September 2023

About our Cover Bird - Red Knot

The Red Knot is a "neatly proportioned sandpiper" that Jeremy Mizel found  at John Lake Playa, near Leupp, on September 19th. Red Knots used to be plentiful - but not anymore. Three of the six Red Knot subspecies are found in North America, and all three are in decline, numbering approximately 139,000. The rufa subspecies was listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2015. So it's especially exciting that Jeremy spotted this very rare Arizona migrant.

  • Red Knots often feed by sight but can also probe into sand or mud and use their sense of touch to find invertebrates below the surface. Their bill tips have specialized sensory organs, called Herbst corpuscles, which alert them to differences in pressure, a good clue that a clam or other meal is nearby.
  • Red Knots concentrate in huge numbers at traditional stopover points during migration. Delaware Bay is one important area during spring migration, where the knots feed on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs. The reduction in food available to the knots because of the heavy harvesting of horseshoe crabs is in part responsible for a sharp decline in Red Knot populations.
  • When Red Knots eat mollusks, they swallow the shells whole and crush them up in the muscular part of their stomach, known as the gizzard. 
  • The oldest recorded Red Knot was at least 18 years, 11 months old!
(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

The new watchword to familiarize yourself with is MOTUS.  Motus has a Latin root meaning “movement”; specifically, bird movements. It was started by Birds Canada:

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System (hereafter Motus) is a collaborative global research network that uses automated radio telemetry to track small flying organisms (birds, bats, and insects). Motus helps to answer fundamental research questions underpinning conservation, animal movement and behaviour, from local to global scales.

Motus stations across the landscape pick up ‘pings’ from any radio-tagged birds that fly past. The data, open to everyone, are painting a fuller picture of the journeys the creatures make.

The NAAS’s board has committed to establishing and hosting the first two Motus stations in Northern Arizona; one Above the Rim (ATR) and one Below the Rim (BTR). There are currently four stations in Southern Arizona, but zero in our area.

With this choice, NAAS is moving toward bird conservation in a big way.  Once our stations are established, scientists and students will be gathering data that will inform conservation measures; eventually, this will mean “tagging” birds in our area. The educational possibilities of this move are limitless.

Motus – Above the Rim (ATR): We cannot do this alone!  Collaboration with landowners is a must. So, we’ve approached Coconino National Forest who was very pleased to learn of our commitment and is working to find the right location on Anderson Mesa.

Historically: Sadly, one of NAAS’s more-active citizen science members, Elaine Morrall, just passed away last summer. She and Rick Miller, of AZ Game and Fish, nominated Anderson Mesa as a National Important Bird Area (IBA) in 1997 due to nesting waterfowl and Ospreys. Elaine’s type-written state application was just made available to us by Tice Supplee, head of Bird Conservation for Audubon Southwest. The documentation that Elaine gathered is daunting. But, probably nothing compared to the hundreds of hours and trips over the span of years spent counting birds on the mesa in all types of weather conditions. Her efforts; along with John Coons, John Grahame, Charles Drost, Chuck LaRue, and Frank Brandt, and many others, were truly courageous. Environmental “sheroe” and heroes all!

Thanks to Tice’s guidance, Anderson Mesa later became a Globally Important Bird Area due to the Pinyon Jay species – and the dire need to save it’s dwindling habitat. 

More recently: NAAS has been partnering with Audubon Southwest and Great Basin Bird Observatory (GBBO) to conduct over 100 Pinyon Jay surveys that were revealing as to “absence” and “presence”.  Our efforts are applauded by GBBO and our Regional Audubon office. This is important information because it tells just what it says; where the birds are and where they are not.

Motus - Below the Rim (BTR):  NAAS and Friends of the Verde River are off and running in the quest to establish a MOTUS Station to help fill out the data about bird movement using the Verde River migration corridor. The hope is to have a station up and running by the Verde River Birding and Nature Festival (VVBNF) which is always held the last weekend in April.

By joining the Arizona Motus network, NAAS will be instrumental in facilitating knowledge about bird migration throughout the northern portions of Arizona. We are blessed in that we can do this, thanks to funding by past NAAS devotees. And we can’t wait to discover the long-term results and put them to use!

To join our ongoing Anderson Mesa bird monitoring efforts, email:

If you can’t help as a Community Scientist, please donated toward more conservation measures at:


Kay Hawklee, President of NAAS


NAAS Partnerships

by Kay Hawklee


We are highlighting two NAAS partnerships this month, as both have activities scheduled in September, Diablo Trust and Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition.

Diablo Trust

According to their website, the Diablo Trust was founded 30 years ago by two northern Arizona family ranches.  In 1993, the  Bar T Bar and the Flying M ranches joined together to seek an innovative approach to respond to public concerns about the impacts of cattle grazing on forestland and imbalanced wildlife population on their 426,000 acres of ranch lands that span private, state, and federal land.

They are dedicated to conservations of grasslands and Pinyon Jay habitat on their "working lands." 

