Posts Tagged ‘John West’

  • Bird of the Month: Peregrine Falcon January 2019

      Peregrine Falcon By Russ Chappell The word “peregrine” means “wanderer” or “pilgrim,” and Peregrine Falcons reside world-wide. Thanks to captive breeding and a 1972 ban on DDT, this species has risen from near extinction in the 20th century to now populate every continent except Antarctica. The United States-Canada Stewardship rates peregrines as 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, but it is no longer on the State of North America’s Birds Watch List. However, their breeding areas, especially in the Prescott area, are monitored and protected during certain times of the year, and you should check with the Prescott National Forest Service before entering a Peregrine Falcon breeding area to avoid issues. Considered the fastest animal on earth, at least in a dive or “stoop” the Peregrine Falcon is capable of speeds of over 200 MPH, able to withstand 18G, and possesses exceptional vision which is protected by special membranes at high speed. They are capable of bringing down prey twice their size with their powerful talons and a unique beak. Adaptable to almost any habitat some Peregrines migrate over 15,000 miles a year, while other choose to call a selected region home year-round. In coastal areas nests are usually built on cliffs in “eyries” however being extremely adaptable many reside in cities with high skyscrapers that provide both elevation and a variety of birds to hunt

  • Bird of the Month: Black-crowned Night Heron

    By Russ Chappell Normally considered nocturnal birds, the beautiful Black-crowned Night Heron may move about during the daytime while feeding, primarily in the evening or after nightfall. During twilight hours, they may be seen flying toward one of their favorite foraging spots, sounding their loud and harsh quawk from which they received one of their popular names, the “Qua-bird.” The preferred hunting grounds of the Black-crowned Night Heron are shallow creeks, edges of ponds, and swamps which may include pools. They usually hunt alone and at some distance from their breeding location, so feeding their young involves lengthy flights back to the nest. Rather than stand rigidly, knee-deep in the water, like Great Blue Herons, night-herons move stealthily, head lowered, neck curved, ready for the quick stroke that brings demise to whatever frog, fish, or other prey they locate. Sociable birds, night herons often reside in large colonies during the nesting season. These heronries are usually in secluded wooded areas and may include hundreds of pairs plus four or five youngsters per family. The parents frequently raise two broods a season, so it’s common to find the adult birds feeding two sets of young simultaneously: fledglings in the nest and older juveniles scrambling around in the branches near the nest. Slightly over two feet in length, adult Black-crowned Night Herons are black and ash-gray with white below, and they display

  • Bird of the Month: Western, Clark’s grebes

    By DeeDee DeLorenzo Western and Clark’s grebes are found throughout Arizona and are common breeders in the marshes along the Colorado River. Both species are about the size of a loon and have contrasting black and white plumage and relatively long, slightly curved necks. Until 1985, they were thought to be color phases of the same species — namely, the Western Grebe. There are several ways to identify each species. A breeding Western Grebe’s black cap extends below the eye, while the Clark’s Grebe’s cap stops above the eye. Another way to distinguish the two birds is by bill color. The Western’s bill is a drab greenish-yellow; the bill of the Clark’s is orange-yellow to bright yellow. A less obvious way to tell these two grebe species apart is by their overall body plumage. The back and sides of a Western Grebe are dark with little or no white mottling. The Clark’s Grebe will show some white on the sides and the back tends to be lighter. The Western makes a creaking, two-note call and sounds like a gate slowly opening then shutting: “ker-kreek.” The Clark’s Grebe makes a single syllable call: “k’rrree.” The gate opens, but doesn’t close. Behaviorally, the Western and Clark’s grebes have a lot in common. During the winter, they share the same lakes and ponds. Here they can be seen gliding on the water with

  • Bird of the Month: Ruddy Duck

    By Sharon Arnold Ruddy Ducks are widely dispersed in North America. These small, stiff-tailed ducks appear in large numbers on our lakes in the fall. Most have headed for more northern breeding territories by the end of March. Look for them in tight flocks diving for their food. In breeding plumage, the small, stocky males have bright blue, broad bills. Their bodies are reddish-brown with a black head and white cheek. They often swim with their tails held straight up. Females are brown year-round and their heads have a dark crown and a lighter cheek with a line through it. In winter, the male looks similar to the female. However, its cheek remains white. Their preferred food consists of aquatic plants and insect larvae and aquatic snails from lakebed ooze. The Ruddy Duck’s unique courtship display involves “bubbling.” Males thump their blue bills against their chests which produces small pond ripples and bubbles. The process often ends in an odd croak. Ruddy Ducks do not initiate courtship or acquire mates until they arrive on their nesting grounds. Ruddy Duck nests are well concealed in tall, emergent vegetation and are often floating platforms attached to cattails or bulrush. Sometimes, they cover nests by pulling vegetation from above and anchoring it to the nest. Most Ruddy Ducks only produce one brood, but in southern Arizona a longer nesting season can result in

