November 2023

About our Cover Bird - California Condor

(Photo credits - Eric Gofreed)

“California Condors are the largest flying birds in North America, with a wingspan of nine and a half feet. A species of vulture, condors take six to eight years to reach breeding age.” 

“From a precarious low of just 23 condors left in the world in 1984 to a population today that tops 500, Hauck calls the restoration of the California Condor “one of the greatest success stories in conservation.” (Bird flu)

Sadly, this spring Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) took more than 20 birds. This set the recovery program back decades. Can you imagine if in 1984 flu had struck the remaining 23?  One tragic event can wipe out an entire species in the wild. Please support conservation organizations such as the Peregrine Fund whose staff risk life and limb climbing down the Vermillion Cliffs to save an egg! Peregrine fund - condor crisis

Our Mission Statement:

To promote the understanding and appreciation of birds and other wildlife and the conservation and restoration of their natural habitats.

Most of the articles in this newsletter have been submitted by NAAS members.  Please email articles or notes to: NAAS Audubon.

President's Message

by Kay Hawklee

We have a great group of new volunteers stepping up to join in our expanded outreach efforts. However, we always need more help to do all the new events we are doing!

Tori Wiley is leading after-school programs at Marshal School in Flagstaff in addition to pursuing a PhD studying Desert Purple Martins:

“Marshall is also a federally-identified Title 1 school, a status which implies that the picture of our student population includes individuals from many socioeconomic backgrounds. Our school likewise celebrates its great cultural diversity with an ethnic composition that is 43% Anglo, 36.5% Hispanic, 18% Native American, in addition to many others.”

We have an application for our Native American Grant that Roy May of our board developed. Together he and Tori led a group of Flagstaff High School Biology students in a bird walk at Picture Canyon (see full report and photos below).

Becky Hardy continues to teach children both above and below the rim about birds and conservation at very fun, creative events. (See picture of a Mom posing as a cat waiting to jump out at “birds” - children - who were negotiating the experiential migratory gauntlet game.)

Author, Margaret Dyekman, is providing articles for the BlackHawk Watch. Please enjoy her in-depth knowledge and visit her Facebook page to buy her book:

Backyard Birding book

A new volunteer, Nashelly Meneses, is now Coordinator of Field Trips Above the Rim (ATR). Look for a bigger variety of field trips ATR lead by new guides! 

A new board member, Pat Neyman, will be working on a Native Plant Brochure which brings together water catchment and specific plants that work specifically for Flagstaff, Sedona and the Verde Valley.

We are so blessed to be adding more field trip leaders from age 14 and up!   

We have increased our outreach by a huge margin - including 50+ folks during the Flagstaff Star Party.

Our joint efforts with Audubon Southwest, Drinking Horn Meadery, and the Grand Canyon Trust for the “take-2” release of the mead “Oh Hey, Pinyon Jay” was a success. Anytime you get to hear Russell Benford talk about Pinyon Jays - you should listen!  The November 1st Trivia take-over night at Drinking Horn is sure to be a blast (and educational.)

That’s a goal that we strive for in all of our events: Fun and Educational!


What's on the horizon?

As I head off to the National Audubon Leadership Conference in Estes Park Colorado with student volunteers, Tori and Irene, who received national grants to attend, we’ll be keeping an eye toward what’s on the horizon?  

Spoiler alert: we already know that National Audubon leaders, such as Kim Brand – daughter of Sandy and Stewart Boots of Sedona, will be teaching us more about how National Audubon’s 2023-2028 Flight Plan works. This very dynamic, ambitious goal includes a 5-year plan for Hemispheric Conservation and increased efforts regarding Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB) – which is sorely needed in Audubon. 

It’s an exciting time to volunteer for NAAS. The energy is building, and people can feel it!

If you’d like to volunteer to spread our fascination with birds, we can provide a small, meaningful job; such as, publish the Meetup events, or sit at our booth, volunteer to help our Education Chairs, or take notes as Board Secretary. It’s pretty darn satisfying and we’re having a lot of fun!

For more information contact Kay at: 

A special note: This newsletter would not be possible were it not for a little-recognized editor/webmaster, Cindy Correll. She’s been a dedicated force behind the scenes. I’d like to offer a special “Thank You” to her for stepping up to publish the BlackHawk Watch. This only works because of her!

By Kay Hawklee



Photo by Eric Gofreed

Members Night

by Nanette Armstrong


Save the Date!  

