January 17, 2019
Greater Roadrunner copulation with male's gift
Greater Roadrunner copulation with male's gift
This year’s retrospective, the sixth January in which I’ve done one, is notable for the many firsts I enjoyed in the past calendar year.  Every birder knows how exciting a “first” can be and that the designation can refer to many types of sightings.  May you all have many firsts in the new year.

January 18—Hiking on the Tonto I chanced upon a Mesquite grove with dense clusters of Mistletoe, a well-known host of Phainopepla.”  Several pairs of the “Black Cardinal” were hawking insects, and I was able to photograph a male Phainopepla in flight for the first time, then saw a tailless one, something I’d never seen before.

February 16Pied-billed Grebes are Crayfish specialists, and at a local park I found a pair of adults making up to six trips an hour bringing this clawed delicacy to a nest hidden in a reed bed.  I had never observed grebes ferrying food to their nest.

March 15—Good luck going birding specifically to see a Greater Roadrunner, right?  Imagine my shock and awe finding and photographing a copulating pair out on the Tonto one spring morning.  Obviously this was a first for me and definitely the highlight of my birding year.  It probably will never happen again.

May 18—Our first new yard bird of the year, a female Nashville Warbler, dropped out of our front yard Olive tree into the fountain beneath it and proceeded to bathe, splashing around just long enough for a corroborating photo.

May 18—Yes, the same day, two hours later, a pair of Gilded Flickers were hanging out in the back yard, dropped off the suet feeder into a grassless patch near some brick edging, and began anting.  It was the first time I had observed this species anting and the first time we’d seen anting in our yard.  And the first time we’d had two seldom observed sightings in our yard on the same day.  It probably will never happen again.

June 26—The Rosy-faced Lovebirds around our neighborhood periodically visit our yard.  They come and go for no discernable reason, around daily for weeks, then disappearing.  On this day we counted fourteen at one time—our highest total to date.

June 29—Here in the dog days of summer I photographed not one but three different juvenile Cooper’s Hawks getting food deliveries from Mom, a different prey species for each: Gila Woodpecker, Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, and Desert Iguana.  Yeah, this too I will probably never see again.

July 8—For years we’ve heard Great Horned Owls on the greenbelt near our house, both at night and in the early morning before daylight, but never actually seen one.  At 4:45am, out for a run between first light and sunup, I saw the pair sitting in a snag beside the path.  Stunned, I stopped to gawk, then ran under them.  They never moved.

August 24—Our second new yard bird (I realize this phrasing is redundant) for the year, a Pacific Slope Flycatcher caught flies in the front yard this morning.  This species became redundant when a second one showed up on October 16, nearly two months later, a birthday present for Deva.

November 20—I’ve seen our State Bird, Cactus Wren, catch lizards, glean insects from vehicle grills, even squeeze into parked car windows cracked for the summer heat to search for food, but I’d never witnessed two males in a territorial fight until this day—a brutal looking thirty seconds of claws and dust.

Especially in light of the fact that I’m no longer a lister, these ten sightings may well make 2018 the most exciting year of my birding life.  May 2019 be yours.
Cooper's Hawk juvenile plucking Gila Woodpecker
Cooper's Hawk juvenile plucking Gila Woodpecker