The 2019 year of birding was one of the most difficult years of birding I've had in a long time. It was full of highlights and unfortunately several good-byes. I covered a lot of ground in 9 US states to do some detailed US birding. And we took an international trek over to Wales for some fun birding. I guided. I lectured. And I may have burned myself out a little BUT I accomplished my goal of finding over a 111 new bird species for that life list.
On the macro level in the birding world, we lost an important birding figure, Bill Thompson III. At the local level, Arizonan birders lost Mary Jo Ballator who had a beautiful yard to watch such great birds as the Lucifer Hummingbird and Montezuma Quail. Today her home is a sanctuary. And at a personal level, I lost my friend Kathy Cooper who organized treks down to the Aribabi Ranch in Mexico. Micheal also lost a dear friend to colon cancer at the young age of 45. My father almost suffered a fatal heart attack and Kathie's husband Gus had a stroke! Thankfully, today both gentlemen are feeling better. Overall, it has been a tough year, but I managed to get some birding done. Wherever you are, be all there! And that is what I did.
|This year's superstar, the White-throated Thrush. A first for Arizona|
|Willow Ptarmigan or Red Grouse|
We kick started the year searching for a Red-flanked Bluetail in the busy urban area of Los Angeles. We had a crazy burst of energy to chase that bird and it was the by far, the most illogical and fun trip we took to search for a new bird this year. Early on in the year, I knew I would be finding most of my new birds during the first half of the year.
|European Robin makes MANY vocalizations!|
First, I'd like to thank Gordon for his work getting several treks together. We make a good team and I value his detailed notes and planning. I'm also really grateful to get to know Laurie Foss and Bucky better. She made the Austin area birding a lot of fun. Still not a fan of BBQ but it was an amazing trek full of great birds. Thank you Laurie for your hospitality and sharing your knowledge!
And then to Bonnie and Steve. I'm still thinking about our beautiful trek to England and all of Wales:) They were wonderful hosts and really gave us a wonderful introduction to Wales. We had a lot of laughs and I'll never forget the lesson of ordering a "starter". It's not an appetizer for everyone. Best line of the year? "Aren't you being a little bit greedy Chris?" LOL! I tried ordering several starters, thinking they were appetizers, for everyone and the waitress thought that I wanted to eat them all myself! We still laugh at that moment. Thanks Bonnie for clarifying! And that passport incident will never be forgotten.
|Steve spies a Red-billed Chough|
In fact, now that I look back at it all, I brought rainy and cold weather with me wherever I went this year. Everyone said it was unusual, but I loved it!
I try to imagine myself a father and sometimes I think, I'd be a great dad and then there are times I think NO. I made the right decision. I love all my nephews and nieces and am glad to have had the opportunity to spend time with them.
I led birders with friend and fellow birder Hollie for Tucson Audubon's Southeastern Arizona Birding festival. There we studied one of my favorite groups of birds, the sparrows!
I also introduced others to the beauty of the San Pedro riparian area.
One of the most beautiful moments this year? Jeff came down to Portal to find several birds like the Mexican Chickadee. It was in the middle of migration and a huge cold storm front passed through the Chiricahua mountains. I know Jeff wasn't crazy about the weather, but he got to witness a very rare event, lots of Western Tanagers on the move!
Scariest birding trek? Along the narrow cliffs of Wales! My legs felt like rubber. Heights are not my thing, but I wanted to see Northern Fulmars on their breeding grounds! At one point, Steve told me to focus on his steps and not look out across the ocean and down the sharp side of the cliff to my death. At another point, I turned around and he came back for me. Thank you Steve for giving me the encouragement to face my fear. It was an absolutely beautiful view. Even better was watching several people far below sipping their hot beverages wondering if we'd fall off the cliff. Free entertainment:)
I spent the month of June with my dear friend Kathie and Gus in Maine. Together we saw so many birds and explored new birding hotspots together. There were several days that were so wonderful. And all of the them were blackfly free. Oh my gods! I hate blackflies with a passion. I got bitten up so much while we were there. My favorite day? Shopping with Kathie at the outlet mall at LL Bean. Not even birding. It's weird, but with this lady, I will chat on the phone and do things I normally hate doing. On our last day together, we discovered Kathie's 500th lifer, the Little Egret.
I also met up with Magill in Maine to do some birding on Monhegan Island. We also did some chases during the winter months in Arizona. My favorite moment with Magill was finding a Common Loon on a nest. She showed me some great birding hotspots that were underbirded. It's always fun checking out spots that the general birding public don't usually visit.
I am grateful for my family in Wisconsin. We had a wonderful June and July together. It's nice catching up with all of the family dynamics. All I can say is that family is everything. And it's overwhelming at times. I am out of the loop often times and in some ways, it's good, until my Dad had heart surgery. How truthful was everyone being about Dad? Was he really okay?:) I had to see for myself. A Wisconsin transition requires locking myself in my room alone for the first few days. There are so many family members and often everyone is talking at once. It takes me time to adjust to the "noise" of family. It's hard to concentrate, but I will say that it's getting better as the kids get older. And I will concede that I am a lot like my father in this way. But I can't imagine my life without them. When I leave back to Arizona, I miss those crazy voices.
In other news, I'm glad that Celeste has FINALLY made her move to Tucson. She knew Tucson was amazing. She loved her vacation home here. She has the best backyard up in the foothills of the Catalina mountains. I mean.....it was her destiny! Celeste has been a good luck charm on our treks out. We've spied a Red-eyed Vireo and Eastern Kingbird together on our trips.
My final adventures took me out to Oregon and Washington with Khanh. I hadn't seen Khanh for several years and it needed to happen. We had fun birding and checking out spots around the states.
And I could go on and on. I absolutely loved meeting and birding with Homer this year. That lucky guy had amazing views of the normally elusive Virginia's warbler. The thing is that every year is different. This year was life changing. I'm thankful for the birding community, friends and family. I'm hoping 2020 brings positive change and good vibes. And of course, good birds. Until next time:)