November 15, 2023

The November  program for NAAS will feature you, its members! Member's Night is your chance to shine. Submit up to five slides of photos via email to Nanette at These will be projected on the screen at the November 15 meeting. You’ll get 5 minutes to speak about your pictures. Say little or fill up the full 5 minutes. The photos do not have to be birds, but anything nature related is appropriate. Not everyone is able to or wants to give a presentation, so a mini-talk works well. The deadline for submission is Nov. 13, 2023. This is a popular event so don't miss this meeting. Sedona Public Library. 5:30 'cookies & conversation', program begins at 6:00.

The Emotions of a Bird Chase

By Rich and Nanette Armstrong

Photo credit: Henry Trombley/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

(ML 265600721)

A Phoenix birder found the 1st ever Blue-headed Vireo in Yavapai County on Monday September 19th about 9 AM. He called me about 10 AM. Obviously we were super excited. I figured the bird is probably migrating and would likely not be there long. So we called a couple people, Janie wanted to join us, we jumped in the car, picked up Janie, drove over the Mingus to Prescott, walked the 2 miles arriving at the spot about 3.5 hours after the bird was seen. It is clearly amazing that a birder can use gps to put an exact location on a map for us. A lot of life is expectations or anticipation, and since we expected that the bird would not have gone far in a few hours our anticipation was pretty high. We spent over 2 hours scouring the area 150 yards in all 4 directions, but found no vireo. We were bummed, but there are many times where a birder finds a rarity and nobody else sees it. Birding a little on the way out and the drive home was not fun.

Tuesday we go back to normal until about 6 PM when an e-bird report hits the computer showing that a lucky Prescott birder went in the morning and easily saw the bird. So now we are depressed that we wasted Monday and should have gone on Tuesday. We emailed people saying we were going to go at 530 AM on Wednesday and Janie said yes.

We get up at 5 on Wednesday, leave at 5:30, pick up Janie at 6, over the pain in the neck Mingus again to get to Prescott at 7, walk the 30 minutes and get to the place at 7:30. It is a little cold and we think birds will be more active to eat more because it is cold. We are joined by 3 others so we have 6 people spread out looking, but we are not as hopeful as we were Monday because the bird had most of Tuesday and overnight to have moved. Expectations were considerably lower, but I figured I would not get mad until about 11.

It got more and more depressing as there were almost no birds in the trees at all for 90 minutes. About 9 the Prescott birder, Brian Patrick, told me there was a little flock about 50 yards before the spot. Since I was seeing nothing I went there to look. I was not hopeful at all, but just figured I would maybe see some Orange-crowned & Wilson's Warblers. I saw about 6 birds moving all in thick leaves and I could only id 1 Wilson's Warbler, but at least I was birding. Since others were also seeing nothing I suggested they join me, and Nanette & Mark came over. Within a minute Mark Philippart said "there's the bird" and sure enough it was there in dead branches easy to see. Instantly Nanette yelled (really screamed) for Janie & Brian, and they came as in running and saw it. Heather showed up about  2 minutes later and she got it and Brian got pictures. This really was a team effort!!! I tell people birding can be hours of boredom followed by 3 seconds of total chaos, and this was it. I went from getting more and more depressed to ecstatic in a couple seconds!  After enjoying the bird for a few minutes, it was an enjoyable walk back birding as we went. Then celebratory ice cream tasted even better than normal, and even the drive home was not bad at all.

Then people ask if we took pictures. When we say no they always say how do you prove it? Birding is an honor system, and 99+% of birders don't want to say they saw a bird when they didn't. Nanette uses the football game as an analogy - you go to a football game and root for your team, enjoy or hate the game as sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You don't take pictures, just have the experience. And if your team won the drive home was always much better.

Chasing reported rare birds is always an adventure, and always an emotional rollercoaster. This was crazier than most. A bonus is chasing takes you to different places where you also look for other birds, and you never know what you will see. A rare bird report also gets you out of the house and toward an unknown birding adventure!

Field Trips

Already feeling sad because migrants are tapering off?  Well, bust out the hot chocolate and cookies and join a team for the traditional Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs). During these counts, you'll strike up a meaningful camaraderie with your team members as you search for as many individuals and species as possible. It's fast, furious and fun as the day speeds along with each sighting. Every count depends on lots of eyes searching for birds. If you are new to CBCs, think of it as an intensive field trip. You'd be put on a team of folks of varying levels where team members help each other with correct identifications.

