Gilbert Family Birdwalks Kick-Off the Fall Season: “Bird’N’Bikes,” Saturday, October 20

Desert Rivers Audubon Field Trips Director & Liberty Wildlife volunteer Susie Vaught with owl & friends.

Gilbert Family Birdwalks resume in cooling fall temperatures, Saturday, October 20, 2012, 8am-noon, at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve, 2757 East Guadalupe Road  Gilbert.

Our Kick-off theme is “Birds’N’Bikes.” The Gilbert Riparian Preserve lies at the crossroads of the Western and Eastern Canal Paths which feature both Multi-Use Trails & Paved sections.
Families, bike commuters and urban trail fans can join in Biking to the Birdwalk which highlights the Audubon at Home Arizona program — promoting positive change in our daily activities to make life on Earth more sustainable. The Town of Gilbert is also a Bicycle Friendly Community.
Desert Rivers Audubon volunteer guides highlight native birds and other wildlife living & migrating through the preserve during walks happening throughout the morning. Multiple Birdwalks occur between 8am to noon.
Liberty Wildlife will have rehabilitated raptors on display.
Desert Rivers Audubon’s mobile book shop will have nature guides and children’s books as well as bird watching supplies available for purchase.
Binoculars will be available for loan as well as Bird Bingo games at no charge.


These free walks are sponsored by Desert Rivers Audubon, The Riparian Preserve of Gilbert, and Liberty Wildlife.

Desert Rivers Audubon’s mobile book shop with children’s activity books and nature guides will be at Gilbert family Birdwalks.

Volunteers Needed for Backyard Habitat Garden Tour

Tour de Bird is Desert Rivers Audubon’s wildlife habitat garden tour. It highlights both private backyard ecosystems designed to benefit birds and other wildlife, as well as public gardens demonstrating support of our bird habitat recognition program and migration corridors.

It takes place Saturday, October 27, 2012, 9am-2pm. The tour features gardens in Chandler, Gilbert and Scottsdale. This event is made possible by a grant from Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Heritage Education Fund.

Volunteer guided tours, plant lists, amd onsite ticket purchases available.

Tickets: $ 10, children 16 and under free. Will Call & map provided. Ticket purchases available online.  Backpack with children’s wildlife education materials and bird guides included with each ticket purchase. Additional backpacks available for a fee.

We need volunteer garden guides and ticket-takers, half or whole day shifts. Volunteers receive exclusive Tour preview. Contact Desert Rivers Audubon’s Volunteer Coordinator Anne Koch, Training provided. This is your opportunity to learn about or enhance your knowledge of bird and pollinator-attracting landscaping as well as fall blooming plants.
This event made possible by a grant from the Arizona Game & Fish Department’s Heritage fund.

Rescued Flight: Raptor Rehabilitation with Desert Rivers Audubon, Liberty Wildlife & live birds, Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Desert Rivers Audubon Field Trips Director & Liberty Wildlife volunteer Susie Vaught with owl & friends.

Please join Desert Rivers Audubon and Liberty Wildlife for “Rescued Flight: Raptor Rehabilitation,” a presentation including live eagles, owls & hawks, Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 7-8:30pm, Gilbert Community Center, 130 N. Oak St., Gilbert.

The dedicated volunteers of Liberty Wildlife visit with rescued hawks, eagles and owls to demonstrate the resilience and care required of Arizona’s unique birds of prey. The physics of bird flight will be discussed.

This event is part of the 2012 Arizona Science & Technology Festival.

Come early to browse our mobile book shop, visit, and learn about volunteer opportunities with Desert Rivers Audubon including our Burrowing Owl release in Gilbert,  March 31, 2012. Light refreshments served.

Join Desert Rivers Audubon for the Great Backyard Bird Count February 17-20, 2012

Kick-off Saturday, February 18th @ Gilbert Riparian Preserve

Join Desert Rivers Audubon at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, 2757 E. Guadalupe Road Gilbert, to kick-off the Great Backyard Bird Count, Saturday, February 18, 2012, 8am-12 noon.

Watch birds for at least 15 minutes…

The goal of The Great Backyard Bird Count is to watch birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count then enter tallies. Anyone can participate, it’s free, and no registration is required. Participants can count anywhere they wish, not just in backyards, but in neighborhoods, parks, nature centers, or anywhere they see birds.

Wild peach-faced lovebirds

Submit your list…

“This count is so fun because anyone can take part — we all learn and watch birds together — whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher,” said Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist. “I like to invite new birders to join me and share the experience. Get involved, invite your friends, and see how your favorite spot stacks up.”

