Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hall Lay Lou Yeah!!

John has to give me an hour by hour run down of the pursuit before he will tell me the result. I won't do that to you. He finally saw the Rose-Throated Becard Tuesday, March 27th!

He stayed at the McAllen Motel 6, our usual base, then off to Estero Llano Grande. When he paid for his 'bracelet' he asked and was told that the bird was finally seen again the night before about 5:30. It hadn't been seen since the 13th! He spent the morning wandering around those empty trailer pads in the tropical section, concentrating on the area near a double trailer where it was seen. Not a feather.

John went over to Santa Ana NWR for a break, ticked off a Couch's Kingbird and the Mottled Duck and spent a couple of hours on the tower, continuously entertained by a loud mockingbird and baking in the sun. 8400 Broad-Winged Hawks were seen that morning from the tower. He saw one Harris' Hawk.

So he went back to Estero Grande. And back to the tropical zone/bathrooms/feeders/drip. The rest of the afternoon, he and two young men searched for the becard. At 6:20 PM, John said he was giving up and started to walk away. He got about 30 feet and the other guys called him back. At 6:25 PM he finally saw the becard! It flew back and forth over a small area, usually into heavy cover in trees, sometimes photographable. John thinks it was settling down to a night roost. One of the young men is now at 697 ABA life birds!

John commented that people he has run into along the way have been instrumental in him seeing the birds he is after. Thank you to all who have helped him and will help him in this crazy quest. He did a tally last night and is at 296 birds.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Foggy, foggy hoot

Action packed days. John stayed at our daughter's in Austin just long enough to do laundry and make a couple of reservations. First, a very foggy morning in Beeville, TX, so John started really early to make it to the gate of San Miguelito Ranch. The rancher met him and drove him to the ranch house where they had Ferruginous Pygmy Owls nesting. "It's usually in that tree, or maybe over in that tree" Finally, John spotted it in another area. Phew! They chatted about the call and John imitated a Northern Pygmy Owl for the rancher. The ferruginous hooted back!

Beeville again, but this time John headed for Aransas and a boat he booked. They saw lots of whooping cranes in family groups and bachelor parties. The captain said that this year there were several families with two chicks, a good sign.

Then to Uvalde, and some wandering around in the hill country. Kickapoo Caverns State Park could have had Black-Capped Vireos, and Cave Swallows... Maybe later.

Off to the Rio Grande. In Zapata, John stopped by the library and met a guy there who was also looking for the seedeater. When John told the guy his name, the guy said, "But you have already seen it." Maybe he reads the blog, John didn't ask, but John was after a better look and, of course, pictures. Not to be.

John camped at Falcon Dam State Park that night and headed for Salineno the next morning. We were there in January and got lots of cool birds. But THIS time he got the Red-Billed Pigeon. Another phew.

He is up to about 290 birds. He wishes he had about 100 more at this point. Seeing the Rose-Throated Becard at Estero Grande  tomorrow would cheer him up but it hasn't been seen for a week.

After his swing through Colorado, lek hopping, we will meet at Winnie, TX, stash one car, and head for Florida. I get to be his bird dog for awhile. :-P

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where was John?

He was in Portal AZ, our favorite town, and there is no cell coverage, at least not for his cheapo phone. There was a snowstorm but he still got some cool birds, the usual hummingbirds, Juniper Titmouse, Mexican Jay and Townsend's Solitaire and others. The trogan will have to wait until John returns.

My sister lives in Gunnison, CO so John hopes to see the Gunnison Sage Grouse at a lek near there EARLY April 4th. He is booked to see the Lesser Prairie Chicken EARLY April 5th at a BandB in SE Colorado, Arena Dust Tours. I had better check the maps to see how far  he has to drive on the 4th. I think this year should do in his rattletrap car. I sure hope so!

Right now, he is heading for Carlsbad Caverns and then our daughter's home in Austin, TX to do laundry. After that he will try AGAIN for the becard. Third time's the charm?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird!

Back in Florida Canyon AZ, early Saturday, St Patrick's Day, John spent an hour staring at some reeds, a bird zipped past and disappeared in them twice. A couple of groups came and went. John kept saying, an hour more, an hour more.  Finally, a man came who had gone to the left where you have to hop the creek to the right to get to the dam, so consequentially arrived pretty late in the morning. John and he were commiserating about the difficult Rufous-Capped Warbler, when the man glanced UP and said 'There it is'. A pair were cavorting around in the tops of the trees, while John and others had been staring down into the reeds. John spent a lot of hours and days on that bird. On the phone, he must have spent 10 minutes describing his frustrating morning to me before he finally got to his success. He's a tease.