  • Bird of the Month: Yellow-rumped Warbler

    By Sharon Arnold   Arizona is famous for attracting winter visitors called snowbirds. In Prescott, a true avian version is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. Lower elevations in Prescott are often the spring and fall migration stopover and wintering haven for the Audubon’s sub-species of this colorful warbler. Although some of these “butter butts” are known to breed in our coniferous forests, most breed in mountainous states north and west of Arizona, in Canada and in Alaska. Now is the time to look for migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers foraging in trees and shrubs. Their sharp “chip” call notes give them away, and they may be traveling in large flocks. In summer, charcoal grey, black and bold white plus the five brilliant yellow markings including the rump spot that gives them their charming nickname, define these plump, 5.5-inch warblers. Winter birds may be a pale brown retaining their yellow rump and some yellow on their sides. They sport large heads and bills, flashes of white in their wings, and a long tail which is white underneath. Winter visitors begin migrating to higher elevation nesting areas by early or mid-April. These warblers commonly use older stands of Ponderosa for nesting. They are most abundant in cool mixed-conifer forests that include Douglas fir, white fir, and Aspen. In summer, look for them in the Bradshaw Mountains at elevations above 6,000 feet. Like other warblers males arrive

  • Bird of the Month: Yellow-breasted Chat

    By DeeDee DeLorenzo Let’s play “Name That Bird.” The bird I’m thinking of has white spectacles like a vireo, the bill of a tanager, the yellow breast of an oriole, and is the size of a brown-headed cowbird. Need more clues? It mimics like a northern mockingbird with a song that contains lots of whistles, gurgles, rattles, burps, squeaks, scolds, mews, and “chacks.” You’ll probably hear it before you see it, which can drive you crazy because it’s so loud and obnoxious. It is quite good at hiding toward the top of trees among leaves and branches. Quite a tease, I must say. Every once in a while, it’ll will pop out and sit on top of a large tamarisk bush or mesquite tree as if to say, “See, here I am.” Alright, one more clue. It’s the largest wood warbler species. Seriously, a warbler. Give up? It’s the Yellow-breasted Chat. You were thinking that, weren’t you? And yes, it has a name that is actually accurately descriptive. Each spring, I expectantly wait for this bird to arrive from its wintering grounds in southern Mexico and Central America. For some time now my FOS (First of Season) chat has been heard and then spotted in mid-April on Old South Dike in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. It certainly can’t be missed because its noisy, boisterous song just about drowns everyone

  • Bird of the Month: Common Yellowthroat

    By Peter Pierson You might be one of the many who find themselves driving north on Miller Valley Road, stopping at a red light at Whipple. As temperatures rise through the spring, you might roll your window down to take in the season’s affirming breeze and warm sun, idling at the light. Take a moment to offer the scene a bit of attention. On your right, on the southeast corner of that intersection, willows are in spring bloom. Cattails are greening in the restored urban wetland. You might catch a glimpse of butterflies and early dragonflies among the greenery. Just as the light turns to green, you hear a rolling, melodic witchety-witchety-witchety-witch from the lush growth alongside the busy street. You start forward, slowly, and hear it again, removing the lingering disbelief. It’s the song of the common yellowthroat, right here in this tiny urban sanctuary. A member of the family Parulidae, this New World, or wood, warbler is at home in the lush green undergrowth of marshes and sedges from the Gulf Coast to the edge of the Arctic. Like other birds dependent exclusively on the green corridors and small islands of wetlands here in the arid Southwest, its colorful plumage and vibrant song stands out in our diminishing riparian ecosystems. The male yellowthroat is easily identified (when you can catch a glimpse of it) by following its song

  • Bird of the Month: American Coot

    By Sue Drown “What’s the duck with the white bill?” It’s a question many a Prescott Audubon field trip leader has answered on a birding outing. The short answer: an American Coot. Coots are actually rails, but they’re the most visible and aquatic of this otherwise reclusive family. Coots float around our reservoirs, Willow and Watson lakes, like unremarkable gray ducks. When on land, they show their large, greenish-yellow feet with lobed toes, so they walk like you might with flippers on — with cumbersome strides to lift that big foot without tripping. Coots are grapefruit-round, with smallish wings, so they must run along the water, splattering and flapping, to get airborne. Still, many migrate quite a distance, from the northern prairie-pothole regions to our lakes for the winter. They migrate at night. They prefer fresh water, and don’t mind if it’s a bit mucky. They’re mostly vegetarian, finding plenty of algae and aquatic matter in reservoirs like Willow and Watson. If you watch birds in the fall or winter on our lakes, you’ve seen American Coots. It’s a safe bet that, on any winter day, coots outnumber all the other aquatic birds put together. This might lead you to guess that they are very successful breeders and that they’re a species — like ravens, gulls, and vultures — whose needs are benefited by human activities. And you’d be right

Celebrating art and science in Greater Prescott.

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