NAAS and Diablo Trust share a goal of conserving these working lands.  We are the Steward of Anderson Mesa IBA (Important Bird Areas) because of our work in the early 2000s around monitoring the decline of Pinyon Jays. Between 2019 and 2023, NAAS resumed Pinyon Jay surveys looking for “presence” and “absence” of the birds. Our surveys are lauded by Southwest Audubon and the Great Basin Bird Observatory (GBBO) because our 100+ surveys showed where the birds are and where they are not. This is important data in understanding what lands the jays are using.

NAAS is presenting two events with Diablo Trust on September 15 and 16, 2023.  Day 1, will be held at the AZGFD conference room located at 3500 S. Lake Mary Road from 3:00-4:00 pm, and will explore the past, present and future of our collaborative conservation on Anderson Mesa.  Day 2, will be a birding field trip on Anderson Mesa led by NAAS and other local Flagstaff guides and birders.  The field trip is from 8:00 am - 1:30 pm. We will learn more about birds and the results of our conservation efforts. PLEASE join us.  More information can be found here.  

Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition

According to their website, the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition is a group of people and organizations that seeks to knit dark sky values, awareness and protection into all aspects of our society.  Flagstaff was the First International Dark-Sky City, designated in 2001.  

National Audubon and International Dark Sky Association partner to protect the night from light pollution.  Locally, NAAS is partnering with the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition to get the word out to "Dim the Lights for Birds at Night".  

We are supporting three activities at the Flagstaff Star Party, September 21-23:  Lights Out, Nocturnal Birds Heading Our Way, where you will learn about helping birds succeed on their heroic journey as they migrate through the night skies; Owl Prowl, through the wilds of Buffalo Park; and a children's experiential Migration Obstacle Course, where they will learn what it feels like to be a migrating bird!

Find times and locations on the NAAS Website Calendar here.

Calling All Photographers!

Northern Arizona Audubon Society and the International Hummingbird Society are hosting a Birds of the Verde Valley ... and the Rest of the World photo exhibit at the Sedona Public Library in West Sedona from October 3 to 14.  Set up will be October 2 and take down will be on Monday, October 16.

Photographers, we would love to have you participate!

Contact Alice Madar for more details. 

NAAS Support Our Birds Grants 

Runnin' W Wildlife Center Sends Thanks to NAAS

We would like to thank Northern Arizona Audubon Society for the recent grant they had awarded us here at Runnin’ W Wildlife Center. This has allowed our facility to take one more step closer to sustainability and self-reliance in times of emergency. Before we get into what was recently acquired with the help of NAAS’s generosity, we will provide you with a brief introduction and a little about the service we provide in the Verde Valley and northern Arizona.

Runnin’ W Wildlife is located in Cornville, Arizona. We are a 501c3 public charity providing rehabilitation and medical services to migratory birds (from humming birds to eagles), and mammals (from mice to mountain lions).  Those which are not capable of being released back into the wild have the opportunity to live here as ambassadors of their species.

We provide tours by appointment, which requires a donation, during the months of October to May. From June through September, we are closed for tours and focus solely on the injured and young wildlife being brought in. It is never known what is going to show up year to year. This year, so far, some of our unusual intakes have included a beaver impaled on the Verde River from the recent flooding, and a Long-eared Owlet stranded at a high-traffic trail head, on top of the more common Great-horned owls, Cooper Hawks, Finches, Sparrows, skunks, javelinas and bunnies. 

Every year we have approximately 400 to 500 intakes, besides the 75+ other permanent residents that live at our center. In looking out for the safety and security of the animals in our charge, and the necessity to have power in the event of outages, we had applied to NAAS for assistance, along with Arizona Community Foundation, in conjunction with fundraising efforts to install back-up solar batteries to work with our existing solar system. This upgrade enables all of our medical equipment to still function, as well as freezer units, should the power go out or an emergency were to occur. 

This is critical as the various foods needed to supply each species dietary requirements, and the need to have functioning intensive care units, in the event of an emergency (especially for those that are in critical care) can mean the difference between life and death.

The undertaking might not seem difficult, but supply chain issues and other various obstacles we have encountered ended up setting our timeline back several months. Since we are one of the first facilities within the region to attempt to install this equipment, the company had to work out all of the bugs involved with acquiring and installing the batteries.

The new system consists of two sun-powered battery bank , a total of 26KWH. An average house runs on 40KWH a day. The batteries power our critical loads, and in the event of an outage, will provide seamless flow from APS house current to off-grid operation.  If loss of power in the middle of the night were to occur, the batteries will provide the time and safety net needed to evaluate the situation.  When the batteries are drained to 60%, it takes until about 11 a.m. to recharge, during an unclouded day. 

 In conclusion, the emergency infrastructure upgrade will accommodate the needs of the animals here in our charge during a crisis situation, and enable us to still perform our duties uninterrupted. We are grateful for your support in this endeavor.

Short Articles

By Rich Armstrong

What We've Been Up To!

