Editor note: This article is based upon an email written by Rich Armstrong which summarized the recent development of birding in Yavapai County. It is used with his permission.
Although there have been many birders both past and present who have contributed to the body of birding information, this story begins in 2011 with the arrival of Rich and Nanette Armstrong in the Sedona area. Rich and Nanette came here from Texas by way of Oregon and both have excellent birding credentials. Rich will tell you that he is “second best birder in my house”. Since 2011 Rich has become the focal point for birding activity in the Verde Valley, Arizona. He works tirelessly to bird but, more than that, Rich donates his time to the cause of increasing the number of birders in Yavapai County. He is also NAAS Steward for Sedona Wetlands and teaches an Introduction to birding in the Olli program.
The eBird data listed Rich Armstrong with 209 species in the Verde Valley. At this stage in history, few birders were using eBird but this will change.
Rich again topped the list with 220 species reported but Sam Hough reported 189 species and Dena Greenwood listed 167. Vic Nelson arrived in the Verde Valley and reported 150 and Jeff Tanner listed 64 Species.
Sam Hough set a record with 271 species! Rich reported 261, Vic Nelson recorded 232, Jeff Tanner had 169 and Dena Greenwood reported 144. Tina Greenawalt joined the listers with 85 species that year.
Sam’s total grew to 281 species, Rich had 258, Vic reported 245, Dena had 196 and Julie Wills joined the listers with 169 while Holly Kleindist listed 167. Rob Bonner joined with 142 species and Tina recorded 130.
Sam reported 273 species, Eric Gofreed joined the listers with 255, Holly had 250, Rich reported 247, and Vic had 240. Rob Bonner recorded 196, Lisa Grubbs listed 190, Julie Wills had 163, Mark Philippart had 158 and Matt Crozier joined the group with 143 species.
Sam Hough broke his own record with a whopping 285 species, Holly came in second with 280, Eric reported 260, Vic had 255 and Rich recorded 253, Rob had 233 species and Chip Engleman joined with 220. Lydia Delventhal joined with 130 species and John Hildebrand joined the listers and recorded 120. When lists were combined, 308 bird species were recorded in Yavapai County.
Wow! That’s a lot of names and numbers. Let’s make a few general comments:
1. Science always looks for trends in numbers. Clearly the number of birds is increasing with time. But one should ask if that reflects an increase in actual species diversity in Yavapai County or is it an artifact of birders getting better and spending more time in the field. The most likely answer to that is an increased enthusiasm, better biders use of eBird, etc. One obvious truth is: the Yavapai County is an awesome place to bird!
2. Notice that each year more birders are listed reporting their sightings. That’s an excellent demonstration of community building. Not only is birding alive and well; it provides a focal point of social growth. Nobody can say that Birding is a solitary activity.
3. If you get out and bird, please report your sightings to eBird. eBird can be used on your computer or on your smart phone. It provides a great central clearinghouse for bird sightings around the world and presents a terrific data base for science.
4. A remarkable item: many of these birders either work a full time job or are absent from the Valley during much of the year!