Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Years Sweep!

What an amazing end of the old year, and fantastic start to the new year! I flew to San Diego on December 31st and was picked up by a buddy and we hit the ground running. We had a few hours before sunset and I managed to pick up a few year birds to push my year list to 465, my best year by far. The continuing San Diego Thick-billed Kingbird put on quite a show.

We also picked up Grace's Warbler, California Towhee and a few other things.

Yesterday, New Years day was started at Point Loma to jump on the annual New Years Pelagic. We had some serious fog for a lot of the trip, but not enough to hinder me from getting my life Black-vented Shearwater. Out in the warmer water we saw a Pink-footed Shearwater, quite a rare bird for the winter.

We also scored this Xantus's Murrelet, another great winter bird.

This was good and all, but the fun didn't stop here. We quickly moved north to look for the long-staying Dusky-capped Flycatcher at some ritzy high-class place. We ran into another dude and split up. Long story short, we searched a lot, the other dude found it, we saw it. We also picked up a Hermit Warbler right in the same tree. We decided to push our luck and head to Yuma to try for Black Rail.

We hit the Mittry Lake area and played copious amounts of playback at a plethora of locations around the lake. We stirred up Clapper Rails and Sora, but no Black Rail. We made our way to our hotel in Yuma at 1 a.m. with our first missed target of the trip... or so we thought.

Early this morning, after 4 hours of sleep or less, we had plans to head to Lake Havasu for the Nutting's Flycatcher. Garrett had a crazy idea; why not stop at West Pond for another shot at Black Rail before sunrise? So we did. We played the Black Rail song many times, and finally, right before dawn, one Black Rail called 6-7 times for us. Score!

Off to Lake Havasu, we drove to the Nutting's Flycatcher spot and heard the bird call right away. After a little patience we heard, and then saw the bird right off the road, 6 feet up in a bush and it gave great looks, but I got on it too late to watch it call! This tragedy would not be acceptable, so we continued to search for the bird a while longer. This Phainopepla kept me occupied for a minute.

Either the Nutting's Flycatcher is attracted to the sound of a camera's shutter click, or it was very jealous that the Phainopepla was stealing it's thunder, because as I was photographing the 'pepla, the Nutting's flew up and perched right above me! Quite convenient indeed.
After following the bird down the wash, I finally got to see it vocalize through my binoculars. Success!

We needed to be in Tucson tonight, but why not push our luck even further? One last stop at a famous Thrasher spot at the intersection of Salome Hwy and Baseline Road, 40-some miles west of Phoenix. We broke up to look for the skulky Le Conte's Thrashers. After much searching, I finally heard, then saw a pair feeding right on the ground! I moved to get a better look, and it popped right up!

I ran to get Garrett and Bo since they were outside shouting distance (and I shouted pretty loud), but when we got back to the area, the Le Conte's Thrashers were no where to be found. We searched for another 2 hours and came up with only one Bendire's Thrasher, a few Sage Sparrows and Abert's Towhees, and not much else. This was only my second time seeing Le Conte's, and would have been a lifer for Garrett and Bo.

We finally are currently in Tucson after a great expedition! Work starts tomorrow, and I'm on a serious lack of sleep.

I fell short of 500 ABA birds in one year last year, but I'm going to take a stab at it again this year, and I have quite a few tricks up my sleeve. Stay tuned!

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