What we accomplished this past year and our plans for the future

By Krys Hammers,
Desert Rivers Audubon

Dear Desert Rivers Audubon Members and Friends,

Krys Hammers (l), President, Desert Rivers Audubon, with Greg Clark of Wild at Heart and feather friend.

At the end of each year, we assess what we accomplished in the past year, and make plans for the future. We also make this appeal to our friends to consider giving Desert Rivers a special gift above and beyond your membership dues.

Since membership dues do not begin to cover operation costs, we depend upon corporate gifts, book sales, recycling of aluminum cans, raffle income, and our year-end appeal to help keep Desert Rivers financially healthy and moving forward. In these tough economic times, charitable giving for conservation is on the decrease, and yet the needs remain.

Desert Rivers has continued to actively work to fulfill our mission: to educate and inspire our community on birds, wildlife and their habitats.

Last year, Desert Rivers engaged the public and its members with the following programs, all of which are free.

We received a Together Green grant to partner with Wild at Heart to build 100 burrows for Burrowing Owls at Zanjero Park. The burrows were built in Oct, 2011 and 10 owls were released in April. Again this spring we will build a tent to temporarily house another 10 owls. After 30 days they will be released to the area.

We’ve recently hosted our first annual Tour de Bird, a tour of urban bird habitats that demonstrate how everyone can help birds in their own backyard.

The Field Trips program had over 400 attendees to locations around town and the state. These trips are an important way we introduce new friends to birding and the conservation message.

Thanks to volunteers, who donated almost 600 hours, we’ve continued our monthly public birdwalk programs at Chandler’s Veterans Oasis Park and the Gilbert Riparian Preserve. These birdwalks help engage our community with an appreciation for Arizona birds and conservation message. Every child leaves with a gift to help them continue to appreciate the birds around them.

Joy Dingley hosts her Early Birds Club for children 7 – 13. These enthusiastic children have not only watched birds, they have drawn birds, listened to them, and studied their habitat and diets.

With our preserve partners, we hosted field trips for a group of blind children who learned to appreciate nature by hearing, touch and smell. We also provided a special morning program for the Hope Kids, a charity for families with children dealing with life-threatening conditions.

Our regular monthly programs at the Gilbert Community Center have attracted and inspired members and guests on a variety of topics of concern and interest.

Our top-notch newsletter highlights the happenings at our chapter, as well as provides in-depth information about conservation and wildlife topics.

This season, from September 2012 through May 2013, we will continue with these programs. We will also offer additional educational materials, and enhance our Audubon at Home Award Program, which recognizes people who have created healthy bird habitats. At this time we are specifically in need of a utility trailer where we can store and transport all of our equipment to events.

We truly appreciate your support to ensure Desert Rivers continues to offer these programs.  All of your gift will be used locally by Desert Rivers and is tax-deductible. Thank you.

“Create a Healthy Backyard Ecosystem,” Tuesday, October 9th

Please join Desert Rivers Audubon for “Create a Healthy Backyard Ecosystem” with Ron Dinchek
October 9, 2012, 7pm
130 North Oak Street
Gilbert, AZ 85233
Ron Dinchek, instructor in the Life Sciences Department at  Mesa Community College and and designer of  the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden there, will talk about creating a web for a sustainable/healthy backyard ecosystem to promote birding & enjoy nature. His interests also include ethno-botany, environmental biology and natural history of the Southwest.
We’ll talk about Desert Rivers Audubon’s Habitat Recognition Program as well as our upcoming tour of backyard habitats and bird-attrcting gardens, Tour de Bird. Come early to browse our mobile book shop, visit, and discover volunteer opportunities with Desert Rivers Audubon.

FREE. Light refreshments served.

“Guide to 101 Birding Sites – Phoenix” App Launch Party Saturday, Sept. 22nd, 2-4pm, Wild Birds Unlimited, Mesa

Desert Rivers Audubon’s mobile birding sites app in development.

Join Desert Rivers Audubon and business member Wild Birds Unlimited, Mesa, for our App launch, Guide to 101 Birding Sites – Phoenix, Saturday, September 22, 2012, 2-4pm at the Wild Birds Unlimited store, 2110 E. Baseline Rd. Suite 1, Mesa, AZ 85204. This event is free with light refreshments served.

