Sunday, August 7, 2016


Another summer has come and gone just as quickly as the one before it. For a birder, it's a reminder that time is running out for the year!

Garter Snake in Wisconsin
Each year, I sit down and make a list of birds and places that need to be seen.  It becomes more and more complicated as I go.  This summer was an interesting one.  

Pronghorn in the Ciénagas Grasslands
Between the ABA splits, Arizona, California and Wisconsin, I have been able to add 29 new life birds to the list this year.  The challenges increase for each new bird found.  

Woodhouse's Toad
Some of the highlights, so far, (for this year) have included birds like the Pine Flycatcher, Kirtland's Warbler, Spotted Dove, Little Gull, Yellow-billed Loon, Streak-backed Oriole and Rusty Blackbird. None of these birds were located close to home so it takes a great deal of planning and strategy to find them. 

Inca Dove
And it should be mentioned that as I find new birds, I also have better views of others. Plus I've had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people along the way.

Blue-winged Teal
Currently, I sit at 734 lifebirds. And I do mean sit.  I still have a potential pelagic to do as well as 2 other trips before the year is up. I'm hoping to hit the 800 mark before the December 31st deadline! Wishful thinking? Or a fool's errand?  That remains to be seen.   As long as I move forward and do not become stagnant, I'm okay.  As I advance in my years, a lot of my work will take me out of the country more often than it does now.  I have pretty much finished finding new birds in AZ and surrounding states. Of course, there will be rare birds visiting like they do, but there won't be as many to chase. Soon it will be time to tackle a bigger place, known as Earth.

Baltimore Oriole
My current stand for the year is 435 bird species seen in the US.  And for North America, 444 birds. 

Common Terns
I never know what each year will bring, but it seems to me that this year has been about target birding very specific areas that require a lot of energy and planning for just ONE bird. For example, a trek out to Catalina Island landed us the Spotted Dove and US countable Red-billed Tropicbird. A lot of study went into the Kirtland's Warbler habitat in Wisconsin.  We wanted to see that bird in Wisconsin and not Michigan so it took us several months to plan on legal ways of finding the bird without getting in trouble.    

Botteri's Sparrow
Some birds, like the Rusty Blackbird, required me to go to the area 3 times before locating it. And one of those times, we had someone shooting at us! Other birds, like the Little Gulls, required patience as I scanned through hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls. 

Cassin's Sparrow
While out on the road in southern Arizona, we had excellent views of breeding Botteri's and Cassin's Sparrows in the grasslands. In the large scheme of things, I have seen a lot of rare birds like the Arctic Tern and Purple Gallinule. The most important thing to remember about birding is that it's about YOU and the BIRDS.  I think people can get lost with the whole "competition" thing.  It's not a competition, but it certainly feels like one sometimes.  For me, it's about mastering the art of birding. This is also a potential career move after retirement. For me, it's about the travel and storytelling behind each new bird found. I'm a world birder not just an Arizona birder.  It'll be hard to let go of that ownership and attachment that I have for this state. It is, after all, where I began really studying my birds. I have to save that money for other expenses now which should include some remodeling of our bathrooms...or a tile floor:) 

Nesting Gray Hawks are studied by the UA
I ask myself these questions daily. What can I do better?  I've never seen that behavior, is that common?  Why wasn't I more patient?  Why wasn't I quick enough with my camera? Where's the darn bird?!!:) I am forever addicted to these birds.  At family events, I'm still looking at birds in the sky while everyone is drinking their beer and chatting about the every day life. I love nature.  And I love being outdoors(minus the bugs and heat). I am so curious about what's going on around me that I forget that the "boring stuff" is important stuff to other people. Don't get me wrong, I still like a good gossip session:)

As this summer ends, I learn that birding for lifers isn't about the quantity.  It's always about the quality of observation.  Each year varies in theme, but if one thing is certain, it's that this all is extremely challenging as it takes me out of my comfort zone.  There is so much to do. And so much to see. As my summer comes to an end, I begin another period of planning for the fall and winter months.  The checklist slowly shrinks as I target areas where there are birds I have never seen.  This year's theme, "Home" will continue. 


  1. Hello Chris!:) Splendid read, and beautiful nature shots. I hope you do reach your 800 mark before the end of this year, but be careful Chris, don't take too many risks, and don't gat shot for goodness sake. Take care!:)

    1. Me too! I always try to be careful. Unfortunately, we also get to experience the larger world with some careless yahoos. Thankfully no one was hurt.

  2. You are certianly ver determined in pursing new birds and I hope you reach your goal this year.

    1. Thanks Margaret! Same to you and your goals:)

  3. Feels like I've watched you go from beginner to master. Your skills amaze me as do your incredible photos. But please don't tell me that summer is over already. ;)

    1. It's over for me:) That's for sure. But for you, not until October I think:) I'm okay with it. I do like the routine but learning how to slack and not stick to a routine really can create a lazy me. This heat down here is out of control. Thankfully the monsoon will be back tomorrow!

  4. You seem to be excelling at Planning and Strategy. So much fun to see your results on this blog and I am ready for your next chapters.
    Good luck for your "Home" theme.

    1. Thank you Therese! So good to hear from you. And I'll promise to do my best when I can:)

  5. Super post Chris - I do so admire your passion and planning :) Good Luck in reaching your goal and I look forward to reading of your next adventures and exploits :)

  6. You are so dedicated, Chris. You should be proud of yourself. I am very proud of you!

  7. I love that blue-winged Teal, and of course the Common Terns.


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