Lifebirds are getting tricky. My camera abilities are strong but my reflexes aren't always the quickest. I have come to accept that I may not get all lifebirds with a proper photo ID. But I sure will try! As of July, I had crossed the 400 number on my life bird list. The "list" is sacred to many. Some use it to boast their egos. Some keep it secret because it's very personal. And some don't mind sharing it at all with others....like me. When I began this bird journey, I wanted to be open and transparent about my finds from around the world. This is a great game of mind and physical exercise. Every morning I wake up asking myself, "Which bird will it be today?" If it's a rare visiting bird, I won't be able to sleep the night before. As I slowly tick off my Arizona list, I have moved into foreign and exotic landscapes which require a lot more research and investigation. Every trip has a specific target list. Every lifebird has a story. And today I will share with you the journey that went into finding the birds from 300-400.
At 310, this drab little number flew in front of both Kathie and myself while birding at a truck stop. It's the Dusky Flycatcher. Flycatchers in Arizona are difficult because there are so many kinds here. I feel I have become stronger as a birder because of all the research these types of birds make me do. Some look so similar that it comes down to sound and habitat or elevation. I learned quickly that the easiest way for me to ID these birds is to listen to their calls and memorize them.
At 320, I heard a strange call up on Mt. Lemmon. It drove me insane. It was new to my ears and I climbed and climbed up a steep hill to see who was making all that racket. I forgot about my surroundings and found myself on a rock ledge staring at the Greater Pewee. As I write this today, I will never forget that song. On one particular outing, a park ranger whistled the tune note per note perfectly while having coffee with me on a bench. I had a good laugh and shared the story of the Greater Pewee.....a Mexican migrant. Once you hear that tune, you won't forget it anytime soon:)
Number 360 goes to the rather plain Green-throated Mountain Gem. Yes, it's a hummingbird and it was found near the only excellent truly birder friendly place in Antigua. They actually had hummingbird feeders!!! If you go to Antigua, check out the Finca Pilar. Wonderful birds can be found on the trails and around the feeders here. On this trek, I met a young Scottish man by the name of Justin who birded alone at one of the hostals near Antigua. Several people kind of laughed at his obsession with birds. When I came along, we teamed up and birded together. My friend told me that we had a bromance going on. Whatever the case, it was so much fun to bird with someone who knew the area. We sat down over several days looking at his Central American bird books ID'ing the birds we had seen together. We even took trails that I wouldn't have normally gone on. I truly appreciated our time together searching for new birds. And I was able to introduce him to Ebird which will be a fun new program for him to use.
370 was a big one. The Gold medal of this journey. It was a gamble that I took in Coban. This time it paid off big time. My friend was able to share the moment with me and experience the glorious Resplendent Quetzal. A lot of work and research went into finding this bird. So much so that after we found 6 of them, my birding energy waned for awhile. I began to drink Micheladas and enjoy the trip more as a tourist. I had been to Guatemala before but never as a birder. If it wasn't for the experience and research behind the Elegant Trogon, I may have dipped on this near threatened bird. It was an exciting moment in my life. My friend Lynda said that I had a bird boner(highlight in front of the parentheses if you want to know). I laughed and smiled. She isn't a birder, but the event was spectacular. One of the highlights of my birding adventures.
At 380, the Swallow-tailed Kite flew among....swallows and swifts. I had seen it twice and was in awe by it's grace and elegance. My initial reactions were, "That's a big swallow!" Then I saw the head on this bird and realized I was dealing with a Kite. I checked my list and saw....Swallow-tailed Kite. The lesson here? Use resources like Ebird to help ID the birds found in the area. I knew most of the bird body types(there were a few exceptions of course) and I focused on what physical features made them stand out. In this case, the tail was unique to the Kite family. When I looked it up on the internet for ID verification, I smiled and patted myself on the back.
We spent a day in Tikal which is one of my favorite places to search for wildlife. And on this day, we saw more creatures than all the other tourists in the park. Why? We avoided the tours!!! As a Spanish instructor, I've studied the Mayan histories many times over. When my friend asked a question, I gave her the information. Had we been with the group, we would have missed this bird. We spied this Collared Aracari at number 390 before it flew off because of a noisy tour group. My friend now understood why I dislike people on the trails. She began to feel the same way as we discovered together Spider and Howler Monkeys, Deer, Coati, and gorgeous birds along the trail.