Get some local coaching…

Black-crowned Night Heron

“We’ll be able to coach East Valley residents in their bird identification skills Saturday during our free Family Birdwalk at Gilbert Riparian Preserve, Saturday, February 18, 2012, 8am-noon,” added Eileen Kane, Communications Director, Desert Rivers Audubon Society.

More than 92,000 checklists were submitted during the last GBBC, with more than 11 million individual bird observations. The data help scientists get the big picture about how bird populations may be changing across the continent over time.

…become a Citizen Scientist!

“This is a very detailed snapshot of continental bird-distribution,” said John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Imagine scientists 250 years from now being able to compare these data with their own.  Already, with more than a decade of data in hand, the GBBC has documented changes in late-winter bird distributions.”

Earn prizes, too!

The count also includes a photo contest and a prize drawing for participants who enter at least one bird checklist online. The GBBC is hosted each year by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon. The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

Bring your Great Backyard Bird Count count sheets into Wild Birds Unlimited of Mesa, AZ & receive 2 lbs. of birdseed!

Christmas Birds

by Joy Dingley
Education Committee
Desert Rivers Audubon 

The British Robin is Erithacus rubecula; American Robin is Turdus migratorius.

If you know anyone from Britain the chances are that, one year or another, you’ll get a Christmas card from them with a Robin on the front. The European Robin is very different from the American Robin, while the American version belongs in the Thrush family the European Robin is a Chat. Only a few inches long these are indomitable birds that seem to have no fear of anyone or anything. Their life style included the search for worms and grubs turned up by pigs in forests. When the forests and the wild pigs disappeared from Britain they turned their attention to the gardens, often following closely as someone dug up the earth. You may remember the robin doing that in the children’s book “The Secret Garden.” Human activity makes them seem curious as they associate us with food sources. Many garden birdwatchers have a Robin “friend” they feed regularly.

Robins are also very conspicuous in winter. This is because Britain, particularly the southern part, gets an influx of Robins from the European continent where the winters are usually harsher and longer. Robins are extremely territorial, even pairs will only share a territory while they are bringing up the nestlings, and they sing all winter long to state their claims. Not only will they sing through the winter but they will sing all day and night until an intruder backs off.

So they were already connected with winter when a sartorial decision by the Royal Mail sealed the connection forever. During the Victorian period when Christmas cards where becoming popular there was, for a time, a uniform worn by the mail deliverers that included a bright red vest (or waistcoat as the British would say). This earned the postmen the nickname “Robin Redbreasts”. Given the English predilection for puns it wasn’t long before a few Christmas cards appeared with Robins holding envelopes in their beaks and the sentiment, “This Robin Redbreast brings you Christmas cheer.”

I expect only about 1 person in five hundred back in Britain knows about this story or even wonders why the Robin is so popular. So I’m not surprised that I haven’t yet had an answer to my question “Why is the Cardinal the Christmas bird in the US – is it just because it’s a red bird that’s seen in the snow?” Maybe there’s someone out there who can tell me all about it.

Cow Bird Conundrums

by Joy Dingley
Education Committee
Desert Rivers Audubon 

Cowbirds at bird feeder.

When I grew up in England every child knew the call of the cuckoo and that it laid its eggs in other birds’ nests. Yet, even when I was a grown up bird watcher no one could give me a reasonable explanation of why the bird should choose such a roundabout way to produce the next generation – still less how the behavior evolved. So when I got to theU.S.and found that Cowbirds followed the same route of absentee parenting I was delighted when I was given a rational explanation. Cowbirds apparently followed the great herds of buffalo around feasting on the attendant insects. When the herd moved, the birds moved and they didn’t have time to build a nest, incubate eggs and feed the young ones.

It sounded good to me and I’ve repeated the explanation to other people. However, I’ve now got doubts about it. Right from the start I should have asked, if there are still enough insects around to feed the young chicks then why aren’t there enough for the parents as well? Many birds feed their young the protein providing insects they need to develop but make do with a much less rich diet themselves.

Secondly I noticed this summer how often Cowbirds are coming to my seed feeders. There do seem to be more of them than I’ve noticed before but this isn’t the first year they have done this. Even at the Santa Rita lodge in Madera Canyon at the end of May they were vying with Black Headed Grosbeaks for possession of the seed feeders.  So if they aren’t dependant on insects they could have stayed with their chicks for a few weeks before flying on to where the Buffalo had migrated.

