Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Disquiet Follows My Soul

Lovebird en cantata
By the end of the year, I was exhausted.  Then something strange happened to me after our jaunt to New Mexico for the Common Crane.  I became a bit sad.  Was this it?

My cat Luna is exhausted watching me run in and out of the house for a rare bird
What would I do now? For a week, I struggled to redefine my work and get a grasp on how I would organize my journey this year. I still need to make some birding progress because as most of us already know, life doesn't wait for us to catch up. 

Tucson's "new" premiere birding spot....."The Coachline Gravel Pits Lake"
So I called Kathie. We chatted for awhile and like always, she gave me some wonderful advice.  Saturday morning came quickly and I woke up feeling a tad better.  I headed out to Madera Canyon which remedied some of the building anxiety. Getting rid of the "chasing bird" syndrome is not an easy thing to do.

Lewis's Woodpecker near Madera Canyon
As I sat watching the Pine Siskins at the feeders, I noticed several birders approaching.  One asked if he could sit next to me and I said of course.  He proceeded to ask questions about the birds as did several other birders seated in the nearby benches.  Instead of giving them the answers, I had them work for their ID.  It's the teacher in me. And it was fun watching people connect with the birds. 
Pine Siskins with Lesser Goldfinches
I continued observing the birds getting quality views of them all as I've done time and time again....year after year. It doesn't make them any less spectacular.  But what would my challenge be for the year?  I was still trying to figure it all out.

Magnificent Hummingbird
Another day would pass and I'd chase the rare, for Tucson, Eastern Bluebirds and just sit and watch them feeding on the desert mistletoe berries.

Eastern Bluebird
I went to find my Yellow-headed Blackbirds for the year and discovered them in the same place around a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds.  I observed their size differences and also enjoyed viewing the male and female Red-winged Blackbirds together.  Three years ago, the female confused me. I had thought she was some rare sparrow. Silly me. Today, this bird is part of my being.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds
I move on and explore some more, spotting both common and rare birds in new and old places. And I begin to feel something inside again.  The spark. Instead of the rush to find that rare bird, I sit back enjoying the full experience.  I see two men with their scopes looking for Wood Ducks.  One of the men tells me he shot one the other day. He asks me where he could find more. I keep their locations secret. "I don't know.  I haven't seen any this year."

Drake Wood Duck. Hide your brilliance!
Two ladies are doing a big year and ask me about several birds.  I smile and share with them several areas that they should target. While they are speaking, I notice the two paired geese that have stayed in Tucson over the past month or so flying over to our location. The Snow and Greater White-fronted Geese make a landing. They have bonded now.  What if something happens to the other?  They are right by my work which makes for a nice stop on the way home. Tucson birders are very happy to have this relatively new place to bird.   Also in the water, we notice 18 Canada Geese!  For most people, these birds are common but in the Tucson area, we're lucky if we even have one stop by for a visit during the year!

A Northern Shoveler leads the way for the Snow and Greater White-fronted Geese
I continue searching and visiting areas. There are a lot of birders doing a Big January.  

I revisit the now annual  and rare wintering Eurasian Wigeon, but this time I try to get a picture that shows the contrast between the two wigeons.

American Wigeon with a rare Eurasian Wigeon
I find myself beginning to develop a plan as I bird with my bud Magill Weber around the Phoenix Metro.  Just what would I call this chapter of my birding career?  We explore cemeteries and random parks for species we have already seen over the years.....just not for this year:) 

People ask, "What happens after we die?"  This past weekend I discovered the answer!  Birds sit on our gravestones!
But the difference here is that we examined new areas to find these same birds and that made the challenge much more exciting. Magill counts over 300 American Wigeons at one of the cemeteries.  While doing so, she locates a rare morph Storm Wigeon! About 1 in 500 male American Wigeons are born with this beautiful "White-cheeked" morph.  Definitely won't be telling any hunters about this bird!  The fun part about this count was that the birds kept flying in and out of the watering hole during Magill's count!  

Storm Wigeon-a rare morph of the American Wigeon. 
And it's these minute details I enjoy today. The challenge of finding one bird in a flock of over a hundred or a thousand is very rewarding.  As everything begins to unfold, I realize that I am happy exploring weird spots without having the need to get a pic of the bird anymore since it's not a lifebird.  I can relax and just observe. It makes birding much more enjoyable.

Laurence's Goldfinch
We play detective and think like the birds.  And there they are.  Not always.....but most of the time. 

Say it like you mean it...STOOOOOOOOOORM WIIIIIIIIGEON!  Magill says the nickname of this AMWI morph sounds lke a 70's rock band!
And then it happens! A theme snaps into my brain for this new birding year. AMERICANO. In Spanish, the word "americano" refers to anyone from the Americas which includes the US, Mexico and Canada! The primary focus of my bird searches will happen in the West and Mexico.....especially around the state of Sonora. So a North American year it is!

A Green-winged Teal showing off his.......brilliant green on the wing:)

And just like that!  POOF!  My anxiety goes away.  It's not the US anymore but a good portion of North America. I hope to see a Groove-billed Ani again which is definitely one of my top 10 favorite birds.

One of my all time favorite top 10 birds, the Groove-billed Ani.

For now, it's all about combing the parks, cemeteries and rediscovering all the birds from last year:)  And so the new adventure begins.  Americano. 

