8/15/2013 6:00:00 AM Bird-watching can be as easy as stepping outdoors
Photos.com Spot birds in your own backyard.
Eric Moore Courier Columnist
While in Sierra Vista for the Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival, I was able to squeeze in some birding on the grounds of Cochise College where the festival was being hosted. Some of the bird species I observed on campus included Say's Phoebe, barn swallows and cliff swallows, all taking advantage of the abundant insects.
Adjacent to the campus was some great desert habitat providing me an opportunity to see a variety of birds within a minute's walk from the vendor area. There were Pyrrhuloxia, Lucy's warbler, ladder-backed woodpecker, northern mockingbird and Gambel's quail - a very diverse cross section of bird species. From the parking lot of the campus, I saw a lesser nighthawk flying around in pursuit of insects, and I saw a stunning male vermillion flycatcher.
One of my more in-teresting observations was watching an adult black-throated sparrow frantically searching for food as it tried to satisfy a very hungry juvenile brown-headed cowbird. Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. If the host species accepts the intruder's egg, it takes on the responsibility of incubating the egg and rearing the fledgling. It was quite a sight to see this small sparrow (13.5 grams) compared to the much larger cowbird (44 grams) being followed around by the begging cowbird. That poor sparrow had a full-time job trying to find enough food to keep the cowbird satisfied!
My experience of seeing all of these different species in and around the campus reinforced to me the fact that people interested in bird watching can bird watch wherever they find themselves. The hobby of bird watching is unique for this very reason.
A lot of hobbies require you to go to a specific facility or destination to engage in your interest. For example, if you like bowling, you have to go to a bowling alley. If you like golf, you have to go to a golf course. If you enjoy fishing, you have to drive to a stream or lake to engage in this activity.
Birding, on the other hand, is an activity in which you can participate no matter where you are. I was at a community college, and I was able to watch birds by just stepping outside. Even here at the store, in a busy, urban shopping center, I see a tremendous variety of birds, from Great-tailed grackles to Swainson's hawks. I don't know of any place I have gone where there haven't been birds to see.
Two weeks ago, our family attended an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game down in Phoenix. It was a hot evening, and the retractable roof was closed.
But, we still managed to see at least one bird - a mourning dove - flying around inside the stadium!
Many of our customers enjoy the hobby of backyard bird-feeding because they can engage in and enjoy the hobby of bird watching from the comfort of their home. They don't have to leave the house to enjoy the show! I hear comments every day from customers how they enjoy having their morning coffee while watching the birds in their yard.
Keep in mind: We continue to offer free guided bird walks on a weekly basis. Visit the Jay's Bird Barn web site at www.jaysbirdbarn.com for a schedule of upcoming bird walks, then call the store at 443-5900 to sign up for any bird walks that fit into your schedule. It is a great way to learn bird identification skills as well as to learn about the birds that live in this area.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, with two locations to serve northern Arizona - 1046 Willow Creek Road in Prescott, and 2360
State Highway 89A in Sedona. Eric has been an avid birder for more than 45 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email firstname.lastname@example.org.