red_shouldered_hawkLast week I wrote about the first two days of my “Road Scholar” birding trip. On day three, our group of 22 birders visited the Hassayampa River Preserve, which is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. It wasn’t a really birdy day, but we still managed to find some really good birds, including a red-shouldered hawk. We also saw several Lawrence’s goldfinches. This brought the number of goldfinch species we had seen for the week to three. We saw earlier both lesser and American goldfinches, so we ended up seeing all three species of goldfinches found in North America!

The highlight was finding three separate active hummingbird nests. One nest had two baby hummingbirds that were ready to leave the nest. We were able to set up the spotting scope on the nest, and each participant was thrilled to see these precious little gems. Later in the week we found an active Harris’s hawk nest and an active Phainopepla nest. If you have not already done so, it is definitely time to get out nest-building materials!

On Thursday, we returned to Date Creek Ranch – our original destination on Monday when we got stuck in the mud. Fortunately, the dirt road had dried out quite a bit, and we didn’t have any difficulty getting to the ranch. This is an amazing location for vermilion flycatchers. They are so abundant that after a while it is almost like, “Oh, it’s just another vermilion flycatcher.”

Friday we spent time birding in Congress in an area that has Sonoran Desert habitat. We saw several specialty desert birds such as gilded flicker, Pyrrhuloxia, Brewer’s sparrows and black-throated sparrows.

As the field trip leader, I worked very hard – on Monday at Burro Creek, on Tuesday at Sunset Park, and again on Friday in Congress – to find black-throated sparrows so all of the participants could get a good look at this beautiful species. Knowing that this species would be a “new” or “life” bird for most of the participants, I really put forth a lot of effort to find a cooperative sparrow on which everyone could focus his or her binoculars.

I returned home from my weeklong birding trip tired, but feeling quite satisfied, as we had observed a total of 96 different species. Two days later, when I was walking past the window where I can see my bird feeding area, I just happened to glance out the window and you will never guess what I saw – a beautiful black-throated sparrow! I have lived in Prescott for more than 20 years, and I have never had a black-throated sparrow in my yard before – not even once!

This species is listed in Dr. Carl Tomoff’s “Birds of Prescott, Ariz. Checklist” as rare. I was so surprised to see the bird that I called out to my whole family to come and take a look. This little guy turned out to be very cooperative – he was not skittish – and everyone got to see it with binoculars. I saw him off and on throughout the rest of the day feeding on the white-proso millet that I broadcast for ground-feeding birds such as white-crowned sparrows and dark-eyed juncos.

I would like to personally invite you to a presentation I will be doing this coming Monday, April 2, at 3:30 p.m. at the Prescott Public Library. I will be showing a lot of pictures and sharing some of my experiences from my recent bird watching trip to Brazil. I hope you can make it.