Sat, Aug. 17

The Magic of Migration

The first Parry’s penstemons opened in our garden today. All over the Verde Valley Astragalus, fleebane daisy, desert marigolds and the yellow algerita blossoms are popping. Cottonwoods are greening and, like magic, the Lucy’s Warblers have returned to sing the cottonwood leaves into full spring green with their warbling trill.

Our first Turkey Vulture was spotted March 2. Black Hawks are back, pairing up – and have returned to many of last year’s nest sites. They can be seen in places like Page Springs IBA (Important Bird Area) perched on their old familiar snags. It’s hard to believe that through the month of April we’ll begin to hear and see warblers, orioles, tanagers and many other migrants that have been spending the winter in warmer places like Mexico, Central and South America. When the spring migration begins, it happens quickly. Many species show up at nearly the same time each year. The whispered whistle of the Ash-throated Flycatcher wakes us on a spring morning almost to the day each year around April 7. The Scott’s Oriole returns around April 20 and Green-tailed Towhees appear near April 27. Around that same time we can count on two friends who travel together, Mr. Wilson and Mr. MacGillivray, to stop by for a few days. They eat a little, rest under our Salvia, take a bath and move on.

So it’s time! Time to get out the bird book and clean the binoculars and put them in

a strategic place. Time to arrange your priorities such that you spend a little more time outdoors listening and watching for spring birds and spring blooms. Time to get those hummingbird feeders cleaned, full and ready for the Broad-tailed and Rufous hummingbirds that might be stopping by for a quick drink before heading to parts north, even as far away as Alaska, to their breeding grounds. Time to get good quality black-oil sunflower seed out for the Black-headed Grosbeaks and Lazuli Buntings. They will be coming from long distances and expending huge amounts of energy returning to our backyards from the secret places that make up the other half of their lives. Get ready to catch these ephemeral moments of migration.

Spring is too special to peer through a window while craning your neck around a computer screen. Go AWOL (Avian Watching On Lunchbreak), get up early, take more walks, get outside and watch the magic happen.

Dena is a seasoned naturalist, birding guide and educator. As manager of Jay’s Bird Barn in West Sedona she is available to answer questions about wild birds and enhancing your backyard habitat. You may contact her at (928) 203-5700 or