Saturday, December 31, 2016

On the 12th Month....

One step at a time. One month at a time.  One bird at a time.  It's time to take a look back on this years very often slow trek to the top, finding birds. 

We began in January.  It was a good start to the year finding 4 new lifers in one month.  That's almost unheard of these days. The birding was fun and the temps were wonderfully COLD!  I love birding in the cold weather.  On a rare snowy day in Sierra Vista, I found my exciting lifer, the American Bittern.  Then it was off to Lake Havasu where we found another cool bird, the Yellow-billed Loon.  These two bird species are favorites of mine and I had been really looking forward to observing them in the wild. Then, on a windy day, I chased the McCown's Longspurs.  I like grassland birds, but I had a nasty headache from the blustery conditions in Green Valley while helping birders target these two longspurs. If I were ever a paid guide, I think my strength would be finding grassland birds.  Another bird, which was less exciting, was the Barrow's Goldeneye.  All birds are awesome BUT some birds are more exciting to find than others.

Let's begin. January, 2016 I began the year with 706 observed bird species in my life.  And then it began as I added American Bittern, Yellow-billed Loon, Barrow's Goldeneye and McCown's Longspur

In February, the Rusty Blackbird continued.  It took 3 attempts to find this bird and eventually it happened.  I love blackbirds a lot and adding this lifer was a thrill for me.  Thanks to Brian for the encouragement to keep chasing it. 

Rusty Blackbird
Then March arrived.  I was SO looking forward to our trek out to California.  And all of it was a complete joy.  I love the ocean.  And I love all these birds.  The landscape was gorgeous and so was the ride out to Catalina Island. 
So in March, I added Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Black Turnstone and Spotted Dove.

In April, I began lacking the energy needed for chasing birds.  It was starting to get hot outside and the idea of standing in the desert sun was not my idea of fun.  I almost didn't go but thanks to Magill's encouragement, I went.  And I got myself a random lifer, AND RARE!, warbler for the state.  April-Prothonotary Warbler

If April was hot, May was even hotter.  I wasn't thrilled about hearing a Black Rail.  I would have liked to see the bird but it's a difficult one to see in the wild.  We chased the ABA first, Pine Flycatcher.  Thanks Jeremy for driving!  They were hot days and the only way I survived was by drinking ice cold water in my camelpack. Not my idea of fun birding.  While the excitement level was high, I was looking forward to birding in Wisconsin during the month of June in cooler temps. May-Black Rail, Red-headed Woodpecker, Pine Flycatcher
Then June came.  I didn't go anywhere exotic, but I did find myself enjoying the cooler temps of Lake Michigan with my people.  I missed being around the Wisconsin birding crowd. It was a tight study in a window of 3 weeks.  During this trek with Gordon, we landed the most lifers including rare gems like the Kentucky, Cerulean and Kirtland's Warblers.  Many were a lot of fun to look for.....except maybe the Mourning Warbler due to the intense cloud of mosquitoes. 
June-Yellow-throated Vireo, Kentucky Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Sedge Wren, Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, Acadian Flycatcher, Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers, Kirtland's Warbler, American Woodcock, Little Gull, Mourning Warbler, Winter Wren and Alder Flycatcher.

In July, it was back to the heat.  I didn't want to return to Arizona but I had to save money.  I didn't think anything was going to come my way.  That is, until a Hudsonian Godwit flew into Arizona.  This is where I began to change as a birder.  

California Scrub-Jay
I could see that my days for chasing year birds in Arizona were coming to an end. I saw the massive crowd of birders and realized that it was time to move forward in my life as a birder.  I chased the Godwit because it was a lifer.  The weather was miserable and so was my attitude. At this point, I began taking my name off of the top 100 ebirders in Arizona and the US.  This was not a game for me, nor is birding a competition. ABA added the California Scrub-Jay and Townsend's Storm-Petrel as separate species ....and I added two more birds to my lifelist in July making it three lifers. July-Hudsonian Godwit, Townsend's Storm-Petrel and California Scrub-Jay

Hudsonian Godwit
Then August came.  And for a brief moment, I remembered the fall like temps of the North.  And I remembered how much I loved birding.  After many attempts of searching for this bird, it finally happened.   August-American Three-toed Woodpecker

American Three-toed Woodpecker
I was truly expecting ZERO lifers in September until Hurricane Newton came our way.  The sky turned dark and gray.  It was rainy and cool.  And I felt alive.  I also felt like something magical was going to happen.  And it did!  The eye of Newton broke up close to home, introducing me to a new species from the Galapagos Islands!  RARE!  Storm-Petrels are another favorite of mine and so my blood was pumping after finding three different species here in the desert!  THIS was the BEST birding day of the year for me. And it will go down as a historic day in birding for the state of Arizona.  September-Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel

Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel
My life at this point was overrun with overtime and work.  But the saving grace was a trek out to Monterey, CA where I'd be out on the ocean for several days.  This month would land me several important lifers and bring me closer to completing my birding chapter in California.  This was another fun California trek with Debi Love Shearwater. October-Pigeon Guillemot, South Polar Skua, Black-footed Albatross, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Lesser Sand Plover, Buller's and Flesh-footed Shearwater

In November, I did not find any lifers.  However, I have been adding old files into iNaturalist and I wanted to verify an ID on this hummingbird below.  I had labeled it a White-necked Jacobin, but the ID had never sat quite right with me.  When a birder is unfamiliar with new birds, it can be difficult.  To make it worse, I wasn't truly a birder in 2011. I was more like a bird photographer. I had only started getting interested with the birding challenge after this trip to Panama.  So technically, I added a tick on my list by adding this beautiful Snowy-bellied Hummingbird.  So November wasn't really a bust:)  When a birder can ID a bird with certainty, it then makes the bird a lifer even though I saw this bird back in Boquete in June of 2011. 

Snowy-bellied Hummingbird
And finally December.  It has been a long month and I was beginning to think that I wasn't going to add any new birds to my list.  However, several days ago I was able to add on Thayer's Gull and Eastern Screech-Owl during my visit to Wisconsin.  

Eastern Screech-Owl
This has been a hard fought year for some tough birds.  The rarity highlights include the Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel, Pine Flycatcher and Lesser Sand Plover.  We'll see you back next year, but for now I'm wishing everyone a wonderful and Happy New Year!


  1. What an incredible year, Chris. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. You definitely raised your lifer list up a bit. Great write up Chris. Happy New Year to you both!

  3. What a wonderful birding year you have had. Well done on all the "lifers" and superb photography as always. Happy New Year :)

    1. Thank you! And Happy New Year to you both as well!!!! I'm hoping it's a better year but that is yet to be seen:)

  4. A fantastic year of birding for you, Chris! That's quite a list! Love the narrative and photos! Wishing you a marvelous 2017!

    1. Thank you Julie!!! Happy New Year to you as well!!!

  5. Great year 2016! Have a wonderful birding year 2017!

  6. That sounds like quite a year, Rohrer! I glad you encouraged me to go find the sand plover with you. Maybe one day I will finally get to go birding in WI with you! Great pics of great birds. I'm so glad you survived this year!


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