When I pass into the unknown, I hope that I am surrounded by birds.


  1. .. and, just like that...you're back!! woohooo.....

    I loved all the little Siskins and Finches on the feeder...

  2. J'adore this post Chris. it's always a joy to see someone experiencing an epithany, Ithink you have a fab year ahead of you, enjoy :)

  3. Glad you've got your thoughts and feelings back on track. Looking forward to this years birding with you.

  4. Sounds like a good plan, Chris.. I loved the post in this post. Awesome shot of the two wigeons together.. And I love the Siskins with the finches. Great series of photos.. Happy Birding!

  5. Chris, good for you! And I hope I am always part of your journey! I also learned something new from you: I had never heard of a "storm widgeon" before and thought it was something you had made up when I read your FB post. Who knew? :-) Keep on birding!

  6. Well I enjoyed this post but was very glad when I go to the end that you had got yourself all sorted out and knew what you were doing this year. Happy Birding and ENJOY it.

  7. The Coachline Lake looks like a stunningly beautiful place, and sounds/looks like you are getting a good start on the year. I've had trouble deciding on what resolutions/plan to make myself this year...still thinking about it! Glad you found yours!

  8. Chris, I wish you a wonderful year searching The bird among birds. Life is marvelous and makes us always find something new to make it fun. Here you go.

  9. Glad you have found a focus for your year. I had never heard of a storm widgeon either, thanks Chris, you are a fountain of knowledge.
    Best wishes to you,

  10. What a great post. Can totally feel the change in attitude. As always the photographs are wonderful too.

  11. So you have decided where you will be chasing the birds, so good luck. Regards.

  12. I love it when a plan comes together.

  13. A wonderful post Chris - so glad you have worked out a new quest for this year. Look forward to sharing your birding adventures and good luck :)

  14. So many birds, so little time.
    It's a pleasure to view all your awesome bird shots.

  15. happy birding this year chris!
    as always...i love seeing your pic's!! i especially like the love bird shot, and all the little ones on the big feeder...and the birds hanging out on the wire.
    the drake wood duck sure is a beauty!!

    and luna. let's not forget her. aaaah. i can just hear her sigh of relief when you slowed down...and sat with her. give her a scratch from me.

  16. We can always learn, and it is good to just sit and watch and share sometimes, and seek out new territory in different ways - good luck with your 2015 birding adventures, Chris.

  17. I love your enthusiasm, Chris- whatever route you choose, I hope you have lots of success in finding each bird you are looking for. The cemetery is no surprise to me- I have been photographing headstones for years and I always see a variety of birds in graveyards. Good luck and happy birding, wherever you go.

  18. I'm glad you are still watching birds and photographing them for the rest of us to enjoy! That bird feeder with all the birds lined up on it is fantastic!

  19. Hi Chris!:) Sounds good to me!I hope you have a very good year.

    I enjoyed seeing all these lovely birds, you have some great captures here.Loved the Lewis's Woodpecker, and the picture of the Siskins and Finches almost looks unreal, like little ceremic birds on a stand.

  20. Wonderful photos of all the birds. I hope you'll have a spectacular year Americano.

  21. So many of these birds are new to me. I love the Green-winged Teal and Lewis's Woodpecker. That Coachline Lake looks beautiful!

  22. My daughter and I are planning a cemetery run soon (she got a new camera--better than mine--for Christmas!)I'm happy you are out of your end-of-year sadness. I hope you have a wonderful productive new year (and not so exhausting!) I need to check out the coachline lakes! Loved the photos of the birds...the line with the different blackbirds on it was wonderful! Good to see the comparisons of each. Had to chuckle over the female redwing comment...that's me all over, but about a lot more birds than just that one! I hope I id'd the white crowned sparrow correctly on my post!

  23. Great stuff! I have spent many happy hours birding in Madera Canyon, probably one of the top twenty single birding destinations in North America (although I know that's a very subjective statement). I hope you are able to conquer your obsession to chase after rarities. Studying the familiar is far more rewarding in my opinion.

  24. Wanted to thank you, Chris, for advising me to up the sugar content in my hummer nectar when it's cold. I thought too much sugar would be bad for them, and it's good to learn that isn't necessarily the case. I'm glad you got back to Madera Canyon. LOVED the photo of the Magnificent. That weekend trip for us was priceless. Since we can't hike, it was wonderful to have the birds coming to us. I want to also thank you for your directions to Coachline Lakes...are you headed N or S on 10 when you take the exit and approx. how many miles out of town is the exit? Thanks again!

  25. It's always great to get a theme going - and the new year means everything is new again for your annual list, at least!! Pilchard is already doing the summer surveys down here - look forward to seeing what I can catch on camera too!

  26. So many interesting birds in one place! The Pine Siskins and other birds are so cute occupying all the perches in the feeder, and the Wood Duck is so adorable in demeanor and expression. What a treat that would be to raise them. The Ani is a remarkable bird.

  27. I must say, I wouldn't mind at all to have killdeer keeping me company after I'm buried. They're so beautiful.

    Chris, I loved your commentary and your wonderful photos of so many different birds!! I just finished a watercolor painting of a wood duck and framed it. I shared it on my personal blog, Hootin' Anni's. Your image of this elusive duck [for me anyway] is just picture post card perfect.

    Thanks for stopping by I'd Rather B Birdin'


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