Binocular and camera-wielding bird counters is the common perception of Audubon members, but the Maricopa Audubon Society is about much more than accumulating a personal list of sightings.
Members are dedicated to the preservation of habitats, care of injured birds and promoting education. Even if they don’t recognize it, all people benefit from the society’s efforts to protect wildlife.
When we spy an unusual bird species, we’ve asked, “What kind of bird is that?” A society member described the most common birds in our neighborhood as the Gambel’s Quail and the White-winged Doves.
Many of neighbors have hummingbird feeders and two species flits through their yards — the Anna’s Hummingbird with a red crown and throat and the slightly smaller Costa’s Hummingbird with a dark throat and white ear stripe.
Often, new neighbors glimpse one of the Rosy-Faced Lovebirds and wonder if someone’s pet has flown the coop. Society members know that folks need not worry about these bright green birds with red faces that fly in small flocks. Said to be descendants of pets that escaped many years ago, these birds thrive in our climate — which is similar to their southwestern Africa origin.
There are many more bird species, too many to mention, that help keep our insect population down. One society member, in the last year, has counted more than 90 different species in Ahwatukee.
Other birds spend either summer or winter here on their migration. Some fly through the area with little notice and some, like the Black Swift, fly too high to see.
Members of the society include those who take part in helping injured birds.
Paul and Gloria Halesworth founded a nonprofit rehabilitation center here in Ahwatukee. The Halesworths are retiring from “Wildwing” to focus on rescues of larger predator birds: hawks and owls.
“Rehabbing isn’t an easy task,” Paul said. “You must deal with state and national licensing, different diets and the temperament of the birds themselves. We will continue to volunteer and work with Liberty Wildlife, one of the largest organizations in Arizona, which works with all kinds of animals.”
Liberty’s state-of-the-art hospital is featured in the latest issue of The Cactus Wren·dition magazine.
One of Paul’s main concerns is when rat poison is used carelessly and ultimately kills the owl population. The owl picks up a poisoned rat as food for its young. This has a great impact to our local ecological system.
“I like the Maricopa Audubon Society for not only the bird watching but for their conservation work,” Paul said.
The society weighs in on local and state matters that impact wildlife and the environment. Current issues are the proposed San Pedro River building project with the potential of draining the aquifer, the ecological impact of new mining efforts and the overall health of Arizona’s groundwater.
The society offers fieldtrips throughout the year. Most trips and all society’s meetings are free for non-members, though the society encourages attenders to support the organization by donating or by joining. Information on meetings and a list of future fieldtrips can be found on the society’s Facebook page or at maricopaaudubon.org.
A sunrise trip is planned on Sept. 9 to explore the San Carlos Apache Reservation reservoir with Dave Pearson. They hope to spot waterfowl, pelicans and migrating shorebirds. Check the society’s website for reservations, costs and items to bring.
Larry Langstaff coordinates fieldtrips for the society and enjoys Pima Canyon to view the seasonal changes.
“Not only do you find wildlife, you find all kinds of interesting vegetation,” he said, “My favorites are the elephant trees and many forms of blooming cactus.”
As an ASU student in 1980, Larry began taking Audubon trips, and more than 30 years later the retired Mesa science teacher is excited to help others learn about area wildlife.
The Maricopa Audubon Society meets at 7:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month from September through April at Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren, 2450 N. 64th St. To join please visit their website. Annual membership is $20, and as a bonus, you’ll receive the quarterly magazine. The Cactus Wren·dition is packed full of informative articles and colorful photographs. It also features volunteer opportunities, poetry, and a crossword puzzle.