willowlakeLast Saturday I led a Jay’s Bird Barn sponsored bird walk to Willow Lake. The lake, along with the surrounding habitat, is a jewel in the city’s crown when it comes to Open Space. This lake, along with Watson Lake and Watson Woods has been identified by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area because of the diversity of bird species and the sheer number of birds that use this critical habitat.

One of the first bird species we saw when we arrived at the south shore was a male Anna’s hummingbird, weighing in at 4.3 grams. A short time later, we discovered an absolutely huge Bald Eagle sitting up in a snag in the dells. The Sibley Guide to Birds lists the weight for Bald eagles as 4,325 grams. If you do the math, Bald eagles are 1,000 times larger than an Anna’s hummingbird!

I had my spotting scope with me, which made a big difference when looking at the eagle and several other birds of prey, including numerous red-tailed hawks, several American kestrels and a northern harrier. Other highlights include a canyon wren, a female belted kingfisher, black and say’s phoebes, savannah sparrows and large flocks of red-winged blackbirds.

This time of year, there are literally thousands and thousands of water birds at the lake. Some of the water fowl we saw include two tundra swans, numerous cormorants, rafts of northern shovelers, canvasback ducks, buffleheads, mallards, northern pintails, gadwalls, ruddy ducks, green-winged teal, American wigeon, American coots, common mergansers, and three species of grebes-western, eared and pied-billed.

At one point, we had a pied-billed grebe in the scope with an enormous fish in its beak. For several minutes, the grebe struggled with the fish, trying repeatedly to swallow it, with no success. Eventually, another pied-billed grebe got greedy and decided to try to steal the other bird’s catch. A short dispute ensued, followed by a chase, and the first grebe ended up losing its fish, so neither grebe ended up with anything. The greedy grebe’s actions resulted in empty bellies for both birds!

On Friday, Feb. 12 and Saturday, Feb. 13, Jay’s Bird Barn will be hosting bird walks to several private residences in the Prescott area in conjunction with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Great Backyard Bird Count. These bird watching trips to private residences are one of our most popular field trips each year.

If you are a homeowner with a yard that is exceptionally busy with bird activity, we would love to drop by for a visit. If you are willing to host a group of birders for approximately 45 minutes, please call the store at 928-443-5900.

The GBBC is an annual event that runs from Friday through Monday Presidents Day weekend. This event is an example of citizen scientists contributing data on bird populations each winter, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners submitting data over the four-day period. To learn how you can participate in the bird count, I encourage you to visit their website at gbbc.birdcount.org. Instructions on how to count the birds in your yard and submit your bird observations are available at this website.

A quick reminder-tonight, Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. is the first Audubon meeting of 2016. Micah Riegner will be the guest speaker and he will be presenting a program titled “Explorers of the Amazon.” The meeting will be at the Trinity Presbyterian Church located at 630 Park Avenue in Prescott.

Until next week, Happy Birding!