Monday, January 4, 2016

Las Aventuras: Americano

Working at our Mexican booth with Yogi for the Wings Over Willcox event
I began 2015 with 588 Life birds. And I finished with 704.  My first life bird of the year was the Common Crane and the last?  You'll find out:) "Americano" has been one of the most challenging years for me as a birder.  There were things I loved about this chapter of my birding career and other things I'd rather not repeat.  Let's take a look back at 2015.  While Colorado and New Mexico have stolen my heart, California and Utah made me cringe. Mexico was a thrill as were Wisconsin and Arizona. So let's get started!

The most exciting outdoor trip?

Mary's Lake Campground near Estes Park, CO
During the month of June, we headed up to Estes Park for a camping trip.  It was in our campground that we heard a Boreal Owl calling.  The weather was great as were the hikes!  From the post, Legends of Destiny

The most frustrating experience?

In the cloud forests near San Cristobal De Las Flores, Chiapas
I learned some very important things about myself during my trip to Chiapas, Mexico.  1.  I really hate rain while I'm trying to photograph life birds for the first time.  2.  Large groups are not my thing while I'm searching for life birds. Birds tend to hide when crowds amass in great numbers. I loved the people, but 12 people in a birding group is challenging for a wandering gypsy:) Oh! And 3. Giving up control on how you bird!  That was really hard! From the post, Rain Rain Go Away!

The craziest experience?

I wanted a California Condor this year but not in Arizona.  I had wanted to see if I could find one in Utah at Zion National Park. BUT!!!! In order to get to the spot, we had to do this crazy hike to the top along a cliff.  I hate heights and this trek truly challenged me:) I honestly didn't research this one and let Micheal plan it out.  I'm glad he didn't tell me ahead of time how scary this hike would be. Luckily, I found my California Condor at the top and the hike paid off! From the post titled, Mukuntuweap.

Angel's Landing

A Moment of Pure Joy?

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
One of the most magical moments happened this year during a snow storm in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO. It was a silent and beautiful walk through a snowy and quiet woods along a mountain lake.  I was with my birding bud Kathie Brown.  The birds weren't very vocal, but the walk was quiet and the scenery was breathtaking around Bear Lake. I felt like a little kid again playing in the snow. From the post titled, Winter Wonderland

Best couple activity?

We got married in Rocky Mountain National Park with our families together.  Here we rented cabins and it was like we were back in Minnesota at the summer cottage so many years ago. The post is titled All With the Family

Strangest bird?

This gorgeous little brown bird, the Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, hopped around like a warbler yet hung out with hummingbirds.  It was VERY unusual!  As the name suggests, it uses its' bill to pierce flowers for nectar. While hummingbirds pollinate other flowers, this "nectar robber" does not:)  Fascinating!

Rarest sighting?

What was my best bird this year?  Well there were many, but there is usually one that truly stands out.  This year it was a Nava's Wren. It's a very specialized bird living in a hard to reach habitat.  The bird is only found in 9 locations in a very tight geographical area. It's range guessed it....declining due to urban sprawl, cattle ranching and road construction. It's a bird of the darkness.  It clings to the shadows.  It lives and breeds within limestone caves and can  be found around limestone outcroppings.  This wren was tricky!  But a little patience paid off BIG TIME.  From the post, Vanishing Lands

Best study sessions?

I have gotten to the point now in my birding where I am fascinated by data.  This year, my first count was with Magill.  Here we ran around the urban sprawl of downtown Phoenix counting the expansion of Rosy-faced Lovebirds in some sketchy areas. I loved it!  My other project is ongoing and continues in Northern Sonora at the Aribabi Ranch.  It's a newer "patch" that I have been monitoring since 2013.  From the posts, To the Heart of the Matter and The Water Highways

Stupid moment?

Elegant Trogons.  I hear their call and always get excited.  So I leap over rock and river to observe this lovely bird.  As I am recording audio on this bird, I slip and my cell phone slowly flies out of my hand as I say, "Noooooooo!"  It lands in the river upright and is my first cell phone mishap.  Luckily, I find out Micheal extended the warranty on my phone and we were able to replace it. From Blood and Stone

Most epic moment?

Searching for the White-tailed Ptarmigan at the Alpine Level of Rocky Mountain National Park.  That was one epic trek!  From Destiny Awaits

Most painful?

 Oh, that one is easy.  There was a hot Mexican number by the name of a Tufted Flycatcher(Code 5) who decided to make the forests of the Huachuca Mountains home for the summer. In May, we hiked miles to get to this bird through forest, rock and stream to find these two tiny birds nesting. It took everyone about a week to recover, but those flycatchers were sooooo cute!  And worth it! Plus the hike took us down into some amazing scenery.  The Tufted Angels

Favorite place to bird?

The Chiricuahua Mountains.  If you have never been, you must go. This place has more animals than people!  It's so much fun. 

From the Portal based blog series Not All Who Wander Are Lost

A place I could call home?

I love Gunnison and I keep dipping on the Gunnison Sage-Grouse. And I hope I keep dipping on the bird because I love going back to that cute little town in Southwestern Colorado. 

Perfect weather?

I've discovered I love snow. I love a hot steaming cup of coffee as I watch birds in the snow. I love birding New Mexico. A LOT.  I love birding Wisconsin. A LOT.  I left my family in Wisconsin many many years ago because of the weather.  In my younger years, I had to explore the world and now as I age, all I want to do sometimes is go back to my personal Shire.  Is that strange?  I think that's why I love New Mexico so much.  The people are real.  They are kind much like the people of Wisconsin.  And these two states win the Americano award this year for best local eats, friendliest people and best overall birding.  From the posts Close Encounters of the Bird Kind and A Balancing Act

Bitter Lake near Roswell, New Mexico

The social connect?

