Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Birds I Thought I'd Never See

Vermillion Flycatcher Las Cienegas NCA AZ, February 2008
When I was given my first bird guide I used to thumb through the pages looking at all the bird species. Since I lived in New England at the time and I only tired to identify birds that came to my bird feeders, I didn't pay much attention to the rest of the birds in the book, other than to marvel at the wide variety of species and their magnificent plumages. As time went on I started to pay more attention to the birds in the book, but I would flip past the pages of warblers as birds I would never see since I knew they were insect feeders and their was little to no chance they were going to show up in my yard. 

Female Vermillion Flycatcher Reid Park, Tucson, AZ, January 2008
When we moved to Idaho in 1986 I started seeing birds I knew nothing about. Still, I would only try to identify birds that I happened to run into. I never went out looking for birds on purpose. After several moves back and forth across the country from the East to the Rocky Mountain West I finally started to go out searching for birds when I first participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count in the early 2000's. And that is when I started to pay more attention to birds and bird species. Suddenly I would look longingly at birds like the Phainopepla or the Pyrrhuloxia, wondering if I would ever see those birds. While I had always kept an informal Life List, now I started to actively try to add to that list. Suddenly I found myself going out to search for birds ON PURPOSE and to keep track of those birds in a Bird List book. When we moved to Arizona in the spring of 2007 I found myself in one of the richest birding habitats in the U.S.A. I had landed in a Birder's Heaven and I didn't even realize what I had.
Phainopepla Sabino Canyon, AZ, March 2008
When I saw my first Phainopepla at Saguaro National Park I was so excited. When Phyrruloxias and Gila woodpeckers started showing up at my backyard feeders I was elated! But when I started blogging in July of 2007, and then started eBirding in January of  2008 I made the transition from being a "Birdwatcher" to an active "birder." I was hooked. My Life List grew as I searched for birds all over the desert southwest. Yet, I still thought there would be birds that I would never see. 
Pyrrhuloxia, Corona de Tucson, AZ, January 2009
Bronzed Cowbird, Corona de Tucson, AZ, May 2008
I never expected to see a Bronzed Cowbird, yet one showed up in my yard! I had always wanted to see a roadrunner. Now I saw them everywhere! 
Roadrunner, Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson, AZ, September 2009
Purple Martins seemed such an elusive bird to me. While living on the east coast I had seen Purple Martin houses put up in people's yards, but I had never seen a purple martin. I saw my first purple martins when I went on a birding expedition in the Wasatch Mountains at a place called Monte Cristo in Utah, but when I moved to Arizona I saw them nesting in saguaros in my neighborhood and had them flying over my patio all summer as they trained their chicks to fly and feed.
Purple martins, Corona de Tucson, AZ, June 2008
The first warbler I ever saw and identified for myself was a Pine warbler that actually did come to my feeders while I lived in Livermore Falls, Maine. Next came the Yellow-rumped warbler which I saw in Maine as well as Florida when I took a trip there in 2003. Soon I was adding more warblers to my Life List and suddenly they did not see so intimidating, at least, in the summertime. Since moving back to the east coast I am still trying to learn all the warblers and their various plumages and voices!

