Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.
Issue link: http://bg.aba.org/i/574960
9 October 2015 | Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy Boobies, and a very lost Ancient Murre- let. The Salton Sea yielded another good bird, Thayer's Gull, and the more expected Yellow-footed Gull. Detouring 150 miles north (and the same 150 back!) from the Salton Sea, I added Rufous-backed Robin as my last October bird. Leaving Califor- nia, I made stops in Arizona for wintering Baird's Sparrow and the rarest bird of the trip to date, Sinaloa Wren. By mid-November, my body was really starting to break down, and my motivation was starting to wane. The 1,100-mile ride from southeastern Arizona to southern Texas was cold and windy, and it nearly broke me at times. I eventually reached Laredo, where I added White-collared Seedeater, and, farther down the Lower Rio Grande Valley, I found all the expected species. A spectacular, dark-morph Hook- billed Kite fying right over my head near Bentsen caused much celebrating. "Bird of lenging riding of the year. Some of the mountain passes through which I climbed were upwards of 12,000 feet in elevation! After several failed attempts, I landed Gun- nison Sage-Grouse near— shockingly—Gunnison. As I would discover in the coming months, fnding grouse off- lek would require unyielding perseverance, and so would ticking the high-elevation specialties like Brown-capped Rosy-Finch. I had to hike to the summit of 14,060-foot Mount Bierstadt to fnd it. At adjacent Guanella Pass, I nearly stepped on a cooperative White-tailed Ptarmigan. Flammulated Owl and Dusky Grouse ap- peared near Boulder, and, with the ex- tra time amassed in previous months, I reached eastern Colorado to nab Greater Prairie-Chicken. Bird #500 was California Gull in western Colorado. Then I headed through Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. High- lights during this mountain segment in- cluded Sharp-tailed Grouse, Greater Sage- Grouse, Black Rosy-Finch, Great Gray Owl, and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch. I cashed in more of my extra time in Washington for wet-my-pants views of "Franklin's" Spruce Grouse in the Cascades, and to add Slaty- backed Gull and Tufted Puffn along the coast. September and October on the West Coast were my reward for surviving the mountains. Physically, I was still feeling very good. I was also entering coastal areas where fnding food and lodging would be easier than in the more sparsely populated interior. Moving southward, I ticked all the expected residents and migrants. The ac- tion really picked up in central California, where I added Red-throated Pipit, Cali- fornia Condor, and Black Rail. Although I did not take any gas-powered pelagic trips, I did add shearwaters and jaegers from shore in Monterey. It is worth noting that sailboats must use engines while entering and exiting harbors, so I ruled out this possibility, too. In San Diego, I added my lifer Yellow-green Vireo, multiple Brown I ticked Black-throated Green Warbler for #300, and I found a Black-throated Blue Warbler, a fantastic bird for Texas in spring and the only one I would see during 2014. I spent two full weeks between Sabine Woods, Anahuac NWR, High Island, and the Bolivar Peninsula. On April 27, I made the very diffcult de- cision to leave the Texas coast even though I had not yet ticked the later-migrating Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Fly- catcher, Mourning Warbler, and Alder Fly- catcher. The strong southeast winds fore- casted for that week would slow birding but speed my ride west. I decided to cash in on the winds and start the two-week, 1000-mile ride across West Texas and southern New Mexico. This ride would be tough, but Arizona's many nesting special- ties provided ample motivation. I arrived in Arizona on May 15, ten days ahead of schedule. On that day, I added 23 species, including Yellow-eyed Junco for species #400. In subsequent days, I found all the expected Chiricahuan birds, includ- ing Mexican Chickadee, after biking to Rustler Park. The best and most unexpect- ed fnd was surely a Common Black Hawk that few right over my head as I returned from a successful Montezuma Quail search! The Huachucas produced Lucifer Hum- mingbird, White-eared Hummingbird, and Rufous-capped Warbler. The Santa Ritas yielded a family of Black-capped Gnat- catchers and a Buff-collared Nightjar. From there, it was on to Tucson, Flagstaff, and the Colorado Rockies. The mountains of Colorado presented the most amazing scenery and most chal- No smiles on an absolutely frigid January 4th in Massachusetts. Photo © Dorian Anderson This Red-legged Honeycreeper (in Texas in November) is one of a handful of as-yet- unaccepted ABA Area records for the species. Photo © Dorian Anderson The highest elevation at which the author biked in 2014 was reached in June in Colorado. Photo © Dorian Anderson