June 2023

About our Cover Birds - Do You Know These Females?

Everyone knows the flashier gender of the Tanager and Oriole species with their bright colors. However, females are not as easily identified. When you see a larger yellow bird fly into a tree there are a few things to take into consideration:  size of the bill, and wing bars.  Test your knowledge below! (Hint: The bird above is a Female Western Tanager. Click on the ? below to uncover the species.)


  • Western and Summer TANAGERS – large, conical, with light coloring, and
  • Hooded or Bullock’s ORIOLES – dark, slender and decurved. 
  • Hooded Oriole females have wing bars and a yellow belly – like Western Tanager females – but a different bill. Bullock’s Orioles have wing bars, a white belly and a dark eyeline that mimics Bullock male’s eyeline.
(Photo credits - Macaulay Library)

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

WHAT was your spark bird, butterfly or plant?  We all have one and we’d like to help kids find theirs. Becky Hardy is the new Education Chair for NAAS – and she’s dedicated to facilitating that experience for kids. She loves butterflies first and birds second. I’ve gotten to see firsthand her excitement in sharing that love with kids and it’s contagious! Becky had a class with 13 kids at the Camp Verde Library where she taught them to focus binoculars – a skill that they used while viewing a Yellow-rumped Warbler feed like a hummingbird at a Great Periwinkle across the street. She’ll be guiding a Youth Nature Walk at Sedona Wetlands on June 3 at 8:00 a.m.

Please consider volunteering with Becky so that kids can catch the spark! Email: butterflygirl@bricksofknowledge.com.

NAAS would like to thank Patti Greeneltch for her years as Education Chair. Patti shared her love of nature with the students at Mtn. View Elementary School in Cottonwood where she built a “Bird Garden” with a planter for Monarch Butterflies. The success of that wonderful garden came to a halt with COVID. But, Patti still spent hours and her own funds to teach kids about the natural world. No one knew for years that Patti was feeding the birds at Dead Horse Armchair birding. She gives in her own unique, quiet manner. Thanks Patti! 

If it weren’t for volunteers like these who share their love of birds and nature with kids and each other, NAAS could not function!

Highlight on Volunteers

Rich Armstrong has been a NAAS member for 12 years. When he arrived in Sedona there were very few birders and Rich has developed a distribution list of now over 180 people and has added 13 field trip leaders. His distribution list has helped a great deal to increase attendance at monthly programs making them a huge success. 

Rich has been the BTR (Below the Rim) field trip coordinator for many years and led well over 100 field trips. He has greatly increased NAAS field trips BTR - in 2022 he had 73 field trips attended by 590 folks, the highest number of all time. He has given 5 presentations at NAAS meetings. 

Rich has been the steward for the Sedona Wetlands, a NAAS sanctuary. He has been the Sedona CBC coordinator for 11 years and has also done the Camp Verde & Jerome CBCs every year. He has led four days of field trips for the Verde Valley Birding Festival every year. 

Rich has taught 6 Birding 101 classes and in every class, he has had attendees join NAAS. He has been the field trip coordinator for the Sedona Hummingbird Festival, which makes significant money for NAAS, as well as being a presenter every year. He also organized leaders to do the bird documentations that helped Camp Verde IBA (Important Bird Area) get approved. 

Rich & Nanette rebooted the yardie program and have given out 70 yardie awards, an excellent NAAS program. They invite the Verde Valley Birding Festival & the Sedona Hummingbird Festival to their yard every year and have allowed everyone to come to their yard to see life birds. They also did a Friends of the Verde River program. 

I call him the "Big Mouth of the valley" and as such he has added a great deal to NAAS!

Kay Hawklee, President

Karin Slavey has been a Northern Arizona Audubon member for close to 30 years. She has been Vice-President, membership chair, and many other board positions for about 20 years, and is always willing to work the booth at festivals.  She ended her time as a board member as of September 2022. She was presented with a thank you gift at the April 2023 meeting. NAAS thanks Karin for all of her years of service!

Youth Nature Walk at the Sedona Wetlands Preserve

In partnership with the city of Sedona, the Northern Arizona Audubon Society (NAAS) serves as sanctuary steward to the Sedona Wetlands Preserve. The Preserve is not just the city of Sedona's wastewater treatment facility, but is also a wildlife-viewing public park.

