6/21/2013 6:00:00 AM Column: Attentiveness is key to birding - beyond a shadow of a doubt
Eric Moore Courier Columnist
I know this will come as a big surprise, but each time I carry an order out to a customer's car, I always scan the sky looking for birds. Actually, I am sure this doesn't surprise you at all.
There are several common bird species that I frequently see flying over the Jay's Bird Barn parking lot, including common raven, Say's Phoebe, cliff swallow, house finch and rock doves (pigeons). This past week I was seeing a Swainson's hawk on a regular basis - sometimes several times throughout the day.
One day last week I was assisting some customers at the store who were visiting from Ohio. I was standing inside of the store facing the parking lot talking with them when I saw a large shadow pass over the parking lot.
No, I cannot identify birds by their shadows, but this was a big shadow, and it immediately came into my mind that the shadow probably belonged to the Swainson's hawk.
Acting on this thought, I excitedly said to the couple, "Quick, quick, come outside with me - I want you to see a Swainson's hawk." And, sure enough, when we got outside and looked up, there was the Swainson's hawk. I ran back into the store and grabbed two pairs of binoculars and raced back outside, giving each of them a pair so they could get a better look at the hawk.
This is yet another example that highlights the importance of being observant. I have had many experiences over the years where I have been out in nature and I have seen a shadow that has caught my attention. Reacting to a moving shadow has to occur rapidly, as you have to take into account the direction the shadow is moving in relation to the position of the sun so you know where to look in the sky for the bird creating the shadow.
As it turns out, this was a "life" bird for the couple from Ohio, as neither of them had ever seen a Swainson's hawk before. Needless to say, I was happy, and they were very excited and happy to see this magnificent hawk species.
One of the advantages of the hobby of bird-watching is that you can engage in this hobby no matter where you are - even in a parking lot in an urban setting. You just have to be observant. There are birds all around us.
On a different note, the baby ravens that I have been writing about over the last few weeks fledged this past week. The first time I spotted one of the fledglings out of the nest was when it was walking through our backyard. The next day I saw another juvenile raven walking in our backyard. I don't know if it was the same bird or if it was a sibling.
They are already becoming a little more proficient at flying, and they frequently return to the tree where the nest is located. I have to admit, the noise level in our cul-de-sac has not decreased at all! The babies squawk almost nonstop when the parents are away, and the squawking only gets louder when the parents come back to the tree with food.
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.