bankswallowI love this time of year. I am an early riser, and I thoroughly enjoy the longer days, the warmer temperatures and the singing of wild birds early in the morning. I continue to work on my 2012 Centennial Challenge bird list, and I am very excited about the arrival of many migratory bird species.

I went to Mesa this past Saturday. I had a little time to go birding before heading out of town, so I chose a location where I felt I would get the most “bang for my buck.” I decided to visit the recharge ponds. This proved to be a good decision, as I added several new species to my Arizona list.

One of my better finds was a bank swallow – an uncommon transient species in the Prescott area. It was perched on a telephone wire with a mixed flock of swallows. Using my spotting scope, I scanned through the flock of swallows on the telephone wires, and I observed four different swallow species sitting side by side. In addition to the bank swallow, I saw northern rough-winged swallow, tree swallow and cliff swallow.

One of the buildings at the recharge facility was “engulfed” in cliff swallows. There were literally hundreds of swallows swarming under the eaves of the building – it looked like it could have been a scene right out of the movie “The Birds.” I suspect they were trying to find locations to build their mud nests.

Another species I added to my 2012 list this past Saturday was Bullock’s oriole. What a beautiful species! I am still on the lookout for the other two oriole species that occur here – hooded and Scott’s. I have been hearing reports of these species from many customers; I just haven’t seen them yet.

Other “new” bird species that I saw this past weekend include white-faced ibis, plumbeous vireo and western kingbird. Each of these species is indicative of migration kicking into high gear. The sudden onset of warm weather will probably hasten the migration process. It will be interesting to observe how migration unfolds this spring.

I have also received numerous reports from folks who are already seeing black-headed grosbeaks and lazuli buntings in their yards. As of yet I have seen neither of them, but it is just a matter of time before I see them. I suspect they will arrive in my yard any day.

Today is the first day of the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood. I should be able to add a lot of new birds to my list during the festival. Since the Verde Valley is about 2,000 feet lower in elevation than Prescott, a lot of migrating species will be present there that have not yet shown up at the higher elevations.

When I am not teaching classes or working in the vendor tent at the Verde, I plan on spending every available minute of every day birding – from first light until sunset. I have slightly over 170 species for the year, and my goal is to get up to 200 species before the end of the month. I am going to have to work really hard to make that happen.

I hope to see many of you at the festival this weekend. Saturday is Family Fun Day with all kinds of free activities. It looks like we might get some rain today, but Friday and Saturday should be nice.