He left home Thursday afternoon in a blizzard of taxes and reservations and stayed the night in Blythe. Early Friday, he was by the Colorado River. Again teasing me, he said on the phone, he got poor pictures of the Ash-Throated Flycatcher. Then, he added, he also got great pictures of the Nutting's. I had been bugging him not to rely on the one we saw on the Rio Grande, since it has yet to be verified. So our scouting trip to the Colorado in January, when we failed to see the NUFL, finally paid off. He also revisited thrasher corner, near Buckeye, where we saw zero thrashers in January. As per advertisement, there were three identifiable species plus at least two more he isn't sure of. Then Friday night he heard the pygmy owl and whiskered screech owl in Florida Canyon.

He had called me this afternoon, Saint Patrick's Day, on his way into Patagonia SP to try for the Black-Capped Gnatcatcher once again. He does have a little Orange Irish in him. Does that count? Maybe he had the luck of the Irish today.

There is a lot of heavy slogging over the next three months. He'll need that luck.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Aaaugh! Brain Freeze!

Spring is upon us, which means taxes and birding. So while John slogged through the taxes the last few days, I played travel agent and spent MONEY.

Today, I booked John with Larry Manfredi to the Dry Tortugas, April 21st-24th.

He had already paid Z tours for a boat trip to Attu from Adak. A Wings tour to Gambell and Nome starts the day Z tours ends. I got him on that today also. Here's hoping all the connections just connect and that the wind is from the west!

So today, I had to book flights for him from here May 8th to Anchorage to Adak and back and then the Wings tour and then to Chicago, where I will meet him June 8th. Where and when we go from there, I don't know.

I just got back from the post office where I mailed taxes and tour payments. John just left for AZ, TX and CO. I am supposed to meet him the beginning of April, tentatively in Missouri, then we will head for Florida and the Gulf Coast and eventually he will get back to California to head for Alaska. I will, well, I don't know what I'll be doing until I meet him in Chicago.

So my brain is in the deep freeze. I am going to pour myself a tall one and watch the Allen's Hummingbird build her nest in a potted plant under our patio roof. It is probably a good choice for her. Two years ago, a storm washed ALHU babies out of a nest. I only found one the next morning and placed it on the remnants of the nest. It successfully fledged. The next year, I watched a damned Eastern Fox Squirrel (introduced pest) trying to scare a ALHU mother off a nest. Later that day, the nest was gone. So, next to the house under the roof might be a good location.

Birding is good exercise for the brain, gets you out in the open air in exotic places, gets you running with a very nice crowd, and the magical life of birds, their all out, pedal to the metal, quest to survive and reproduce is good for your soul.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What's up, dock?

Island foxes up, island jays down.

To fill a few days, John decided to go to Santa Cruz Island. Because it was short notice, he could only land at Scorpion Anchorage. His books said jays were everywhere. A naturalist at that dock said there used to be jays right there. Turns out the recovery program for foxes has been so successful that jays are better seen in the interior, more easily accessible from Prisoner's Harbor. He was at the wrong dock.

When doing a big year, relying on books alone doesn't work well. John knows he should be finding local contacts that have up to date status of birds, but that is hard for him to do. At least, he can go back to Santa Cruz during slack time in the fall.

John started out this trip exploring Mt. Pinos. Lots of juncos, not the birds he was hoping for. Looking for the LeConte's Thrasher, again, he did find a Sage Sparrow near Maricopa. On the way home, he stopped by Malibu and found about 50 Snowy Plovers. I need to learn how to share his photos.

In a few days he will start on a longer road trip, hitting Texas, Colorado, and Arizona. He needs to get reservations for the Dry Tortugas so I know when to join him in Florida. Then we will comb the Gulf Coast for migrants back towards Texas. There is going to be a bit of car juggling to be done.

The trip to Attu is right when he would love to be several other places, but choices must be made. There is only one spring per year.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Se fue, they flew

Grandchildren, that is. John got in a little birding anyway while they were here. He happened across a Brandt in the San Diego River Channel, and saw two Sage Thrashers in Anza-Borrego while searching unsuccessfully for LeConte's Thrasher. He then camped near Banning because our daughter told him about a road that had lots of Mountain Quail on it. Not while he was there. His theory is that the fresh snow he encountered drove them to a lower elevation.

A lot of birds seem to be avoiding him. Finding rare birds is NOT like pulling teeth, though. You are out in the great outdoors and not in a great amount of pain in a dentist's chair.

Some of the 250 birds he now has on his list, have been confirmed from studying photos he has taken. I guess he is not in the great outdoors while he is hunched over his computer. Some 'Thayer's' Gulls proved to be Glaucous-Winged. A possible Long-Billed Murrelet became a Common Murre and a possible Red Necked Grebe turned out to be just a largish Eared Grebe, black bill instead of yellow.

He will head for Ventura and the Santa Cruz cruise, then start for Texas, Colorado and Arizona. I will join him for Florida and Gulf shore migrants in April and May. May 10th to May 27th he will be in the Aleutians. Hope the winds are favorable.