Helping Our Birds
The members of White Mountain Audubon Society participate in several projects that help protect birds and their habitat. If you have an interest in assisting in these or other efforts, please contact us.
Fishing Line Collection
The White Mountains holds many recreational fishing lakes. Waste fishing line that is discarded and left on shore has been identified as a threat to breeding osprey, bald eagles, and waterfowl. White Mountain Audubon has partnered with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to construct and place PVC tubes at fishing recreation lakes to collect waste fishing line.
Christmas Bird Count
One of the longest-running citizen-science bird surveys is the now multi-national Christmas Bird Count (CBC), established by National Audubon Society over one hundred years ago. The CBC provides a “snapshot in time” of wintering birds, and can help analyze trends in bird populations. White Mountain Audubon has participated in the Timber Mesa bird count, surrounding Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside, since the Chapter’s inception in 1987. Held one Saturday in December of each year, birders divide into small groups and select a portion of the count area to survey, counting and identifying every individual bird observed. A summary of the entire count is provided to National Audubon for their analysis and inclusion into their database. A second count area in St. Johns is in need of a coordinator. If you have an interest in coordinating this count, please contact us.
National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area Program
The Important Bird Area (IBA) program is a priority for National Audubon, and for Audubon in Arizona. IBAs are areas holding critical bird populations or habitats; each IBA is reviewed for inclusion into the program by a scientific review committee. National Audubon and IBA supporters work with landowners and agencies to conserve and enhance these areas. In Arizona, Audubon has recognized several IBAs around the state. For more information on the Important Bird Area program in Arizona, Tucson Audubon has IBA information on their website at www.tucsonaudubon.org. The White Mountain Audubon Society nominated two IBAs in the White Mountains: the Little Colorado River watershed and the Blue River watershed.
Little Colorado River Watershed. In May of 2003, our nomination for the Little Colorado River watershed was accepted by a National Audubon Society scientific review board as one of the first Important Bird Areas for Arizona. A formal recognition event with several key partners was held in 2008. This designation acknowledges the uniqueness and value of the habitat in this area to birds. Of particular interest is the presence of a number of birds listed by state and national agencies as birds of special status, for which conservation is a priority. Although the IBA designation does not change existing laws, it is recognized by many organizations, and hopefully will highlight the importance of this area for conservation efforts. White Mountain Audubon members monitor the birds of the area during the national North American Migration Count in May of each year, and continue to be a voice for conservation and habitat enhancement projects within the watershed.
The IBA area encompasses 27 miles of the Little Colorado River and its tributaries from its headwaters on Mount Baldy through the Wenima Wildlife area in Apache County. It includes the tributaries of the East Fork, the West Fork, the South Fork, Rosey Creek, Benny Creek, Hall Creek, and Butler Canyon. Several lakes are also within the IBA boundaries, including Lee Valley, White Mountain, Bunch, Tunnel, and River reservoirs and Becker Lake. For more information on birding this area, go to our “birding hot spots” and click on Zone 2. This riparian corridor represents a significant amount of intact, diverse habitat. With changes in elevation, the habitat ranges from spruce-fir and aspen through ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper grassland. Alder, willow, walnut, and cottonwood trees line the river and its tributaries. The watershed supports a great variety of breeding species, many of which nest only in the high elevations in Arizona. A diversity of migrating birds may be found here as well. Wintering waterfowl are abundant on open water. Bald eagles and ferruginous hawks are also among the winter visitors. In our research, we found a total of 255 species that have been recorded here. For a species list click here to print “Birds of the Little Colorado River Watershed IBA” (Requires Adobe Acrobat).
Blue River Watershed. The Blue River watershed is one of the few intact, undisturbed watersheds remaining in the state. The IBA classification recognizes its outstanding riparian habitat and virtually unfragmented surrounding forest. Habitats range from Upper Sonoran life zones to mixed conifer habitat. The IBA does not include the watershed’s limited private property; birders are encouraged to respect private landowner’s property while traveling in the area. Accessed primarily by national forest roads, two campgrounds provide overnight accommodations. Yellow-billed cuckoo, peregrine falcon, and common black-hawk have been observed. Montezuma quail can be found adjacent to the Blue River road; and one can almost be assured of seeing other wildlife species such as Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, and possibly bighorn sheep and Mexican gray wolf. Any trip to the Blue will no doubt be an adventure; please consider sending your Blue River bird sightings to us via our e-mail address.
Northeastern Arizona All-Birds Committee
White Mountain Audubon participates as a member of the Northeastern Arizona All-Birds Committee. This committee is a cooperative effort involving several government, tribal, and private representatives led by the Arizona Game and Fish Department collaborating on a variety of projects related to bird populations and habitats. Initiated by the Intermountain West Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Initiative, now referred to as the All-Birds Conservation Initiative, this group works towards restoring, maintaining, and improving bird population numbers and habitat under priorities set by the following plans: North American Waterfowl Management Plan; Partners In Flight; North American Shorebird Plan; and the North American Waterbird Plan. Cooperators besides White Mountain Audubon and Arizona Game and Fish include the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, The Nature Conservancy, Arizona Audubon, and the White Mountain Apache and Zuni tribes.
Some of the priority projects in our Committee working area include: 1) livestock exclusion fencing of specific wetlands and springs; 2) habitat improvements on several wetland systems on both Forest and Tribal lands; 3) riparian habitat condition assessment on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest; 4) cottonwood/willow plantings in wetland habitats such as Jacques Marsh; 5) construction of nesting platforms for ospreys; 6) restoration and protection of grasslands for mountain plover, burrowing owl, and other species; and 7) numerous monitoring surveys under statewide plans for secretive marsh birds, riparian birds, cormorant and heron rookeries, and wintering bald eagles.