In the 1st 6 months of 2023 Northern Arizona Audubon had 46 field trips & big sits below the rim, which is about 8/month, almost 2/week. There were 9 leaders and 383 folks attended, an average of just over 8/trip. There were also 6 trips canceled due to weather (snow, mostly flooding) or there would have been more.

Every trip is written up by the leader and all the trip reports are on the NAAS website. Thanks to all the leaders and thanks to all who attended field trips.

There will be more field trips and big sits starting about early September. You can find out about them on the website calendar and meetup and facebook and my distribution list.

If you would like to support field trips you can go to and click on donate and there is a place to donate to the field trip fund. We hope to see you on field trips and big sits in the future!


Join Greg Neise and Nate Swick, from the American Birding Association, every other Friday at 1:00 p.m. ET to discuss ID challenges and get your bird ID questions answered, on What’s This Bird LIVE!

WTB LIVE! can be viewed on any of the following ABA social media platforms: YouTubeTwitter, and Facebook.

Building a Bird-Friendly Community

By - Christine Maxa, Arizona Daily Sun

It only takes a Spark to start a lifelong passion. In birding lingo, a spark is the bird that gets a person interested in birding. The number of people succumbing to that spark, according to a National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, has pushed birding to the upper third (and rising) in the list of 51 activities Americans like to do for recreation. And it’s not just geeks and older white adults. Since the pandemic, Gen Z, Millennials and people of color have grabbed some Bins(binoculars) and started a Life List (list of birds one sees during their life).

Arizona is one of the best states in the country for birding and a world renown birding destination. The Arizona Field Ornithologists lists 563 species of birds sighted in the state. Some 309 to 340 of them, depending on the source, nest in Arizona.

Arizona looms large in the e-birding world, too. The birding app Birda, described by its owners as the fastest-growing birdwatching community on the internet, lists Arizona as their state of choice for birding.Though birding is still considered a recreational activity, the winds have shifted. Like the canary in the coalmine, the health of bird populations reflects the health of planet Earth. When landscapes and oceans degrade, birds disappear; and right now, they are doing so at an alarming rate.

North America lost about 3 billion birds in the last 50 years (about 25%). Arizona and the desert Southwest lost 42% of its bird population, and almost 75% of the species are in decline. Considering its dramatic loss, Arizona is in a position to become a prime player in the plight to help reverse this avian trend.

“The 2022 State of the Birds Report showed that wetlands are the only habitat on the planet where birds are increasing in numbers,” said Kay Hawklee, spokesperson for Northern Arizona Audubon Society (NAAS). “That means that every other habitat is losing birds. Grassland birds are among the worst hit species. Our sanctuary, Kachina Wetlands, is a good example of a thriving bird habitat.”

Other NAAS sanctuaries located in the area are Picture Canyon in Flagstaff, Bubbling Ponds in Cornville and Sedona Wetlands in Sedona.

Real-time data

Facing the alarming die-outs without hard data made mitigation a challenge. In 2002, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology created the e-bird app to compile the knowledge and experiences of birders from around the world. The global citizen-science project has more than 899,000 registered e-birders — 41.5 thousand in Arizona — who have found 10,715 species of birds from some 1.3 billion observations around the globe. Anyone can join, and it’s free.

Through the app, users can monitor the plight of the world’s birds with real-time data. Automated data filters and a global team of bird experts evaluate the data to maintain quality. A survey sent to users by a Cornell Lab research team showed people have used the app for research, monitoring species, conservation planning, habitat management and policymaking.

On a local level, NAAS plans to coordinate more conservation work in Flagstaff that will complement pinyon jay surveys on Anderson Mesa. NAAS has recently affiliated with The Wildlife Society club at NAU, as well.“We have a lot that is in the works for Flagstaff and hope to involve more volunteers and work to make some concrete differences for birds,” Hawklee said. “Volunteers are always welcome to spread the word about bird conservation.”

Bird-friendly communities

Taking care of feathered friends not only happens on a global scale but one backyard at a time.  Anyone can create a safe space for birds by providing food, shelter, spots for birds to raise their young and safe spots for migrant birds to pass through.

Birding opportunities

The e-bird app lists 2,515 birding hotspots in Arizona, so the chances of missing out on an ornithological experience are slim. Below are popular birding areas around the state along with dates of festivals that take place in the areas:

Sedona’s signature red rock scenery gets upstaged by all things hummingbird during the annual Sedona Hummingbird Festival taking place this year on July 28, 29 and 30. Those interested who are not able to make it in person can view live-streamed presentations.

You might spot a Lifer just about any time of the year at Dead Horse State Park. Its list of almost 257 species span the seasons. In spring and fall, passerines flock to the Fremont Cottonwood-Goodding willow forest along the park’s Verde River Greenway. Come winter, bald eagles hang out around the trout stocked lagoon. You might even have a Big Day while learning about the area’s charismatic landscape and birdlife at the annual Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival held on April 25-28, 2024 at the park. 

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

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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