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What is your 3 Best Lifers?

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I don't have many great lifers, but the most exciting sightings for me would have to be the rose breasted grosbeak, the sandhill cranes I saw years ago, and the young sharpie that decided to jump onto the bush right in front of my window and pay us a nice visit 

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1. Magnificent Frigatebird - seen when I was roughly 12 years old at Derby Hill Bird Observatory in Mexico, NY. The bird was clearly off-track from a recent big storm. This complete rarity really helped foster my love of ornithology.

2. Snowy owl - Liverpool, NY, 2 years ago. It was awesome to see one so close to home, and be a lifer all at the same time.

3. Stellar's Jay maybe? Seen at a park in AZ in 2010. Always thought they were a cool bird and never thought I'd see one until I went there on vacation one year. 

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1. Painted Bunting - Seen in Florida :wub::wub::wub:

2. Cerulean Warbler - In my home county  :wub::wub:

3.  Crested Caracara! Seen in the UP (of MI)

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On 12/31/2017 at 7:53 PM, nick433 said:

1. Fieldfare (First Montana record!)

2. Green Jay

3. Common Pauraque

Show off! :P:P

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I am completely incapable of  brevity and should probably just make a dedicated birding blog already, but for now here have almost 1000 words about nine of my more memorable lifers. If I'm not getting myself a reputation for never shutting up about birds, is there even a point?


For the rarity/difficulty to find:

California Condor at Pinnacles NP (then NM) in California, April 2009. I was on a camping trip with a family friend when a condor flew directly over our campsite, the sunlight reflecting off the tag on its wing. 

Snowy Owl at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR in Washington, November 2012. There were two perched on the beach waaaaaaay out there in the delta, two rare blurry white blobs in the scope. This was on a college ornithology class field trip, and after winter break I ran into one of my classmates who had gone home to Mt. Vernon, WA and taken close-up pictures of Snowies that were just hanging out on top of buildings downtown. There hasn’t been a significant irruption close enough for me to get to since. Someday...

American Three-toed Woodpecker at Bethel Ridge Road in Washington, May 2016. This was on a woodpecker field trip at the annual Wenas Creek Audubon campout where we also saw White-headed Woodpeckers, Williamson’s Sapsuckers, Northern Flickers, and Black-backed Woodpeckers. Helps when the field trip leader is the biologist studying their nesting habits in that area!


For the effort:

Williamson’s Sapsucker at Scout Lake in Oregon, May 2016. I’d just finished college at the end of March and spent all of April visiting my parents in Boise (and accumulating 7 new lifers.) This was the unexpected Day 3 of my road trip back to Olympia, with the previous night spent sleeping in my car at a rest stop...Day 2 had been my day at Malheur NWR and I underestimated its size, if you want to get anything done there it’s definitely more than just a day trip. 

So, Day 3, I don’t have a smartphone or a wifi connection for my laptop so I’m relying on paper maps to get me back home, and paper maps unfortunately don’t have an eBird plugin to tell me about the latest sightings. I chose a burned spot at random in the central Oregon Cascades to look for high elevation woodpeckers (this was before the big woodpecker trip later in the month) and by luck or intuition this tiny lake turned out to have a male Williamson’s actively drumming. He made me run around the lake several times trying to find him, of course, and I got rained on and fell down the hill and was picking ticks off myself for days, but it was worth it. 

Hermit Warbler at Capitol Forest in Washington, May 2017.  I live at the northern terminus of the Hermit Warbler range, and it’s also the hybridization zone with Townsend’s Warblers. You really can’t assume you’re seeing a “pure” individual by song alone, but these tiny, deceptively adorable yellow-faced jerks like to play hide-and-seek at the very tops of tall conifers. In 2016 I tried six different times to see one and had no luck. My first try in 2017 I spent three and a half hours looking, then went back the next day and spent eight full hours before finally getting several terrible pictures just before it got too dark to do so. I’d been so busy with work that this was my first lifer of 2017 so I’m glad it was a hard-earned one.


Ferruginous Hawk at Badlands NP in South Dakota, September 2017. A nemesis bird for SIX YEARS. I get one to two weeks each winter in Santa Rosa, CA visiting my mom over Christmas, and until my equally unsuccessful month-long stay in Boise those were my only shots at seeing this bird. This last September, on my long Tennessee-to-Washington road trip when my long-distance relationship upgraded to no-distance, my (non-birder) fiancee is actually the one who pointed this hawk out to me while I was driving. It was on the ground terrorizing the prairie dogs along Sage Creek Rim Rd.  


For the surprise:

White-tailed Tropicbird at Hawai'i Volcanoes NP in Hawaii, June 2013. I (unfortunately) wasn’t in Hawai'i for the birds, so I didn’t do as much pre-trip research as I would have otherwise because I wasn’t the one choosing where we went. So I had NO IDEA that these birds nest in the craters of active volcanoes until I saw one flying through the Kīlauea crater like there wasn’t a towering cloud of toxic fumes just outside of its flight path. That’s one way to avoid nest depredation! 

Short-eared Owl at Mima Mounds NAP in Washington, January 2015. The sun had set, the mist was rising thick from the prairie, my glasses kept fogging up, the gate was about to close, and I had underestimated the time it would take to complete the loop trail. I was all but running to get to my car in time when this winged silhouette ascended from the mist and stopped me in my tracks. My glasses still kept fogging up but I got a good (if foggy) view through my binoculars.

Black Swift at Chinook Pass in Washington, May 2017. Another serendipitous incident of right place, right time. I was driving to the Wenas campout and took a break at a scenic viewpoint of The Mountain to catch the sunset. Turns out there’s this short snippet of time just at sunset when the parent swifts return to their waterfall-hidden nest with their throat pouches full of bugs, and I happened to be right above one of those nests as they flew in. I confirmed it later with a swift biologist at the campout that there was an active nest at that location. Black Swifts are objectively one of THE coolest birds.

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