Birding Without Constraints – Awesome Baby!!
Posted on by blairbirding
Birding has been very limited, and not all that successful, lately – nothing of note to justify a blog post, but I really want to write something. So I have created a fantasy solution. Let’s pretend that we are not constrained by anything. Without constraints just imagine the birds we could see in a Greatest Week of Birding EVER!!! No Coronavirus. No monetary limits. No travel troubles. No equipment failures. An ability to be in distant places within moments of each other. No failed GPS. And importantly every bird cooperates and is not only where it is supposed to be but is also out in the open – easy to find and easy to photograph. Well there is one constraint for this fantasy adventure: each bird has to have been reported on Ebird by someone during an actual week of birding. Oh the possibilities…
I have already written about Lifers I have not been able to chase in Arizona; some are still there and some are gone. But there have been a lot of other great observations this past week. This would be my story if indeed there were no constraints and I chased all the ABA Lifers (and ABA photo lifers) and found them all. THE BEST WEEK OF BIRDING I WILL NEVER HAVE – and neither will anyone else. Remember NO CONSTRAINTS…
I start in Southeastern Arizona, finding those Arizona rarities I wrote about before. First there is the Eared Quetzal in Cochise. A beautiful male and a bonus, a female too.
At the Casa de San Pedro B&B I easily locate and photograph the Ruddy Ground Dove that has been hanging around.
Ruddy Ground Dove
I make a quick stop at Beatty’s Guest Ranch and get that lifer White-Eared Hummingbird that eluded me on earlier Arizona trips.
Next is the Northern Jacana that will be an ABA Photo Lifer. Not the juvenile that was seen earlier – now an adult at the Santa Cruz River in Pima. Sure wish I had been taking pictures when I had one at Maner Lake in Texas in April 1978.
Northern Jacana (Ebird Photo by Victor Stoll)
Too bad the Berylline Hummingbird is no longer around. Just as I get ready to head over to Santa Barbara in California to find the Curlew Sandpiper which I need since I could not get up to British Columbia earlier this year, I learn that a European Golden Plover is being seen at Maxwell NWR in New Mexico. No constraints remember so I am instantly there and Wow, there it is!! The white underwings confirm the ID.
European Golden Plover (Ebird Photo by Laura Keene)
I have lost track of time but then recall that time does not matter on this adventure so I still make it to Santa Barbara and among the many shorebirds one has this definite downslope to its bill and I can see the white rump. I can now check off a Curlew Sandpiper.
Curlew Sandpiper (Ebird Photo by Sochetra Ly)
Now I get word that there is a Yellow Green Vireo at Doyle Park in San Diego, so I continue south to look for it. Oh if only it were this easy in real life. Other birders are there looking at something that must be my bird. One asks if I would like to see “the Vireo“. Why yes, I would. Positioned at about 9 o’clock in the tree in front of us I see movement then some yellow and some green and that prominent eye stripe. I almost went after this species earlier when one was seen in Texas but plans changed. Now, finally, it is on my ABA Life list!!
Yellow Green Vireo (Ebird photo by Benny Jacobs-Schwartz)
Even with the real world time and travel constraints, over several days it might have been possible to see all of those birds with good luck. Now I am really going to push it because a Great Skua has been reported off the coast of Newfoundland and VOILA!! I am instantly several thousand miles away on a survey boat and a species that was possible on our North Carolina pelagic trip is just off the bow. My ABA Life List now has the Skua Slam plus one.
Great Skua – Ebird photo by Detchevery Joel
This is exciting!! And now being on the East Coast I think I will head south to Florida because that American Flamingo is still around and while I saw one many years ago, just like the Jacana, I need a photo and there is also a chance for a Red Legged Thrush which was found at the Key West Botanical Garden – which is surprisingly not on Key West but rather the adjoining Stock Island. This is the first super rare thrush I could add to my list that was not seen in British Columbia where I have seen Dusky Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare. Never thought I would see this one. But first I go for the Flamingo at St. Marks NWR at Wakulla – Mound Pool No.1 where it is just impossible to miss. Not a great photo but good enough. Then an immediate change of location to the Key West Botanical Garden and the Red Legged Thrush is mine as well.
American Flamingo – Ebird Photo by Sean McCool
Red Legged Thrush – Ebird Photo by Mark Songer
And there being no constraints, there is a chance to add another rare thrush as well. A mega rarity Song Thrush is at Barrow, Alaska. Fortunately 5,000 miles is no more challenging than 5 miles in this fantasy birding adventure without constraints. There is snow on the ground in Barrow, so I conjure up some appropriate clothing as well just right for the Naval Arctic Research Lab on the North Slope. It is not a very colorful bird but there was that bright orange underwing confirms the Song Thrush identity. Wow!!
Song Thrush – Ebird Photo by Tyler Ficker
One more opportunity as I can chase another bird I almost chased earlier – a Hook Billed Kite in Texas. By the magic of no constraints I am there. I see it. I tick it off the list and that’s it. The fantasy is over.
Hook Billed Kite
Well it has been quite a week. A dozen phenomenal birds from every corner of the continent. Ten ABA Lifers plus two more ABA Life Photos. None of it is real and I may never see any of those birds – hell if we don’t get this virus under control, I may never add any new birds to my life lists. But these species were all seen by adventurous birders in the previous week and that is always the case as there are always new birds to see and new places to go. I will be happy to see any of these birds someday and am happy for everyone who has shared their experiences by reporting on Ebird for the rest of us.
I also think about the true Big Year Birders who when given the real life opportunity to try for these birds in distant and remote places with time constraints, travel challenges and enormous monetary needs actually go for most if not all of them and many times succeed. Awesome accomplishments. Amazing!!