 This year I had the pleasure of birding with several incredibly cool people that I had never met before.

Kathleen Cameron explores Madera Canyon for the first time!

Most overlooked place to bird?

Gunnison, Colorado.  There's more here than just the sage grouse!

Most scenic?

Heart attack moment but WOW!  The Alpine region of the Rocky Mountains is spectacular!  What a treat!

Sacred Bird Moment?

I was surrounded by thousands of Sandhill Cranes alone as they passed just feet above my head.  I could feel their wing beats as they went to settle down in a water area nearby.  From the post Carry Me Wind

The "I hate all birders who don't have jobs" moment?

Probably one of the biggest moments for birders this year in Tucson happened when a pair of RARE Trumpeter Swans flew into the Sweetwater Wetlands for the day.  Every birder and their mother went to observe these birds.  And me?  Oh, I just stuck in my classroom staring at children taking a test.  I paced my room like a caged animal.  When that school bell rang, I shot out the door to observe my lifer Trumpeter Swans before the sun set. That night, the swans left Tucson and were never seen again. From the post Miraculous Chaos

The worst decision?

Gray Vireos can suck it.  There is one excellent place to see this amazing bird.  If you have a good vehicle, the roads of Mt. Ord can be quite inviting.  However, even if you have a good vehicle, that doesn't guarantee you won't get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. But hey...the views are amazing!  So are the Gray Vireos. From the post The Land of Shadows.  

Most studied bird?

Hermit Warblers.  This bird wasn't a lifer but it was the most studied.  During migration, I went to several locations to really understand this bird.  And I feel like I now know this warbler well.

The bird that scares! 

The Pomarine Jaeger.  A bird that eats gulls.  It's a flying tank on steroids.  And there's nothing stopping it!  Favorite Jaeger hands down!

The bird that forced me into a place I would never visit.

Utah. The land of Chukars and weirdos stuck in the 1950's culture of secrets, fake smiles, lies and cloning their neighbor, the Joneses. But it's one of the few states with countable Chukars.  It was exciting to see this bird with my friend Mia.  Utah's culture was not my thing. The landscape was quite beautiful but I will not be returning there anytime soon. 

Last bird?

 Perhaps in the strangest of ways, I was meant to find the Whooping Crane.  It was not expected during my visit to Wisconsin and yet there it was. I began the year with a crane so it seemed natural to end with another amazing crane.  This endangered bird was a great way to bookend my year of discoveries.  I sat in my car with the windows down breathing the chilly air thinking about the amazing world of birds.  During 2015, I saw 560 incredible birds in North America meeting my year goal.

As we begin the year again, I sit down and plot a new course taking me both to familiar and unknown areas searching for our planet's birds. I will take on new roles as a bird field guide. My life continues to change as it does for everyone. Let's get this 2016 year started with wonderful memories.  Until next time!


  1. Well that was a fun recap. Amazing how many trips you got in with the wedding and everything too. I hope you have a great 2016!!

  2. A great post wrapping up a great year!

  3. What a wonderful an pd interesting post with beautiful birds and scenery. I am nearly home now from my trip to Malawi and Zambia, just waiting at Heathrow for my flight this afternoon but thanks for leaving me all the comments when I was away. Will look at your links when I get home.

  4. A wonderful post Chris what a great year you have had :) So many super moments and I wish you a very Happy 2016 filled with wildlife.

  5. You had an amazing bird year! I get your feelings about the people in UT, being here this winter, but don't give up on this gorgeous state. Great wrap up post. May you find birding happiness in 2016.

  6. That path down the rocks looks quite scary from that angle.

  7. It sounds like 2015 has been an interesting year for you. I hope 2016 is just as good!

  8. What an amazing year you had, Chris, in many ways. I hope 2016 will e wonderful for you too.

  9. Sounds like you had an amazing year! Congrats on getting married. :o)

  10. I'm so pleased that your year gave you so many memories to cherish, Chris. I guess that it will be impossible to surpass that, but at least it will give you a benchmark to strive towards. I wish you both all the best for 2016!

  11. I really enjoyed your review of the year
    Many blessings to you in 2016!

  12. Where do I start!? What an amazing year. I love how you documented all the best and the worst parts of your birding year. I am reminded that I need to go to the Chiricauas (I butchered that!) Anyway, and that I have not gotten to some of the places I should have in the last four 1/2 years. How wonderful that New Mexico and Wisconsin rank so high on your list...and how funny you seem to dislike Utah so much! :-) Glad your phone was replaceable (great foresight on Micheal's part! It's awesome to have a partner who takes care of you!) I loved re-taking this journey with you, and seeing some of the great shots you took. I realized I missed some of your posts, and I hate that. Hope you have an amazing 2016. There is a chance we might be moving to Oregon by the end of the year....if I leave AZ I will miss it. Perhaps you could come to Oregon to do some birding! :-)

    1. Oregon??!!!! That is a fantastic place. Bummer that you would be moving from Tucson but then I would get to see all your amazing birds and sights up there on your blog. NICE! Hope you are having a great start to your year. Why is life so crazy? And fast? I honestly don't know where the time goes!

  13. Chris, so when are you going to write a book! You have nothing to complain about. That was quite the year! I am glad I was able to share in a small but very important part of it! I miss birding with you! Love this post!


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