What a difference a week makes. Just last week I was in Flagstaff, and the wind was blowing so hard and the snow was falling so fast it was near-blizzard conditions. Earlier this week I had a speaking engagement in Sedona, and as I drove back it was 78 degrees in the Verde Valley!
It is not just the change in weather heralding springs arrival—for me, it is the sound of singing birds that marks the change. As I step out of the house in the morning and hear the dawn chorus, it sounds like spring.
Another sign of spring’s arrival was seeing the first lizard of the year in my yard this past Sunday. It was a plateau lizard, and it had beautiful blue markings on its belly and throat. In spite of our hard winter, it didn’t look any worse for the wear. It would be interesting to know where it spent the winter.
I also saw three different species of butterflies earlier this week. Between birds singing, my lizard sighting, and butterflies flying around, there is no denying spring weather is right around the corner. Every day I receive email updates on rare bird sightings in Yavapai County. On Sunday, there was a report of a male lazuli bunting in the arm-chair birding area at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Also, two individuals in the Verde Valley reporting seeing hooded orioles in their yard already!
When I was walking on the Peavine Trail earlier this week, I saw small flocks of swallows flying all around—another indication of birds being on the move. As the weather transitions from winter to spring, you might be wondering what changes you will see in your yard over the next several weeks.
One of the changes you will notice is how the number of winter visitors will start to thin out. For example, the numbers of yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets will start to decline as they leave their winter range and began to move north. You may see an influx of ‘transient’ species such as chipping sparrows at your feeders for the next few weeks as they take advantage of backyard bird feeders to bulk up for their upcoming migration.
I find spring can be very unpredictable as far as what might show up in my yard. Right now, in addition to white-crowned and chipping sparrows, I also have a single Lincoln’s sparrow hanging around. I know it is just passing through, so I will enjoy it as long as it is here.
I had a male rufous hummingbird in my yard just a few days ago. I have seen males of three different hummingbird species all within a one-week period—Anna’s, broad-tailed, and rufous. As is the case with most transient species, they don’t typically stay around too long as they are moving through—usually just long enough to refuel and continue on.
A phenomenon we experience each spring is a ‘lull’ in bird activity at the feeders. Usually our winter birds leave before our summer birds arrive, so if you experience a decrease in the number of birds at your feeders, don’t be concerned; it is normal and expected during this time of year.
If you don’t have a least one hummingbird feeder, as well as a finch feeder out, it is time. I have three hummingbird feeders out already, and I am filling my nyjer feeder for the lesser goldfinches every day. Remember the adage, “build it and they will come?” Well, when it comes to bird feeding, the adage is “feed them and they will come!”
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 email@example.com.