Townsend's Warbler Madera Canyon, AZ, January 2009
Magnificent Hummingbird, Mt. Lemmon, Tucson, AZ, August 2009
When I first moved to Arizona I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to see so many different hummingbird species. I had Costa's Hummingbirds in my neighborhood year round. I saw Anna's and Black-chins and Broadbills and Broadwings! Rufous Hummingbirds migrated through in the fall and I saw the Violet-crowned down at Paton's yard in Patagonia. But I was totally surprised and amazed when I saw my first Magnificent Hummingbird at the Visitor's Center on Mt. Lemmon! Still, there were birds in my bird book I thought I would never see. I looked in every saguaro hole for an Elf Owl to no avail. I heard about people seeing the Elegant Trogon in Madera Canyon and Patagonia Lake. I took several birding trips there alone or with friends and yet these birds remained elusive for me, until...
Hepatic Tanager, Portal, AZ, May 2009
I went birding with my friend Donna in Portal. In one day we saw the Hepatic Tanager, the Elegant Trogon, and the Elf Owl!
Elegant Trogon, Portal, AZ, May 2010
Elf Owl, Portal, AZ, May 2010
Standing under this sycamore tree at dusk with a few other birders just waiting for the little owl to poke out its head was magical and mysterious. It was as if we were all holding our collective breaths when suddenly it started calling and then it flew out! Soon it flew back to the nest with an insect in its beak and passed it to its mate who fed the little owlets inside. We watched and watched until it got to dark to see, then we wandered back to our motel with owl calls and owl eyes floating through our minds. The Elf Owl is the smallest owl in the world standing at only 5" tall. As we walked I just kept thinking to myself over and over again, "I never thought I'd see one!" But things were about to change for me. My husband got a new job on the east coast and before I knew it, we were moving to Massachusetts!
Black Guillemot, Acadia National Park, ME June 2011
While we did get to see a few shore birds and quite a few ducks in Arizona I was amazed at the wide variety of shorebirds on the east coast! As I started to sort them all out I soon came to the conclusion that I still would never see some species of shorebirds and other ocean going birds. but then, Gus and I took a trip to Acadia National Park to celebrate our anniversary. On a whim we pulled into a parking lot and followed a rocky trail to the shore. As we sat on some rocks watching the waves break suddenly this small black bird with white on its wings popped up right in front of us! I grabbed my camera and started shooting all the while saying to Gus, "It's an alcid, it's an alcid! While I knew that was the family group it belonged to, I had no idea what species it was until we got back to our car and I could look it up in my birding book! Here is a bird I never thought I would see and it just popped up in front of me!
American Oystercatchers, Cape Cod, MA September, 2011
In September of 2011 I took a trip out to South Beach in Chatham, MA with Jeff and Dawn Fine. It was a gorgeously sunny and warm day for September as we rode the ferry across the water to the island. We jumped off the ferry and waded to land and now I found myself in a new birder's heaven as we spent over 6 hours watching and counting birds. It wasn't long before we spotted American Oystercatchers, a species that I saw posted on other blogs from new England but I had not yet seen. I never thought I would see this bird, yet here I was and there they were in full living color on the sand.
Black-bellied Plover, Cape Cod, MA September 2011
Along with all the other species of birds we saw on South Beach that day, I have to say that one of my favorites was the black-bellied Plover. I NEVER thought I would see this bird! On South Beach we soon saw hundreds! By the end of the day I had added 15 new life birds to my Life List! Still, there are so many birds in my bird guide that I have yet to see. I know that I will never see some of them, and i look at their pictures with longing. I do not think a Great Gray owl is going to show up in my yard anytime soon and I do not know if I will ever get the chance to take a trip to Minnesota or elsewhere to see one. But sometimes, like the little Black Guillemot, the birds just come to you! This is what makes birding so much fun. It's the surprise and delight it brings to your life!
Snowy Owl, Plum Island, MA January 2012
I never thought I would get to see a Snowy Owl since there is little chance of me ever getting up to the Arctic tundra which is their habitat. But this year we had a snowy owl irruption of epic proportions and I saw my first Snowy Owl at Salisbury Beach Sate Reservation last fall. Then, in January I took a drive out to Plum Island where I got a much better look at one on the beach! After thinking I would never see this species, I have now seen 3 of them! I suppose it is about time to stop saying "never." So here is my Wish List of some of the birds I have not seen yet but would still like to see:


  • Whopping Crane
  • Great Gray Owl
  • Atlantic Puffin
  • Snowy Plover
  • Bohemian Waxwing
  • Whip-poor-will
  • Painted Bunting

  • Limpkin
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • California Condor
  • Least Grebe
  • Green Jay
  • Hoary Redpoll
  • Red-faced Warbler

  • I let you know when I find them! ~Kathie Brown

    Come visit me at My Blogs:

    Kathie's Birds
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    49 comments:

    1. Excellent post, with great photos. I can certainly relate to the birds you never think you'll see, when I got my first bird book, Golden Oriole, was one such bird, when you actually see one it is a momentous occasion :-)

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    2. Never see never~ These birds are pretty but the roadrunner looks very unique. Great photos.

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      1. Friend of HK, the roadrunner is definitly unique! It's a very dinosaur-like bird!

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    3. Fantastic pictures with lovely light and colors.....my compliments for thise nice work.

      Greetings from Holland, Joop

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    4. What a terrific story Kathie, I love to read how people became birders or bird photographers. I loved reading this and enjoyed the photos too!

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      1. Mia, thank you so much! That means a lot coming from you!

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      1. KaHolly, why thank you! It was fun to assemble and write!

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    6. For anybody putting together a wishlist, those seem like all the right species to include. I hope I get to see of those, myself! Great post!

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      1. Nicholas, well I hope you get to see them also!

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    7. Great post Kathie! You've got photos of a couple birds I've never seen before here. You always do a great job capturing the passion for birding in your posts. You wish list is a good one too and mirrors much of mine. We need to get you around McCall, Idaho for the Great Grey Owl. I actually saw my lifer Snowy Plover just outside of Boise, but the Antelope Island Causeway had several of them this last year. I got to see the Least Grebe with Laurence and Jeremy in SE AZ recently, which was really cool. Those darn Bohemian Waxwings are so unpredictable. I haven't seen any for a few years. That first year we were back in Boise we had a large flock of them at Kathryn Albertson park.

      When we lived in AZ, it was fun to bring my birder father-in-law down to SE AZ. We saw lots of birds that he had been seeing in his field guides since he was a little boy, but had never imagined he'd get to see in person. The Elegant Trogon sighting at Patagonia Lake State Park was a particularly touching experience for him.

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      1. Robert, you KNOW I would love to go back to ID! I really hope to take a trip back to Utah sometime this year. Though I was becoming a birder when I lived there, I was nothing like I am now! I am glad you enjoyed this post and I love this new format! I will have to update my own blog to this soon!

