Verde Valley: Lack of Birds?
9 Feb 2019, 7:18 AM,
#1
Verde Valley: Lack of Birds?
Ok. 

I have kept my mouth shut for quite some time, but I would like to get others thoughts on this subject.

Is it me, or has anyone else noticed the general lack of birds wintering in the Verde Valley the past few years, especially sparrows? In particular, Brewer's Sparrows?

Red Tank Draw used to be one of my favorite places to bird, but every time I go there, I usually end up with little or zip.

The same thing with Stagestop Riparian Area, South Gateway Visitor Center, Montezuma Well Picnic Area and Rd. 618, which used to be good for all types of sparrows, including Grasshopper Sparrow.

About the only place that I am guaranteed to see some variety of birds is Page Springs and, even there, it seems the general numbers are down.

Also, on Ebird, when I check to see what people are seeing in the Verde Valley, it seems that no one is reporting anything. The reports on this website also seem to have gone way down this year in particular.

So, am I just unlucky or crazy (which I never rule out) or is something going on here? 

Maybe just some kind of cycle, or something related to climate change or destruction of habitat?

Gary

PS: As a side note, I have not had any significant numbers of birds in my Flagstaff yard since November...that has never happened before. Yesterday I was excited because 2 pine siskins showed up...
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9 Feb 2019, 9:39 AM,
#2
RE: Verde Valley: Lack of Birds?
@ Gary

My (possibly overvalued) 2¢;

My theories are colored by my most regular haunts of Page Spgs and the Cornville grasslands. I observe loads of sparrows in the post-migration period on the grasslands - quite high numbers of BRSP, VESP, SASP, some SAVS and many WCSP in brushy habitats. These numbers continue into say November and then begin to dwindle. Some years many remain and others not so much. I speculate it is mostly temperature driven; migrants come 'far enough' south to rest and reload, and stay as long as food and weather suit.
Often, the fair and warm weather in the Verde persists through Christmas, with mesquites and even cottonwoods in sheltered locations holding their leaves. I suspect however that when presented with cold snaps (say, recent snow down to the valley floor) many birds simply opt to jump the comparatively short distance to the low desert.
I noticed yesterday that north Phoenix is blooming abundantly with Encelia and Lupinus, so its easy to imagine some birds cycling there to capture that transient resource. I think Brewer's is preferentially insectivorous, so its sensible that at this time of year, when the pickings are much easier just 100 miles south of the Verde, many would make that hop.

Finally, and not to be overlooked, the number of observers in the Verde is very low.
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