Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Big Year update

Things have been very busy lately, and unfortunately I'm not referring to birding!  The past two weekends I've gone out of town, first to Phoenix then to Santa Cruz, CA.  Not to mention the intervening week which I spent working full-time!  At least in both cases I did get some birding in, and both weekends were fun, but I've gotten a bit off track with my Mohave County big year!  Since I've been neglecting this blog, I thought I'd post a status update on my big year.

The total so far stands at 165.  I was pretty pleased when my FOS Cliff Swallow (flying over LHC February 24) landed me 150, halfway to my goal of 300!  The latest addition was actually a completely new (though overdue) county bird, Yellow-headed Blackbird.  Yesterday while I was outside for work (not birding), a flock of 14 flew over!

I'm feeling pretty good about the year so far.  This project has gotten me out birding in some places pretty far off the beaten track, and I've found two second county records - the Rufous-backed Robin in Kingman and the Dusky-capped Flycatcher in Wikieup.  It's also gotten me looking for some birds that are very local in the county, and David and I were successful in finding a pair of LeConte's Thrashers.

Cold Rufous-backed Robin
Winter is the time for waterfowl, and this winter has been great.  Three species of geese (no Greater White-fronted or Cackling), Tundra Swan, and 24 duck species.  Mohave County is great for diving ducks, and I've already added all three scoters, Long-tailed Duck, Barrow's Goldeneye, and of course, Greater Scaup.  The only duck I'm likely to add at this point is Eurasian Wigeon...though I'm still looking for the really rare ones!

I've been doing fairly well with raptors, though there are some gaps I hope to fill.  The highlight so far was the Red-shouldered Hawk at Pintail Slough, which John West found and pointed out.  I didn't make it up to the Arizona Strip this winter, so I'm missing Rough-legged and Ferruginous Hawk (as well as Northern Shrike).  I have some very local breeding raptors to look for...Northern Goshawk on Mt. Trumbull, Common Black-Hawk on the Big Sandy River, and Harris's Hawk around Wikieup.  Swainson's Hawks haven't arrived yet, but they are a widespread breeder in the central part of the county.

The most skittish of Red-shouldered Hawks
Four species of gulls includes the Bullhead City Mew Gull, and 13 species of sparrows isn't bad for a start--I'm still checking every White-crowned Sparrow flock for a White-throated!

As the migrants come in over the next two months, I'm hoping to add plenty of "easy" birds: warblers, flycatchers, hummingbirds, shorebirds.  Another few trips to the mountains will hopefully bring new woodpeckers, finches, and corvids.  Then of course there's no telling what vagrants will find their way here!  In the short term, I'll be looking for more night birds - I've seen Lesser Nighthawk and found three species of owl, but there are more owls and Common Poorwill out singing!

My bet for #166?  Common Moorhen.  They are plenty common out here, and I am amazed that I haven't managed to find one for the year.  I know one will turn up eventually, and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next!

Always a coot, never a moorhen!

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