Get your child excited about nature at this free event on Saturday, June 3rd, from 8-9 a.m. Join Becky Hardy, a NAAS Education Committee member, at the Sedona Wetlands Preserve for a Youth Nature Walk. We will spend a fun-filled hour walking in nature, observing and discussing what we find, with a focus on birds and butterflies. 

Please dress accordingly for the weather. It is recommended to wear close-toed shoes and to bring water, a hat and sunscreen.  This event is appropriate for ages 6 and up. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.  

Meet at the Sedona Wetlands Preserve parking lot, located at 7500 W. SR 89A, Sedona, AZ 86336, between mile markers 365 and 366 at 8 a.m. There are vault toilets available.

For any questions, email Becky at butterflygirl@bricksofknowledge.com.


2023: A Weird Year of Bird Surveys

by Kay Hawklee


Vermillion Flycatchers by Alice Madar

2023 bird surveys turned out weird, but very important!  What the results showed us is that very localized bird populations can suffer due to the removal of just one tree, a fire or a precipitous rise in water level. So the more protections we can provide birds the better - because a weird year can always come along and threaten a bird’s existence.

Colonial Waterbird Survey:

Cottonwood has had trees with Great Blue Heron Rookeries for years. However, in 2023, one of those trees was cut down. Waterbird rookeries can harm a tree over time (S Wright · 2008 — The ammonia in the guano is enough to kill some leaves outright. Others die because they are deprived of the sunlight needed for photosynthesis.)

Great Blue Heron’s have 2-6 eggs; incubate for 27-29 days; and feed nestlings for 49-81 days. The begging noise can be heard for a mile. It would be highly annoying if your house is anywhere near!  

With the loss of one tree, the prehistoric-looking birds had to scramble to build new nests in a nearby tree. Around half of them failed to do so and moved to another location that is yet to be determined. Great Blue Heron numbers were cut in half and their breeding season was delayed for over a month. By the time they had nestlings, the tree was fully leafed out and a count of nestlings with their spikey, punk hairdos was impossible. 

There’s no doubt that the results of losing just one tree was notable!

Marsh bird woes at Bubbling Ponds Preserve (BPP):

Two important Marsh bird surveys are conducted each year by NAAS volunteers at Sedona Wetlands and Bubbling Ponds Preserve on three different days at each location over six weeks.  

Virginia Rail and Sora numbers at Bubbling Ponds Preserve were off by approximately 2/3rds. There can be as many as nine Virginia Rails and the most we heard was three. The water in the four “ponds”, which is the main habitat for these marsh birds, was several feet higher than ever observed before. The source of the water may have come from copious amounts of rain, or land management practices. Virginia Rails nest in wetland vegetation such as cattails:

“They build the nest on floating mats of vegetation at or just above the water's surface.” https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Virginia_Rail/lifehistory#nesting

Our best hope is that if they could build nests this year, they floated! Also unknown is where the missing marsh birds went as the water began to rise? Most Soras will go above the rim (ATR) to breed. 

The plywood meant to shelter and survey Mexican Garter Snakes was floating in the Northeast pond - so were Cinnamon Teal. And that’s an anomaly for BPP Marsh bird surveys.  

Tuzigoot/Tavasci Marsh - Marsh bird surveys with National Park Service staff:

NAAS was asked to join the NPS staff in conducting Marsh bird surveys during the Jerome Christmas Bird Count at Tuzigoot.  NAAS folks and NPS biologists and technicians made a plan for NAAS to help assist NPS staffers – doing their first Marsh bird surveys – at Tavasci Marsh in the spring. However, the marsh caught on fire (origin under investigation) on April 2nd, a day before the first survey was scheduled! Needless to say, the first survey was cancelled. However, The Natural Resource Program Manager for Montezuma Castle/Well and Tuzigoot National Monuments persevered, and all three surveys were completed (the final one being on May 17th)

Very interesting was how the surveys showed that over a six-week time period, marsh birds were slowly beginning to return. Survey 1 had zero marsh birds. Survey 2 had two Virginia Rails. Survey 3 had two rails and a Sora. A typical year before the fire could have as many as nine Virginia Rails and several Sora.  The marsh is actually healthier than ever after the fire and we all look forward to next year’s results!