If you have bird feeders and feed birds throughout the winter, you can be a Feeder Watcher beginning November 1st Project Feederwatch and for CBCs. The numbers and species that feeder watchers submit is ever more important as ex-urban birds move closer to town to rely on feeders. Eventually, some species may become entirely dependent upon feeders at homes like yours.  Please contact the compiler in your area and arrange to count birds that come to you feeders. 

Please join one or all counts by contacting the Compilers listed below - the person who organizes the count and compiles the data - for this exciting treasure hunt to find overwintering migrants and our winter species. There's always a surprise species that shows up. Will you be the one to spot it? CBCs are a great way to end (or begin) a year of birding!

The Sedona Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is on Friday, December 15th. This count has the Verde Valley's best hotspots!  And each year the Armstrongs host a delicious, well-attended, post-count dinner at their house. It's fun to hear how other teams did, what species they saw and what species they didn't see!  Email Rich Armstrong to join a team: 

The Jerome Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is on Sunday, December 17th. NAAS hopes to partner again this year with National Park Service to hold a joint Christmas Bird Count (CBC) Field Trip at Tuzigoot National Monument on Sunday, December 17th. Rob Gibbs is the Compiler of the Jerome CBC which covers most of Cottonwood, parts of Cornville and Clarkdale and some of Mingus Mtn. Email Rob to join the count:

The Flagstaff CBC is on December 29th. Contact Compiler John Wilson: to join this count. 

The Camp Verde CBC is on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024. Each year there is a fun post-count party with wonderful soups and stews. The person to contact is Kay Hawklee:

A genial contest is held between the CBCs to see which count can rack up the most species (and even between teams on the same count.)

(More details about CBCs will be announced on Meetup, Facebook, and our website calendar)

BTR Field Trip report

By Rich Armstrong

American Avocet by Eric Gofreed

There were 12 field trips and 2 big sits below the rim from Sept 1st to October 15th. Highlights were Wilson's Phalaropes, Red Crossbill, Hepatic Tanager, Gray Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Western Screech Owl, American Avocets, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and White Pelicans. To see all these field trip reports go to

"Yo Yo" attended the Yaki Point Grand Canyon Field Trip - wish you could have been there!  These HawkWatch International guides spotted this 4 year old California Condor for the NAAS group. #958 was hatched in the Oregon Zoo on March 11, 2019. Mother: #264 and Father: #221

Find More Field Trips here: 

Northern Arizona Audubon website

MeetUp - Birding Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Verde Valley

FaceBook - NAZ Audubon Events

Did you know that you can "sponsor" a Field Trip?

Our leaders are some of the best in the State of Arizona. Help us give an honorarium of $50/trip to the experts who've stepped up to guide for you by donating here:

Sponsor a Field Trip

Latest News

Education by Roy May

(Find all the Latest News on our website, Education page)

NAAS partners with the City of Flagstaff for Flagstaff High School Biology class field day at Picture Canyon

Twenty biology students from Flagstaff High School took up bird watching on a field day at Picture Canyon October 24. The half-day activity was organized by Sarah Holditch, the City of Flagstaff Open Space Educator, and high school biology teacher Emily Musta. Northern Arizona Audubon partnered with them in planning and conducting the field day. NAAS also shared Sibley Field Guides and binoculars. Debbie McMahon was involved in the planning and Tori Wiley and Roy May helped as bird guides and resources persons. Students learned about the interaction of birds and trees and the importance of snags by watching Acorn and Lewis’s Woodpeckers cache acorns. Steller’s Jays, Cassin’s Finches, Chipping Sparrows, and Mallards were among other birds observed. The students noted differences in these birds’ bills and feet and habitats. Tree stumps and rotting trunks on the forest floor illustrated the ecological history of the Picture Canyon Forest. The petroglyphs showed that people had lived there long ago, and their rock art of birdlife demonstrated that herons and other species had lived in the canyon for hundreds of years. This was the first time any of the youth had gone birdwatching. As the students were boarding the bus to return to school, one said, “This was fun. I think I’ll look for birds again.”

Bluebird Monitoring Report for 2023

By Lori Kruse


Photo by Eric Gofreed

Kachina Wetlands

  • 10 bluebird fledglings all from Box 5 (Last year there were 24 western bluebird fledglings.)

When we met for the Bluebird celebration, we discussed why we thought there were so many fewer bluebirds this year compared to last year. Ideas discussed included late spring cold weather, wet spring and placement of boxes.

We decided to move some of the boxes at Kachina Wetlands so that the boxes would be nearer to the fence line which has more tree protection. Doug, Matt and I will move boxes in October.

Volunteers included: Matt Anderson, Cindy Correll, Amber Hartley, Libby Stortz and Doug LaVasseur.

