Spring birding has started with waterbird arrival

Spring birding has started with waterbird arrival

According to various birding hotlines and e-bird postings, waterbirds are showing up in area wetlands. Reports of up to 21 species of ducks make it clear birders who check area hotspots are finding migrant ducks. Some areas are still partially frozen, but there is more open water.

The rarest duck so far has been several Eurasian wigeons. The wigeon reported recently from the Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area could possibly be a hybrid, but closer looks are needed to be sure of the identification. There have been few reports of the rarer geese so far. A number of swans have flown over, probably including both tundra and trumpeter. It’s not always easy to tell.

Out here in the Tucson, Arizona area, we drove up to Mount Lemmon for a day. This involves driving from downtown Tucson at 2,400 feet up to approximately 9,000 feet. There was snow at the upper levels of the mountain but not enough for the ski slopes to be open. With our winter coats on, we hiked for several hours, stopping to enjoy the views of Tucson and north toward Phoenix.

A major fire on the mountain in October 2020 burned 120,000 acres, the largest blaze ever recorded in the Catalina Mountains or anywhere in Pima County. Some of the same area was also burned in a 2003 fire. The entire area is still subject to severe flooding during the summer monsoons after such extensive burning.

How does this affect the birds? I haven’t read a lot about this, but yesterday we saw few birds in the burned areas. I saw or heard three hairy woodpeckers, some yellow-eyed juncos, a robin and several spotted towhees. A peregrine falcon flew low over our heads, the best moment of the day for me. Fortunately, there are still areas of forest on the mountain that did not burn, and the homes in Summerhaven, located at nearly 8,000 feet, escaped the fire.

I did see several new birds for the winter including spotted towhee, peregrine falcon, Steller’s jay, pygmy nuthatch and pine siskin. Two years ago we saw hundreds of siskins around Green Valley, but this year there have been none. They must have stayed higher in the mountains this winter. On the other hand, we are still seeing lots of Lawrence’s goldfinches, after seeing none two years ago.

We also visited the Arizona Desert Museum several days ago. The highlight was the raptor show, featuring raptors that have been trained to fly from perch to perch, as well as showing off overhead. The raptors included a great horned owl, crested caracara, gray hawk and four Harris’ hawks. Researchers are learning raptors, like many other birds, are much more intelligent than previously thought.

This is the first time we are staying in Arizona for the month of March. During the first week, I have already noticed a small influx of birds here, either on their way further north or coming back to nest here. The first rufous hummingbirds showed up last week, migrants on their way to the northwestern states. I’m looking forward to seeing more and different birds over the next three weeks, as you also will do in Ohio and Indiana.

Good birding.

Bruce Glick can be emailed at bglick2@gmail.com.