film that tells the story of the Verde River. The film portrays the value of the river and the many threats to the Upper Verde. Following the video there will be a question and answer period with Dr. Beverly.

The importance of water, and the habitat associated with creeks and rivers, (referred to as riparian habitat) cannot be underestimated. The cottonwoods and willows that line our creeks provide critical habitat for wild birds. The needs of wild birds are not much different than our own – they need food, water, shelter, and a place to rear young. The biotic community supported by our creeks and rivers meets each of these needs for wild birds.

It is an interesting experience to witness firsthand the stark difference between a riparian area, and the habitat as little as 100 yards away from a flowing creek. This contrast is especially obvious at the Hassayampa River Preserve in Wickenburg. The area closest to the river is a lush, green forest. Adjacent to it is a barren desert with cacti, few trees, and scattered shrubs.

This past week I led a guided bird walk at Fain Park in Prescott Valley. The lake at Fain Park is fed by two creeks, Rose Creek and Lynx Creek. As you hike upstream from the lake, the habitat is thick with native plants. The most productive bird watching areas were those areas with hackberry trees. We saw this over and over again during our bird walk – it was like the hackberry trees were bird magnets.

September is a very productive time of year to go birding – as you get to see birds that haven’t left yet, birds that are just passing through, birds that have already arrived for the winter, and the many varieties of birds that stay in the area year-round.

We got great looks at both male and female Wilson’s Warblers, which are passing through this area right now. We saw a handsome Red-naped Sapsucker – the first sapsucker I have seen this fall. It seems a little early to see a sapsucker – I generally don’t think of them being in the area until sometime in October.

One of our better finds was a late male Summer Tanager. He was brilliant red and was vocalizing which alerted us to his presence. We were fortunate to find several cooperative Crissal Thrashers, which typically are such skulkers. The diversity of birds that we saw was quite remarkable – from hummingbirds and Bushtits, to Chipping Sparrows and Hairy Woodpeckers.

If you are interested in doing some creekside birding, Jay’s Bird Barn is offering a free, guided bird walk tomorrow, Sept. 27, at Banning Creek. Call the store to sign up (443-5900), as we limit the group to twelve individuals.

A quick reminder that Monday, Sept. 30 is the last day to submit your wild bird pictures for the fifth annual Wild Bird Photography contest. The exhibit opens on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at both Jay’s Bird Barn locations. Based on last years’ event it should be a wonderful collection of magnificent bird pictures. Judging is done by the public – I invite you to view the exhibit and cast your ballots any time between Oct. 1 and 22.