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    8. that elf owl is cracking me up. Excellent photos!

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      1. flux, it was so cute! it was one of my favorite sightings!

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    9. Wonderful post Kathie! Great job of expressing your joy and wonder when you see a new bird. Two of your wish list birds have been living in my yard all winter (waxwings, redpolls) but in my many trips to Arizona, I have yet to get an elegant trogon. You've inspired me to make up my own wish list now.

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      1. Pat, thank you! While I have seen common Redpolls I have yet to see a Hoary one! You are a lucky person to have them as yard birds!

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    10. Absolutely wonderful birds!! I enjoyed seeing these beautiful birds. Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Ruby

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      1. Ruby, thank you for stopping by and commenting!

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    11. I saw my first Vermillion Flycatcher last month!!! It was the most amazing thing ever....beautiful shots....for me it's the Snowy Owl. Will I ever see one in the wild? And a PUFFIN!!! I want to visit their sites out of the country for a photography shoot...but it's going to have to wait for now. Love your shots. They really get me excited to do more.

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      1. Rohrebot, I can understand your joy over the Vermillion flycatcher. I fell in love the first time I saw one! I do hope you got to see the others as well. Such beauty, such a wonder to behold!

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    12. Kathie, I so enjoyed reading this wonderful post! With the exception of the Snowy Owl and Black-bellied Plover, I have never seen any birds you have featured in this particular post. They are all gorgeous! I think I really need to plan a trip out west. Outstanding photographs!

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      1. Oh Julie, you would so love it! Your camera would be snapping away!

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    13. How many beautiful birds you have there !! I do know anything of them.. the second one is sooo sweet, the roadrunner I see now for the first time on a picture! the townsens wardler looks like a painting.. all precious, thank you!!

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      1. Love for food and Photography, thank you very much! I am so glad that you enjoyed these photos!

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    14. Great post with beautiful photos!
      Thanks for sharing these beautiful birds.
      Mette

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      1. Mette, you are welcome and thank you for taking the time to stop by and see them!

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    15. Wow. Not only have you now seen many of the birds you never thought you would, you got some excellent photos of them too. Being from the northern prairies, most of those birds are very exotic to me. Terrific post. Thanks.

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      1. Scott, they were to me also but I don't think I realized how good I had it until I moved away from AZ. Now I sometimes wish I could go back, but I am also happy to see some of the birds here on the east coast that I would never have seen if I did not come here to live for awhile.

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    16. Wow! Now this is a real birder's success story. Congrats on seeing all of them and I hope you keep on seeing more. I can help you with the Painted Bunting. We have them in great numbers here in west Texas.

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      1. Bobzeller, well, if I am ever down your way I will look you up! Thanks!

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    17. Hi dear. This photo is very beautiful.

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    18. Superb images, really great ones and I really enjoyed what you had to say, my sentiments exactly. I could relate to just about everything, other than moving. We vacation to other states, but the rest was the same for me and my birding life...great post, I enjoyed it very much~

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      1. Mary, it is so nice to find yet another kindred spirit! Thanks!

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    19. Quite a list of wonderful sightings and photos, wonderful post.

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    20. I can feel your excitement writing this post. From birdwatcher to birder is an exciting transformation for one. Some awesome birds Kathie! Glad I was there to share in your excitement of seeing the Elegant Trogon & Elf Owl. I remember you hearing the call of the Mexican Chickadee. You pointed it out for me & I was excited about that Lifer. Good luck in your quest. I know a sure spot for that Red-faced Warbler if you ever stop by NM. Have fun! Great post & wonderful photos!

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      1. Donna, I do hope you and I get to go birding together again some day! We did have such fun, didn't we!

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    21. Wonderful birds and great sightings!

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    22. Nice post Kathie and great shots of super neat birds.

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      1. Dan, I know you would like to see some of these. I hope you can take a trip to SE AZ one day! If I was there, I would show you around!

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    23. Is the Pyrrhuloxia and the cardinal in the same family? They're so similar!
      How about the ivory-billed woodpecker? That would be pretty neat to see - and photograph!

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      1. Annbumbly, yes, the pyrrhuloxia and the cardinal are in the same family. Some people call the pyrrhuloxia a Mexican Cardinal. If I saw and photographed an Ivory-billed I would be famous! Not sure if I would tell if I did though. I am afraid the poor bird would be mobbed!

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    24. I think having a bird wish list is a defining characteristic of a birder, vs. the interest of a casual birdwatcher. I remember when I first got a field guide and all I could think about was when would I ever see a kinglet! Keep it going and go find those birds!

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      1. birdchaser, thank you! I started out with one field guide, Now I have several!

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    25. Hey everyone, thank you for being so patient for me to reply. I've been a bit tied up lately but I am so pleased to see all the comments here. I did not expect this kind of response! It is amazing and so rewarding. Thank you all! Your comments really are very much appreciated! I love sharing my passion for the birds!

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