Sunday, December 20, 2015

The 700 Club

Green Jay-in Chiapas, the Green Jays have yellow eyes.  In Texas, Green Jays have dark eyes.
If there's one thing about a growing life bird list, it's learning that you have to be patient.  The first and middle part of 600 was not easy at all.  And I have to admit, I was doubting I'd hit my year goal of 700 by the end of December. 

Rose-bellied Bunting or as it was once called, Rosita's Bunting
Many of the birds on my 600 list are neotropical birds.  They are some of the hardest birds to spot.  And while I'd like to say I'm getting better at finding them, I'm not:) 

White-winged Tanager
So I learned some valuable things on my personal journey to the 700 Club.  No more large groups.  I know I will have to do this down the road again, but I do not prefer large numbers of people.  While I enjoyed their company, knowledge and friendship, I much prefer the quiet and slow methods I use in the field alone or with friends.  And there's something special about ID'ing a new life bird on your own....

Stripe-throated Hermit
Every day there was something new flying past me and I couldn't keep up!  It was exhausting and fun.  The one thing I loved about our organized tour in Mexico?  The transportation.  It was nice to be told to meet the leaders at their buses each day at a certain time. When I do these treks alone, I always have to think about how I will attack the bird challenge.  Many times I stay in one spot for a week and really bird the heck out of it both day and night.  On our trek into Chiapas, it was FIVE new locales in FIVE days! 

Crimson-collared Tanager
It was amazing and the leaders were wonderful.  The reason for this important trek into Chiapas was for the endemic and difficult to find birds like the Nava's Wren, Pink-headed Warblers, Blue Seedeater and Long-tailed Sabrewing.  These were the birds I needed help finding because some of the birds were on private lands or in hard to access areas.  So in the shadows of the forests, we searched and searched for these brilliant birds. 

Barred Antshrike
Along the way, I found lots of other cool birds like this Olive Sparrow below.  The sparrow species make me smile and they are one of my favorites.  

Olive Sparrow
We saw trogons, motmots, chachalacas, guans and curassows, and lots of other brightly colored birds. 

Russet-crowned Motmot
So what am I feeling right now at the 700 level?  It's hard to explain, but I feel like I'm sinking into a birder stereotype that I fear most.  It's the one where I become a much more serious person.  It's the one where I lose human emotion and isolate myself in a space only filled with birds.  I'll try and fight that inner lifeless scientist away because birds are more than just data. I still will be a scientist in my own right....just one who laughs and enjoys the adventures along the way. I've met a lot of birders who can be too serious for their own good! The experience to 700 is completely different than the one I took to 100, 200 or even 300.  I'm a sharper knife now.  And with every moment free, I find myself engrossed in a bird book or TV program or studying new areas around the US and world. 

Great Curassow
As I sit in my car, fly in a plane or read reports, I separate the good and bad observations happening out in the field.  I add some of my own rare birds.  Others report their rare birds.  And so on and so forth....

Northern Bobwhite
But 700 was difficult.  I'm not going to lie.  It was the hardest challenge yet. 

Ruddy-breasted Seedeater
Sometimes it was the culture.  Utah challenged me with its 1950's culture of "Keeping Up With The Joneses".  Yuck! And California made me yearn for the open lands back in Arizona. There are too many people in that state!  However, when I spotted a new California endemic bird, I forgot about all of it and just smiled. 

Streak-backed Oriole
Mexico made me smile because I truly love this country and our time in Chiapas flew by so quickly there. It's been years since I visited this country's interior due to the drug trafficking and kidnapping. I can say that Mexico has become safer again for travel!  But still, I'm not taking any chances.  I'll always travel with a group of people now to this country. In February, Las Aventuras will return to Sonora, Mexico for another bird trek!

White-fronted Parrot
Then there were the birds!  Mexican birds hid.  Sea birds zipped past our vessels.  Other birds were perfectly camouflaged! 

Nava's Wren
And some birds challenged my patience!  This bird above is the number one success story of the year. The Nava's Wren hides in the dark shadows of Mexico's dry rain forest. It's habitat is very tight.  There are only 9 locations where this bird can be found and it's in some rather remote areas. We waited and waited and waited for this bird.  Some birders were super sick due to food poisoning, but by the bird gods, everyone made sure they saw the Nava's Wren.  One man collapsed onto the ground waiting to see this bird.  Now that's dedication!

