Friends of the Bill Williams River and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges
Ever since then people have still been out roaming around the countryside for a day - near and far, up and down, in and out; deserts, oceans, rivers, swamps, beaches, mountains, forests, tundra, and tropical isles, refuges, roadsides, farmer’s fields, city parks, and their own backyards. Teachers, dentists, Boy Scouts, biologists,
The first Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) occurred in 1900 and has resulted in the longest running, and widest ranging, data base in ornithology. It is carried out not by scientists but by ordinary individuals that come together during the last days of each year. The data has proven invaluable for monitoring the long-term trends and distributions of species both common and rare. It is also lots of fun!
Most teams begin their count at dawn and finish approximately 8 hours later. Each team has a team leader who is familiar with the assigned area and local birds. It is not necessary that all the participants be expert birders in that volunteers are needed to help spot birds in the field as well as document sightings. There is a specific methodology to the CBC, but everyone can participate. The count takes place within "Count Circles," which focus on specific geographical areas. Each circle is led by a Count Compiler. Therefore, if you are a beginning birder, you will be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher. In addition, if your home is within the boundaries of a Count Circle, then you can stay home and report the birds that visit your feeder once you have arranged to do so with the Count Compiler. Starting in December 2012 there will be no fee to participate. If you have never been on a CBC before your first step is to locate and contact your local Count Compiler to find out how you can volunteer.
It is suggested that participants bring the following for the day’s outing: water, snacks and a lunch, a pair of binoculars, a spotting scope (if available), a bird field guide, a camera, a notebook, and pencil. The morning temperature is usually near freezing, and the afternoon temperatures may reach the 60s or low 70s. It is best to dress in layers. Keep in mind we do often get rain this time of the year, so it is advised to check the weather forecast for the day.
Bird counts for the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge and Havasu National Wildlife Refuge are usually scheduled at the end of December. From novices to experts, all skill levels are welcome as we work in teams. There is no cost.
Keep an eye on our website to find out the dates of the 2013-2014 CBC!
Additional information on the Christmas Bird Counts is available on the Audubon Society’s webpage: http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/
Article by Kathleen Blair and DeeDee DeLorenzo.
This little fellow was the star of the Winter 2011/2012 season at the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge. In 2013, a nesting pair with 2 fledglings was sighted; when confirmed, this discovery will be the first record of a nesting pair in the United States! Read more about this discovery by going HERE.
Most of the summer resident birds, such as the Yellow-breasted Chat and Blue Grosbeak have left, but with the cooler temperatures of fall and winter, the area experiences the migration of a wide variety of birds including raptors, shorebirds, and warblers. American White Pelicans may be seen circling overhead as Nashville Warblers and Red-breasted Nuthatches spend a few days foraging among the branches of mesquite trees, and Greater Yellowlegs wade on the edges of marshes and irrigated fields.
Waterfowl are beginning to make their way to the area’s lakes, rivers, and ponds and will soon be so numerous it will become difficult to keep track of numbers. In the winter be on the lookout for species of loon, merganser, scaup, scoter, and grebe. Raptors found during the colder months will be Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon. Woodpeckers likely to be both seen and heard will be Gila, Ladder-backed, and Red-naped Sapsucker. Although many flycatchers head to Central America for the winter, those that stay will be the Black Phoebe, Say’s Phoebe, and Vermilion Flycatcher. Other passerines common to the refuges at this time of year are Verdin, at least five different wren species, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Phainopepla, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Abert’s Towhee, and a number of sparrow species including Sage, Black-throated, and Savannah.
Before 1900, and for unknown years before that, the Christmas Side Hunt was a traditional activity where people would divide up in teams and try to shoot all the birds (and anything else) they could on Christmas Day. Whoever shot the most things won. Sort of a variation on “Work Off that Big Turkey Dinner With a Walk Outside”. However, Christmas Day in 1900, one-hundred and fourteen years ago, things changed a little. Frank Chapman and some friends in the brand new Audubon Society decided they wanted a new tradition for Christmas. Live birds.
The Havasu Christmas Bird Count, held Friday, December 28, 2012, appeared to be a great experience and success for the 42 participants who identified 114 different bird species and counted 12,464 individual birds.
