OK, so I don’t Really consider myself a birder. I do like to watch and try to identify them. Even take a photo when able. (Birds are usually much faster and flightier than I.) I don’t count the birds. But I have a treasured old field guide which I’ve marked in for years.
I’ve been seeing this little bird flit in and out, so fast it’s very difficult to get a clear look let alone a photo (sorry this one’s not good).
At first I thought it was a tiny White-crowned sparrow because of the black eye line. But it’s much smaller, with a buff colored belly and blue-gray upperparts.
Central Arizona seems to be at the edge of its winter/summer range. According to National Geographic the red-breasted nuthatch is “common to abundant. Breeding: northern and subalpine conifers, particularly spruces and firs. Occasionally breeds south of mapped breeding range, usually in conifer plantations or residential neighborhoods with conifers. Migration: irruptive; often moving in 2- to 3-year cycles but variable. Northernmost migrate annually; southernmost are generally resident.”
Illustration by H Douglas Pratt
The local plants are oaks and manzanita, not too many conifers. Maybe I’m just being more observant this year, but I don’t remember ever seeing this little sweetie before. Sure hope it returns to I can try for more photos.
Then Sunday morning a mid-sized bird swooped onto the top of the phone pole. I zoomed in to see it pecking at the wood. Appears to be a female Williamson’s sapsucker. She sat with her back to me but later flew off showing the soft yellow belly.
According to wikipedia: “The female is completely different in appearance: mainly black, with a pale yellow breast, a brownish head with black streaking and fine barring on the back, breast and sides. Originally, the female was considered to be a different species and named the Black-breasted Woodpecker by Cassin.”
They are permanent residents in some parts of their range and migrating birds form small flocks traveling as far south as central Mexico. Yet again central Arizona is at the edge of their winter range.
The species took its common name from Lieutenant Robert Stockton Williamson, who led a survey expedition to identify the best route west for a railway to the Pacific Ocean and collected the first male of the species.
So now I’m researching what it takes to ebird. I’m not really good at numbers…but if I start keeping track, these are two lifers.
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