Picture Canyon

  • 13 bluebirds – from Box 2 &10
  • 4 ash-throated flycatchers (same Box 6 as last year)
    • Box 4 had 2 bluebird eggs that were abandoned.
    • Box 12 had 4 nestling house sparrows which all died due to abandonment. (Nest abandonment is most likely due to the death of one of the parents.)

(Last year there were 5 western bluebirds, 5 ash-throated flycatchers, 6 violet-green swallows – 21 babies in total.)

Volunteers included: Rick Moore, Joan Stoner, Anne Peterson, and Sheila Guida.

Munds Park

After the meeting, I met with Sobra Tonn, Margaret Dykeman and Doug LaVasseur to discuss monitoring bluebird boxes which are located at the Pinebrook Country Club Golf Course in Munds Park. 

This season Doug informally monitored one box which produced 10 western bluebirds in two broods.

We discussed concerns with the golf course manager wanting to have monitoring done on off hours – finished before 8:00am, and boxes mounted on trees. Sobra, who is an employee at the golf course, is willing to be the main monitor with help from Margaret and Doug. We will meet October 24th to check out the boxes and go over the protocol and app data entry. They all agreed that they wanted to give it a try and see how things go for a season.

Sep. 3, 2023 – Lori Kruse

Spotlight on Nuthatches

By Margaret Dyekman

Pygmy Nuthatch

(Photo by Eric Gofreed)

Red-breasted Nuthatch

(Photo by Muriel Neddermeyer)

There are three species of nuthatches found in northern Arizona.  A quick review of eBird showed me that in Kachina Wetlands, which is just south of Flagstaff, we can find two species regularly, the White-breasted and Pygmy, with the Red-breasted spotted mostly in spring and fall. But further south in Sedona Wetlands, only the White-breasted has been reported, and then very seldom. Obviously location/habitat matters!

The largest species is the White-breasted Nuthatch, which, as its name implies, has a completely white breast, although at the very base of its under belly there is some rust coloring.  It has a blue-black back and black hood, and you can hear its nasal yammering mostly in winter and spring. It prefers woodlands with mixed deciduous trees and often works its way down a tree, such as an oak, seeking out crevices where it finds stored nuts or insects. It is a bird that will come to your sunflower seed or suet feeders. It is a cavity nester, nesting sometimes in human-made nest boxes, but more often in tree cavities high up. 

The second common nuthatch species is quite the social bird, living communally in groups. Nesting pairs often have helpers, and during the winter they will huddle together in a cavity roost, sometimes as many as one hundred at a time. Pygmy Nuthatches have a slate gray back and a buffy white belly.  Their vocalization is described as a “piping” sound, usually a two-syllable call repeated over and over.  When they come to your feeder for sunflower seeds, they will arrive one after another, flying back and forth, storing seeds in the crevices in tree bark.  They prefer coniferous forest trees, like pines, so with a mix of Gambel Oaks and Ponderosa Pines, both White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches can co-exist. 

The Red-breasted Nuthatch prefers fir and spruce trees, and it is the only “irruptive” species of nuthatches in North America, moving around in large groups driven by a shortage of wintering food. I learned from Cornell’s Birds of the World that the Red-breasted Nuthatch is the only North American species that crossed the Atlantic into Europe as a vagrant. It always is a treat for me to see a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and I am pleased to report it is one of my 49 Munds Park yard species. A single individual appeared in a small flock of Pygmy Nuthatches on our property in fall a few years ago.  

During our October 7th NAAS field trip to Eldon Spring, our group was fortunate to see all three of these species within a span of a couple hours.  Now that we are in autumn and approaching winter, keep your eyes and ears open for one or more of these nuthatches in your neighborhood!

Margaret Dyekman is a NAAS member and author of Backyard Birding in Northern Arizona.

White-breasted Nuthatch

(Photo by Muriel Neddermeyer)

The BlackHawk Watch used to be the place where our members read about past field trips and events. Not so anymore - we've moved these reports to our website to make space for more articles. (If you would like to contribute an article for the BHW, please send it to

Past trip reports can be found on our website under the tabs:

 Field Trips & Events 

       - Past Event Reports

So if you missed a field trip or an event and want to find out more, you can go to the website to read all about it here: Past Trip Reports

Past Trip Reports

Bird Safety

NAAS has more questions about keeping birds safe than any other inquiry. Visit our Bird Safety page to learn about the largest danger to birds and the easy steps you can take to keep our feathered friends... well-feathered:


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