This past weekend was the annual Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The four-day event takes place each year over the President’s Day weekend, and for the second year in a row Jay’s Bird Barn sponsored bird walks to promote the event.
On Friday I led a bird walk to three different homes – one in Eagle Ridge just off of Rosser, one near Sandretto Drive, and one just off of Geneva Drive and Willow Creek Road. It was interesting to note the differences in bird species in each of the yards, underscoring the importance of habitat.
The first home had a lot of native trees and shrubs, including Pinyon Pine, Juniper and Scrub Oak. This home had the added advantage of backing up to the Yavapai Indian tribe, so there were hundreds of acres of native habitat directly behind their property. The vegetation was thick and scrubby – a perfect combination for native birds.
In addition to their wonderful yard, the homeowners at our first stop have done a lot to attract wild birds, including a water feature with a deicer, which keeps the water ice-free and accessible to the birds. There were many seed feeders, suet feeders, a finch feeder and a Mr. Bird’s nut cylinder.
Birds taking advantage of the suet feeders included western scrub-jays, yellow-rumped warblers, ruby-crowned kinglets, bushtits, Bewick’s wren and northern flickers. There were times when we could see four different yellow-rumped warblers at the same time!
Ground feeders included mourning dove, Gambel’s quail, white-crowned sparrows, canyon and spotted towhee and two cooperative crissal thrashers. I was happy that we saw the thrashers, as this is a species that many people don’t see, even though they are listed as being a common bird in the Prescott area.
We even got a glimpse or two of an Anna’s hummingbird. Needless to say, the diversity of birds and the number of birds was very captivating. We had a wonderful time, and it was with great reluctance that we left to move on to our second stop.
The second home is owned by a master gardener and she has done a wonderful job landscaping her yard with a mixture of native and non-native trees and shrubs. In this yard, we saw several species that we did not see at the previous home, including Eurasian collared doves, house sparrows and red-wing blackbirds.
There was some overlap in the species between the first two homes, such as Gambel’s quail, western scrub-jay, crissal thrasher, white-crowned sparrows and canyon towhees. At the second home we saw our first dark-eyed junco of the day. We missed this species at the first home, which was a big surprise to me.
Many of the birders in the group (including myself) expressed how we probably have more dark-eyed juncos in our yards than white-crowned sparrows. At the first house, we saw numberless white-crowned sparrows, but we did not see a single dark-eyed junco, for which I have no explanation.
The final house was in a neighborhood that has a lot of granite boulders – the habitat was much rockier than both of the other homes we visited. By now, it was later in the day – it was warmer and the bird activity had really slowed down.
We did add some new species for the day, including juniper titmouse and chipping sparrow. We also saw western meadowlarks and a red-tailed hawk as we moved between the second and the third home. For the day, we ended up with over 25 species – not bad for a few hours of backyard birding!