Lesser Roadrunner
Four years ago I began this journey.  There are over 10,000 birds on this planet which leaves me approximately 9,300 more birds to find:) Oh may the BIRD GODS be good to me!  I'll certainly die trying to find them all!

Plain Chachalaca
A lot of strategic planning goes into everything I do. I like the planning part a lot.  It's the budgeting I hate!

Green Violetear
For next year, I'm planning on setting my life bird goal at 800....maybe 850.  I'm tossing around ideas like Canada, Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Cuba, Florida...or just a simple summer, vacationing in my beautiful home state of Wisconsin.  And of course, I will do my mandatory pelagic like I do each and every year. But who knows where that will take place. 

Blue Seedeater-a difficult bird to find!
There are many California birds I still need to find.  There are still many Wisconsin birds I need to find.  But overall, North America is starting to shrink:) Yet still....there are hundreds of new birds that need to be found.  Some birds require their own trek!

Long-tailed Jaeger
Casual ocean treks will now be very focused and calculated. 

Sooty Shearwater
A Bay Area trip, with a Monterrey or Half Moon Bay stop, will be needed. But that is something I want to do with Micheal. 

Pomarine Jaeger
North America is a great big continent to explore.  One could easily spend a lifetime here discovering everything there is to know about our wildlife. I can't believe how much I've learned in such a short amount of time.  But my mind is like a sponge.  I'm a detective on a case. 

California Quail
I imagine I am the bird sometimes.  This helps me figure out where they may be hiding.  And quite a few of these birds like to hide!

As this chapter of "Americano" comes to an end; another will begin.  Where will it take us?  Your guess is as good as mine.  But it's sure going to be a fun ride!  Over the next several weeks, at least until the end of the year, Las Aventuras will be leaving the desert once more to find a few more new bird species. In January, I will feature the highlights of 2015. Until next time.... 

The Pacific Wren
Number 700 was the Pacific Wren.  It was seen in the snow with most excellent company.  Birds take us to fantastic and magical places.  You never know where you'll wind up.  Until next time!


  1. truly awesome! congratulations!! some really unique and rare ones (to me) here!

  2. You met an incredible challenge this year. Hard to believe you've only been at this 4 years. May the Force be with you for next year.

  3. It's indeed a life challenge! But you seem so good at it.

  4. That's one heck of a journey you've been on this year, Chris!!! Congratulations (on all counts!)!

    Have a great Christmas and my very best wishes to you for a wonderful 2016 - - - Richard

  5. A great post Chris with some amazing photos. Congratulations on reaching the 700!! A wonderful achievement especially in a relatively short space of time.

    Wishing you both a very Happy Christmas and I so look forward to reading of your further adventures and exploits in search of birds.

  6. It is so amazing to share your unbelievable adventures in birding ... I'm so grateful to have found your wonderful blog! Today's pictures most of them anyway are like a dream to me ... I can't even imagine seeing them all in one lifetime,. Congratulations on meeting your goal ( and on setting your next one) and thanks for letting us share the journey.

  7. Hi Chris, all I can say is you are an amazing determined birder. Congrats on the 700 mark and good luck on the next 9300. Merry Christmas to you and your family. I wish you all the best in 2016. Happy New Year!

  8. Merry Christmas Congratulations on 700 birds.

  9. Congratulations Chris! I am so happy for you! And I know you will see it to 800 as well! What GORGEOUS photos of so many wonderful amazing birds! So many different ones...each a treasure! What an accomplishment!

  10. 10000 birds? Means a lot of travel too. Congrats to the 700 so far. You have a beautiful set of birds here :) I don´t know how many I have, but it is likely to be more then 700. I have not finished to post the Australian birds yet :)

  11. Good luck, Chris, as you head towards 800 - it's a challenge, its fun, exciting and satisfying!

  12. Congrats! I wish you a Merry Christmas and a great birding year 2016!

  13. 700 out of 10,00 sure puts your task into long time perspective Chris. You're well and truly hooked by now and there's clearly no stopping you now. I thought Europe might be on the agenda by now but as you rightly say, North America is one big challenge but by adding South America it becomes one huge mountain.

    Keep up the words and pictures.

    Here's wishing you luck during 2016.

  14. I'm absolutely amazed that your life list is so large!! Congratulations!

  15. Wow--you have done GREAT this year. I cannot believe that you can still make those goals even though you still are working fulltime... Amazing....AND--2015 was a great year for you, no only in Birding--but also in your marriage. CONGRATS again.

    I hope that 2016 is even better --although you have a huge mountain to climb to make it better...

    Merry Christmas.


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