January 18, 2018
Barred Owl in Spanish Moss
Barred Owl in Spanish Moss
Continuing what has now become a tradition, here’s a retrospective look at my best birds of 2017, a year which for us began in Florida and ended in Costa Rica.  A very good year, indeed, and I hope this column evokes memories of good birds seen last calendar year for all who read it.

January 1—Our year began with a great bird in its quintessential setting, a Barred Owl on a Spanish Moss draped branch in Corkscrew Swamp, the Audubon sanctuary near Naples, Florida.  If Corkscrew isn’t on your U.S. bucket list, put it there now.

January 24—As is often the case, this year’s Top Ten features a few new yard birds, none more exciting than the adult Bald Eagle which flew over the house just as I happened to look skyward while trimming the olive tree out in front.

March 2—Thinking I was hearing a frog calling from our backyard water feature, I discovered an unexpected Ladder-backed Woodpecker making the unexpected sound with his drumming!  He hung around for a week or so and I wrote this up in a subsequent column--http://jimburnsphotos.com/pages/4-27-17.html

March 13—This was the year I finally made it down to Tubac for the annual northern passage of Common Black Hawks.  Disappointing from a photographic standpoint because they were mostly too high for good shots, it was nevertheless a spectacle worth experiencing for any Arizona birder.

March 22—Visiting a friend in Florida, I was stunned when he told me the flock of birds I had heard passing over before breakfast were Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks.  I had not recognized their soft, twittering calls nor associated it with the duck family.  Their passage went on for fully five minutes, in pre-dawn darkness, sending a chill up my spine and evoking a time when wildlife far outnumbered our own species

August 18—I witnessed two adult Loggerhead Shrikes having an intermittent hissing, pecking, clawing, tumbling-on-the-ground altercation that covered a couple acres of brushy fields and lasted almost an hour—territorial negotiations presumably, but I’d never seen anything like it from any bird species.

October 13—A Greater Roadrunner joined us for a picnic along the Salt River.  I’ve read that roadrunners can be tame/tamed, but had never experienced it personally.  This one hung out within yards of our table and certainly acted as though waiting for handouts.  She left disappointed

October 26—The so called “invasion” of montane species into lowland Arizona this fall and winter delivered perhaps the most unexpected yard bird we’ve ever had—a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

November 28—I spent the morning photographing the Lewis’s Woodpecker at Scottsdale Ranch Park and discovered two interesting things about bird behavior—Lewis’s often fly with the nictitating membrane drawn over the eye, and they always fly to their nut cache with the acorns parallel to the bill and bottom end forward.  Who knew!?

December 28—In a smashing end to a great birding year we saw and photographed, from a small boat in a driving rain, a Snowy Cotinga feeding on figs in the Cano Negro area of Costa Rica.  The four cotinga species are uncommon and local lowland rainforest denizens much sought but seldom seen because they typically stay high in the canopy.

I can only hope your, and our, 2018 birding year proves to be as exciting as 2017 was for us.  Keep on birding.
Snowy Cotinga male in fig tree
Snowy Cotinga male in fig tree