Our numbers were slightly up from last year in which we identified 113 species and had a total count of 12,011 individual birds. We had almost three times as many American Coots this year – 6390 compared to 2271 last year. However, the snow goose count was lower this CBC with only 1205 individuals compared to 3634 in 2011.
Here are some helpful Links:
Check out the John West video below of 5 raven nestlings learning to fly in the Havasu NWR:
With over 300 species of birds to be found in both the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge and the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, these two destinations are highly recommended for anyone who enjoys birds from beginner to those who consider themselves experts.
Birding Hot Spots in the Bill Williams River NWR include Delta Point, Mosquito Flats, Gate, and Mineral Wash. Favorite birding sites in the Havasu NWR include N. Lake Havasu, New South Dike, South Dike, Catfish Paradise, Five-mile Landing, North Dike, and Pintail Slough. In addition, wildlife observation towers are located at Bermuda Pasture and Beal Lake. Maps and additional information are available at both refuge headquarters’ offices. Check the articles below for seasonal birding information.
To find out more about this great event, go
AZFO Meeting Summary
Our Friends group had a table at the meeting of the Arizona Field Ornithologist's Annual Meeting held in Lake Havasu City, AZ on October 26-28, 2012. Our table featured photographs of wildlife taken in the refuge, membership pamphlets and brochures, and other items of interest. We interacted with some of the most prominent Birders in Arizona and got the word out about our Group!
Individual species found this year that are noteworthy are the cattle egret, merlin, western sandpiper, red-breasted woodpecker, Bell’s vireo, and American goldfinch. During count week a Neotropic cormorant was found at Catfish Paradise.
Many of this year’s participants are year-round residents from the Bullhead City area, Kingman, and Lake Havasu City, but we did have three birders from Prescott and five from Phoenix, as well as winter visitors from as far away as Ontario and Alberta, Canada.
Article by DeeDee DeLorenzo
accountants, taxi drivers, photographers, machinists, farmers, computer programmers, roofers, artists, engineers, firemen, and cooks not to mention the poor, put upon, beleaguered, slightly confused friends and family they drag along. All kinds of people. Still looking for birds. All kinds of birds. Big birds, little birds, rare birds and common ones. Every year we try for every single bird we can find (except my chickens…they won’t let me count my chickens). But we don’t shoot them. We identify and count them. We work in teams with all levels of birding identification skills so sometimes the most important person is the birddog one that points and says “HEY!! Waz zat!!?”
It started with 27 people, 25 circles from Ontario to California, and 90 species 114 years ago. Would you believe the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) now stretches the entire axis of the New World from the Yukon to Antarctica, and from Midway to Bermuda? It is over 2,200 count circles, 63,000 observers, and 2,300 species? Not too shabby, eh? Sounds kinda of weird – but, then, maybe could be kinda fun? C’mon, you can do it too.
The 114th Christmas Bird Count will be happening between December 14, 2013 and January 5, 2014. We hope to see you at your own two local Christmas Bird Counts, the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge CBC on December 29 (contact Kathleen_blair@fws.gov) and the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge CBC on December 30 (contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
Or you can find one near wherever you will be that time of year at:
Article by Kathleen Blair, PhD.
Although we had basically the same species of ducks as last year and our numbers are comparable, we were missing a few notables such as lesser and hooded merganser. We observed four different species of grebes, five species of herons and egrets, eight sandpipers species, six species of woodpeckers, and seven sparrow species.
The Yellow-breasted Chats are back! And the Warbling Vireos, Wilson’s Warblers, Summer Tanagers, Blue Grosbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, and Bullock’s Orioles, just to mention a few, are beginning to make an appearance. Spring is certainly the best time to see the wide variety of colorful birds and hear the most wonderful avian songs the lower Colorado River Valley has to offer.
Beginning at North Dike and Pintail Slough at the north end of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, resident Pied-billed Grebe, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White-winged Dove, Great Horned Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Ash-throated and Brown-crested Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Bell’s Vireo, Verdin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Crissal Thrasher, Abert’s Towhee, Blue Grosbeak, and Bullock’s Oriole can be found sitting on a tree limb, scampering in the underbrush, or flying overhead.