So I’m back to asking the same questions I used to ask about the cuckoo, how on earth did this strategy evolve, could the bird ever revert to looking after its own eggs if the surrogate parents disappear and what mechanism ensures that the parasite bird doesn’t wipe out all the possible surrogate parents if they are too successful in a given area?  Somebody out there must know!

Guestblog: A Few Healthy Bird Feeding Techniques

When one of our members expressed concern that there seemed to be too many dead birds in her yard, MaryAnne Kenefic, Co-Owner of Wild Birds Unlimited, Mesa, had a few suggestions about preventing the possible cause, Canker, a protozoan infection.

By MaryAnne Kenefic
Wild Birds Unlimited
Mesa, AZ

Clean feeders, birdbaths and hardware every few weeks with a weak bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) rinse and dry thoroughly before refilling the feeders. Or purchase a feeder that is made with Agion technology, which has antimicrobial properties, then just clean with soap and water.

Bird feeders with cracks and crevices are difficult to sanitize and should be replaced.  Use feeders that are easy to clean i.e. one with a quick clean release bottom.

Move feeders around to avoid build up of waste materials and bird droppings. Keep the ground below and around the feeders clean. Rake and discard seed debris or turn it under.

Give the birds room to move, feeders should not be crowded together. Add a feeder and spread the feeders farther apart. This will reduce the potential for disease transmission and reduce the birds’ stress.

Always discard seed that has become wet.  Limit the amount of seed provided in feeders to only the amount birds will consume in one or two days.  By lessening the amount of seed in the feeders, you ensure that the seed is eaten quickly and always stays fresh.  Always discard moldy, rancid or foul-smelling seed as it could present a health hazard to birds. Never mix old seed with new seed. Use a high quality seed. If you are unsure about the freshness of the seed, it is best to discard the old seed and provide fresh new seed.


Your Bird Stories Here: The Mystery of the Hummingbird Feeder

We’re gathering your bird stories for our blog. Interest in wild birds seems to be regarded as remote, aloof, like enjoying “art.” We’d like to make it personal and articulate our commitment to preserving habitats with relate-able stories. So tell us about your favorite bird or your first wild bird encounter: Thank you!

“Two weeks ago I noticed my hummingbird feeders draining rapidly. On Friday, February 3, I found out why. I looked outside my dining room window right near sunset and was amazed at what I saw. The next evening we set up the camera hoping for a repeat. At 5:45 the hummingbirds were chasing each other….as usual. At 5:55 there were two sharing the feeder. Then at 6:05 p.m. as the sky darkened they came:

“For us it was the most amazing moment! They all moved in at one time and fed for just 5 to 7 minutes – then were gone! Since it was getting so dark, it wasn’t each to photograph. They came for three more nights and now we are back to our normal crew.”

–Gail & Bob Morris

Gail Morris is the Coordinator for the Southwest Monarch Study and a docent at the Desert Botanical Garden.

Love Is in The Air (and Sometimes Under a Rock) @ Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Click here for the checklist of birds that frequent the arboretum grounds.

Join Desert Rivers Audubon at our monthly meeting February 14, 2012 at Gilbert Community Center, 130 N. Oak St., Gilbert, 7pm, for “Love is in the Air” with Paul Wolterbeek of Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Taylor Family Legume Garden

Valentines Day, means that “Love is in the Air,” but our guest speaker would argue that love is sometimes lurking behind a tree, holding binoculars and a camera, and taking notes.

No, he’s not a creepy stalker or a papparazzo – Paul Wolterbeek is one of those dedicatedstaffers we know & love over at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Paul coordinates BTA’s volunteer program and also the public event series, arranging guided bird walks and presentations by nature photographers; summer evening concerts and how-to-juice-prickly-pear-cactus-fruit classes.

He’s one of those people who appears to love his job, and has an infectious love of birds, mammals and our Sonoran Desert … and on this evening he will share anecdotes about some of his favorite spots at BTA (maybe even share a few “secret undisclosed location” places nearby for birding, too!), with a slide show of BTA birds photographed by some of the top avian artists we have in AZ: Brendon Grice, Richard Ditch, Cindy Marple.

With any luck, Paul’s sweetie (and summertime owl research boss, Amanda) may be here, too; her lively presentation on Mexican Spotted Owls was a highlight of our 2009 speaker series.

Come early to browse our mobile book shop, visit, and learn about volunteer opportunities with Desert Rivers Audubon. Light refreshments served.