Featured photo by Whitney Lanfranco
My first lifer of the year (5/31) was the bird pictured in the cover photo, gray kingbird!
Then, pelagic season hit its heyday in early summer. I went on my first overnight pelagic of the year (6/4) which didn’t yield any lifers but great looks at cool birds. First thing in the morning, we had a few Leach’s storm-petrels winging their way low over the water. Then, I got my best looks ever at pomarine jaegers: 2 adult light-morph birds were sitting on the water! We drifted so close to them that we flushed them. Then, I saw my first ever dark-morph long-tailed jaeger. The wildest sighting of the trip though was a breeding plumage dovekie.
In early August, I went on a trip with friends to the U.S. mecca of southeast Arizona for the Tuscon festival! We started the trip early though staying at an AirBnB in the heart of birding country, where we had black-throated sparrows aplenty in the backyard the evening of our arrival (8/7). The next day (8/8) we hit Harshaw canyon. At a stop along the way, we had Cassin’s kingbird! As we neared the entrance to the canyon, we had Gila woodpecker. Then, a sound new to me that would haunt us the rest of the trip, we had heaps of western wood-pewees. Not far into the canyon, we had our first great looks at acorn woodpecker, which we would also continue to be treated to many times over. Near the road at a stop recommended by a friend, we had canyon towhee, and a little further down the road, a thick-billed kingbird perched on the telephone line. We saw our first broad-billed hummingbird of the trip, which again we would go on to see many of.
We went onto the famous Paton Center for the specialty: violet-crowned hummingbird. While we sat and watched the feeders, a pair of Abert’s towhees made their way out of the woodwork (somewhat literally, the wood edge…) to give some nice looks. We saw several of what we assumed were black-chinned hummingbirds, but the most identifiable of these birds would come later for me in Miller Canyon.
We got our birding permits to enter Fort Huachuca (8/9) and before we even got to the gate, we had singing Botteri’s sparrow right by the parking lot! The next day, I would also have them teed up at Coronado national monument. Then, we went up into Huachuca canyon where we encountered Mexican jays and bridled titmouse.
A drive through Brown Canyon ranch turned up my favorite bird of the trip: Gambel’s quail! We continued on to make our way up Carr Canyon. Our best stop was near the top, where we had plumbeous vireo and yellow-eyed junco at the campground!
The following day (8/10) I went back to Miller Canyon, where we had great looks at Rivoli’s hummingbird off the trail. We waited for awhile for the specialty along the trail, and in that time, a hepatic tanager flew into a treetop. On the way back down, we encountered Hutton’s vireo in a mixed flock. A stop at Ash Canyon bird sanctuary yielded a Lucifer hummingbird!
Back to the High Seas
All things considered, probably my most dazzling experience was on my last overnight pelagic of the year (8/27) where we found the NJ state record Bermuda petrel, as well as a few white-faced storm-petrels!
Despite my best efforts, I tried to turn up one last lifer of the year today. I had no luck along all the trails within the Gordon River Greenway Park, but I did get to see a lifer mammal, a manatee at Manatee Park! All the more reason to hit the ground running in the new year. Once again, a year of birding to remember with good friends, as well as new connections made along the way!