Guide to 101 Birding Sites – Phoenix features:

The Birds-Eye Guide to 101 Birding Sites: Phoenix is now a smartphone app, Guide to 101 Birding Sites – Phoenix.

The Guide to 101 Birding Sites – Phoenix app is the the updated version of author Mike Rupp’s book, The Birds-Eye Guide to 101 Birding Sites: Phoenix.  The valley is divided into four quadrants to help the user decide where to go, and make the most of your time when you do. Urban sites are listed, as well as more rugged and remote sites outside the valley, with exact driving directions, and an index to all sites. Some sites may be familiar to local birders, but undoubtedly there are many new ones to explore.

Desert Rivers Audubon mobile birding app includes site descriptions highlighting birds likely to be seen.

The app will cost $9.99. It will be available for both iPhone and Android smartphones through the respective app marketplaces.

Tropical Kingbird Attends Desert Rivers Audubon’s Board Retreat

by Mike Evans
Conservation Director 
Desert Rivers Audubon Society

Yesterday Desert Rivers Audubon Society Board had their annual planning meeting at the Rio Salado Audubon Center.

Desert Rivers Audubon Board of Directors Retreat Saturday, July 30, 2011 at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, Phoenix, AZ.

Five of the board members met at 7AM for some pre-meeting birding.Our one notable find was a probable TROPICAL KINGBIRD.  In a little over an hour of birding we had 28 species.  Other notables were a COOPER’S HAWK, three Heron species, PHAINOPEPLA, and calling COMMON YELLOWTHROAT. This morning, my son Aaron and I went back with our spotting scope to confirm the presence of the TROPICAL KINGBIRD.
After two hours of patiently working the area between the 7th Street and 7th Avenue bridges (in tropical conditions with dew points in the upper 60’s and low 70’s), on our third pass through the area immediately west of the Central Avenue bridge, we found the bird in the same general area where we had seen it Saturday morning.  It was found in habitat identical to what is described in Kaufman’s book, at the top of a tall cottonwood tree with ponds in the area.  Nice views with the scope confirmed it as a probable Tropical Kingbird.

Tropical Kingbird

Having not seen one in a couple of decades, and only having seen Couch’s Kingbird once before (when one spent the winter outside Tacna, AZ), and not hearing it’s call, we can’t definitively say it is a Tropical and not a Couch’s.  We had a very good view of the tail and back in the scope.  There was no white on the tail, and the tail had a distinctive notch.  The tail color was brown, not black.  Yesterday and today, multiple books were used for reference.  I hope someone with more experience with Tropical Kingbirds can substantiate the find.

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!

Desert Rivers Recognized Bird Habitat Program

Fairy Duster attracts hummingbirds

If you have a backyard, park, schoolyard, or business landscape that is planted with native and low-water use plants, you are providing a good habitat to attract birds.

Desert Rivers Audubon wants to recognize you for your efforts.  Maybe it should be lack of efforts, since we recommend that you don’t overly trim or prune your desert plants. Since grass lawns are not recommended, you also don’t have to mow.  We want you to spend more time enjoying the wildlife in your habitat, instead of tending it.

Birds look in your habitat for shelter, food and water.   Native plants such as Chuparosa and Fairy Dusters not only attract hummingbirds and butterflies, but grow into lush shrubs and bloom year-round.  Palo Verde trees produce those colorful yellow blooms in the spring, stay green year-round, and provide shade in summer.  A small gray yellow-headed bird called a Verdin loves to nest and hang out in Palo Verdes.  Woodpeckers and Peach-faced Lovebirds live in holes in the saguaro cactus.   It doesn’t hurt our special native cactus and provides an insulated abode for these colorful and interesting birds.  It produces sweet blooms that attract Hummingbirds and insects that are yummy snack for most birds.  Not only do these plants attract birds, they use less water.  This means more water is available for our native riparian areas.

To be recognized for your habitat, visit our website. For a donation of $25 or more, you will receive an attractive 8×12 metal sign and proudly display in your habitat. 

With a recognized habitat that attracts birds at your park, school or business, contact our Education Director about doing a lunchtime program for you.  We can bring loaner binoculars and educate your employees, customers, or students about the birds in your habitat.