The changing seasons bring birds of a different feather to Rim country. As the air turns crisp at night and trees don their autumn colors, people start listening for the sounds of ducks and geese. Only when they look skyward and see the V formations of migrating flocks, do they know that winter is not far behind.
Whether you're visiting Rim country to enjoy fall foliage, hike or play in the snow, chances are you will spot some birds. A pair of binoculars and a good field guide to birds are about all you need to enjoy birding. This rapidly growing hobby is a good activity for families to share. According to recent studies, one in five Americans is a bird watcher.
Rim country offers birds a transitional zone between desert and high mountains. This ranges from scrub brush and streams to meadows and mature stands of pine trees. Our environment is home to more than 100 species of birds and provides a popular stopover point for a wide variety of seasonal migrating birds.
"Green Valley Park is a good place to see migrating Canada geese and Ross's geese. Bald eagles are here in the fall and winter too, as well as many types of ducks," said Grace Knowles, president of Payson Birders. She said that the pond behind the municipal golf course west of Green Valley Park also is a good place to look for birds in a natural habitat.
Tom Conlin, another Payson birder, said to look for dippers along Tonto Creek, and ruddy ducks at the pond near Star Valley, where they stay all winter. He reports seeing a snow goose in the Star Valley area last winter. See Canyon, near Christopher Creek, and the Rim lakes are good birding places in fall.
Conlin suggested, "Check meadows and water areas when you are out hiking. You are apt to see a wide variety of ducks such as the canvasback, wigeon, pintail, mallard and hooded merganser during the colder months. Birds are harder to spot in the brush because their fall and winter plumage is more like camouflage; not as showy as the spring and summer colors that appear during mating season.
Diana Garrity of Payson Birders recently led a fall field trip for local Girl Scouts working on their bird badge. She and other club members showed the girls how to spot birds using binoculars.
"It's important to have binoculars that you can comfortably hold and focus easily," she said. "A lot of success with bird watching depends on being quiet, listening and being able to focus your binoculars quickly.
"Birding success requires using both sight and sound," she said. "Kids are naturally curious and they love to look for things, so finding birds can become a contest of skills. It's a good activity for a group of children or a family."
The Maricopa County Audubon Society published the "Beginner's Field Guide to Birds of Phoenix." She gave copies of this slim paperback book to the Girl Scouts. It is aimed at children in fourth grade and older as well as adults new to bird watching.
"We can see many of the same species listed in this book in Rim country. You can find hawks, owls, robins, and several types of woodpeckers and jays. Kids love to check off their sightings in this little book," she says.
Wherever you go birding in Rim country, wear warm clothing and sturdy walking shoes or boots. Always wear a hat and take sunscreen, water and trail mix or an energy bar. It is helpful to have a small notepad and pencil to record bird sightings, as well as binoculars and a good field guide of western birds.
When birding, respect regulations regarding use of public areas and roads; avoid damaging natural habitats and do not enter private property without the owner's permission. Responsible behavior will help protect birds in Rim country and generate good will.
If you want more information about birding in Rim country, contact the Payson Birders at (928) 474-4572. The group meets quarterly and schedules field trips between meetings.