|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|
|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:
I let you know when I find them! ~Kathie Brown
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