I spent four days this past week at Dead Horse Ranch State Park participating in the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival. In spite of cool temperatures and windy conditions, it still turned out to be a great event, with a total of 192 bird species observed over four days.

Besides staffing our booth in the vendor tent, I also led three armchair birding trips. Just west of the River Day Use area, where the festival headquarters are located, there is a handicap-accessible trail leading to an area with several seed, nectar, nyjer and suet feeders.

As the leader of this field trip, my job was to help each participant see the different varieties of birds frequenting the armchair birding area. Over the course of the festival, 27 different species were observed at the armchair birding area. Not bad. It is nice when the birds have to come to you instead of you having to go find the birds.

Some of the highlights included small numbers of beautiful lazuli buntings, summer tanagers, juniper titmice, white-breasted nuthatch, gila woodpecker, Bewick’s wren, lark sparrows and Lucy’s warbler. Some of our sightings were simply fly-bys, such as great blue heron, Cooper’s hawk and countless northern rough-winged swallows.

When I wasn’t on duty and had some free time, I was able to see additional bird species such as great horned owl, common Poorwill, lesser nighthawk, a small group of gulls, and the signature bird of the festival, the common black hawk. It was a good festival, and I encourage you to put it down on your calendar for next year — it is always the last weekend in April.

Other festivals still coming up later this year include the Hummingbird Festival in Sedona the last weekend in July and the Southwest Wings Festival in Sierra Vista the first week of August. If you are a casual, backyard birder, attending a festival will broaden your birding experience.

As a reminder, this coming Saturday, I will be participating in the Prescott Audubon Society sponsored Bird-a-thon to help raise funds for scholarships and programs to benefit youth in the Prescott area. If you would like to make a pledge per bird, or just a flat donation, Team Jay’s Bird Barn would love your support. Please call the store at 928-443-5900 if you want to contribute to the fundraiser.

Also this weekend is the Highlands Center for Natural History’s Native Plant Sale at their facility on Walker Road. This is a great opportunity to purchase plants native to Arizona—plants that are drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, and flourish in our soils, temperatures and precipitation.

In business you always hear the expression that the key to success is location, location, location. In birding, if you want to be successful in attracting a wide variety of birds to your yard the key to success is habitat, habitat, habitat. I invite you to let the experts at the Highlands Center help you create the perfect bird habitat by making recommendations on what plants you should add to your yard.

When feeding birds, you are more likely to attract a variety of birds to your yard if you offer a variety of food sources such as seed, suet, nectar, fruit, etc. You are also more likely to attract a variety of birds to your yard if it is inviting, with a variety of different kinds of plants — some that produce seeds, others that produce nectar or fruit, and trees and shrubs that provide places for shelter and nesting. When landscaping for nature, native plants are the best way to go.

Until next week, Happy Birding!