Pictured from Left to Right:  Alice Madar - NAAS, Sara Eno - NPS, Erin Moore – NPS, Kay Hawklee – NAAS, and Quinn Anderson – NPS.

Short Articles

By Rich Armstrong

Your Bird Patch

Everyone should bird their yard and most people do. Another thing you should consider is having a "special patch". My patch is the Sedona Wetlands because I lead many field trips there, live fairly close, and it has a lot of birds. I have now seen 220 bird species there and it is fun to add a new one, even if it is a bird I have had in my yard.

My last 2 additions there were a Vermillion Flycatcher that I had missed a few times, and Evening Grosbeak which I have in our yard every day in this irruption year. My #1 jinx bird is Blue-gray Gnatcatcher which I have missed 3 times this month and once missed it by less than 10 minutes on a CBC.

In addition to your yard I suggest you consider a special patch. Maybe a park is close to your house, or maybe a place you walk regularly. It does not have to be a super birding place, but really a place where you are the only or at least main birder, your special patch!

By Nanette and Rich Armstrong

Great Grandma Grosbeak

For the past 2 months we have had about 20 Evening Grosbeaks coming to feeders, flying back to trees, and repeating many times each day. But for the Verde Birding Festival there was 1 female that stopped leaving the feeder. A participant on the 1st birding trip here called her Great Grandma Grosbeak because she looked and acted old, did not care what the other grosbeaks were doing, did not care what other birds came to the feeder to join her, and she acted like the feeder was her rocking chair.

Even when a Cooper's Hawk flew through the yard and all birds scattered, she stood there without caring. She was there almost all the time for all 3 Verde Birding festival field trip groups. Although they all got to see wonderful male Evening Grosbeaks and other birds, she was the anchor of the yard, and everyone was calling her Great Grandma Grosbeak.

Latest News

Find all the Latest News on our website


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 birdnaas@gmail.com.)

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

Members Contribute


Photo by Eric Gofreed


鳥になる詩人   Janine Soucie Kelley

Because birds sing, 

and we want to learn their song.  

Because our calendars are cluttered 

and birds fly. 

Because it’s okay to un-plug, 

to pause and gaze outside and escape 

the cage of deadlines.

Because we thirst for Beauty 

and long to drink the blue of Jay, drink the gold of Finch, 

drink the bright orange face of Tanager and emerald iridescence of Hummingbird,

shaded by the quiet white of clouds above

b r e a t h i n g  in,  

b r e a t h i n g  out

the scent of Pine lingering in our hair,

until –– we too becomeForest.

Because perched 

in this hushed, unrushed Being in the now of Forest looking for movement 

hidden in the green wind-shimmer of leaves

the song of the Wood Thrush  o p e n s   u s  to grace and gratitude 

and the calm and peace of the Wild.

And like Daedalus, we invent wings 

to escape a labyrinth of woe.

Dante thought Nature God’s Art.

Our souls are birds. Poets fly to God with words.

On A Narrow Road to the Deep North 

fleeing the fire of Edo, Bashō walks slowly through a bamboo grove. 

Resting, he counts moras in hokku, his brushstrokes feathers. 

A red-crowned crane caws, Tori ni naru Shijin, 

Poet becoming bird. 

The math of Nature is like no other. 

Be still.  Count the ink-dark punctuation on the white breast 

of a Wood Thrush. See God in Nature.

Vincent, his brush almost falling from his hand, 

 paints a sky troubled with crows and the wheat field crows feed on.

 From his barred bedroom window, he lights candles on his hat brim, waiting with hope 

for a starry night to paint with Gauguin, to spend with Sien.

 Like Vincent, we hunger for God. 

Nature is all –– and not enough. 

Work, home, and those we love call to us.

Walking back to our vans, our skin exuding vanilla 

from the amber bark of ageing Ponderosa,

 hair twigged and nested by wind,

our body and soul glow 

lit from within.


This message was sent to you by {Organization_Name}

If you no longer wish to receive these emails, you can unsubscribe at any time

111 Front Street West, Suite 111, Toronto, Ontario M0 0L0 Canada

1-111-111-1111, {Organization_URL}