Levee Rd. (found on the west side of the Havasu NWR) will take you to Beal Lake where waterfowl and shorebirds are likely to be observed year-round. If you get there early enough on a spring morning you may be lucky enough to hear Least Bittern, Clapper Rail, Sora, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, and Yellow-headed Blackbird. Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, and Ruddy Duck will still be found on the water along with Eared Grebe and Common Gallinule. If a few sandbars are visible you may be treated to Spotted, Solitary, Western, and Least Sandpiper, along with Long-billed Dowitcher and Greater Yellowlegs.
On the east side of the Havasu NWR and still north of I-40 a few more places to find migrating birds and summer residents will be Five-mile Landing, Catfish Paradise, and Old and New South Dikes. Be on the lookout for Western and Clark’s Grebe, Caspian and Forster’s Tern, Greater Roadrunner, Gila Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Bewick’s Wren, Lucy’s, MacGillivray’s, and Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Sparrow, and Hooded Oriole.
If you are in the Lake Havasu City area other great birding spots are North Lake Havasu (accessed by walking a sandy trail just north of Mesquite Bay), Camino del Arroyo Cactus Garden (in Windsor State Park), Site 6 and the LHC Water Treatment Plant (both found on the peninsula).
For more information visit the Havasu and Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuges’ headquarters. Recently updated bird lists are available and free to the public. Article by DeeDee DeLorenzo
The Friends-sponsored Nature Walk on Monday, January 27, began on Levee Rd. where we had good looks at two different red-tailed hawks, a northern harrier, and two American kestrels.
At the Bermuda Pasture we hoped to find snow geese, but none were there. We did get a glimpse of a long line of geese flying over the marsh quite a distance away. In the field we found a small flock of western meadowlarks, a Say’s phoebe, and later in the morning six western bluebirds. Two coyotes were spotted at the far side of the field and vanished into the arrowweed. A northern flicker was sitting on a power line, and in the trees and brush near the observation platform we had ruby-crowned kinglets, an orange-crowned warbler, and a crissal thrasher. Walking through and around the Bermuda revegetation area did not produce many birds, but we eventually saw a verdin, two ladder-backed woodpeckers, quite a few black-tailed gnatcatchers and Abert’s towhees, and a Lincoln’s sparrow. As we got ready to leave the parking lot a black phoebe flew across the road and two unidentified hummingbirds whizzed by.
Our final stop was Beal Lake which did not disappoint us. Shorebirds were abundant with quite a few long-billed dowitchers and least sandpipers, four dunlin, the continuing American avocet, and a killdeer. Duck species included lots of green-winged teal, northern pintail, ruddy duck, and a few mallard. Two northern harriers worked the lake from time to time and a very large feral pig made her way through the mud on the far side of the lake disappearing behind a large patch of reeds. Our next outing will be at Pintail Slough on Saturday, February 22.
For those who are not faint of heart, birding in and around the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge (HNWR) during the summer months can be challenging, yet rewarding.
During June, late spring and/or early fall migrants such as White-faced Ibis, Long-billed Curlew, Caspian, Forster’s, and Black Tern, Western Wood-Pewee, Pacific-slope and Willow Flycatcher, Tree Swallow, and Western Tanager may be found flying over the marsh or sitting on a branch in a willow thicket.
Breeding species found throughout the HNWR during late spring and early summer include Redhead, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed, Western and Clark’s Grebe, Least Bittern, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, American Kestrel, Common Gallinule, White-winged Dove, Great Horned Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Black-chinned and Anna’s Hummingbird, Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Ash-throated and Brown-crested Flycatcher, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Crissal Thrasher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Abert’s Towhee, and Blue Grosbeak.
Species of concern, threatened, endangered, or occasional nesters living in remote areas of the refuge during the summer are Least Bittern, Yuma Clapper Rail, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Willow and Vermilion Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Bell’s Vireo, Summer Tanager, and Indigo Bunting.
The challenging aspect of birding in the HNWR during the summer months is related primarily to the high temperatures. It is not uncommon to experience temperatures near 100°F by mid-morning and extreme temperatures may reach 115-120°F in the mid- to late afternoon. If you decide to venture out in the refuge between June and early October plan to take plenty of water, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellant, and wear light clothing. It is also recommended that you let someone know where you plan to bird, since cell phone service is not always available.
For more information visit the Havasu and Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuges’ headquarters. Recently updated bird lists are available and free to the public.