January 19, 2017
White-winged Crossbill male
White-winged Crossbill male
It’s time again to list my personal Top Ten birds from the previous year.  Reminiscence is always a fun exercise if the memories are good, and 2016 was a good year for us in real life, in birding, and especially for yardbirds.  In 2015 we had recorded zero new yardbirds, but we had five last year, the most since 2012 so, as you might suspect, yardbirds dominate the year’s Top Ten.

January 13—Evidence of a bird can be as exciting as an actual sighting.  At sunup this morning I found a large feather pile beneath a light pole at my outdoor workplace.  The feathers were Mourning Dove, the predator undoubtedly one of the Great Horned Owl pair that frequents the property.  Feather piles always feed the imagination.

February 21—With our friend, Pierre Deviche, we scrambled over the rocks upstream from Coon Bluff along the Salt River and finally spotted the two Rusty Blackbirds found earlier in the winter.

February 27—It had been eleven years since we had seen a Long-eared Owl.  We spotted two of the small group that spent several weeks last winter roosting in the mesquite bosques at Arivaca Cienega south of Tucson

April 14—Just after sunrise I finally saw the American Robin I had been hearing singing on my bicycle commute to work through Arcadia.  Although I had seen one a year earlier in the same area, I have to assume both were migrants.  Perhaps the same individual on the same northward route?

April 23—Our first new yardbird of the year, the first since a roadrunner in June of ’14, a female Tennessee Warbler showed up at our front fountain along with a bonus package of two male Wilson’s Warblers.  Spring migration obviously in full swing.

May 8—A female Broad-tailed Hummingbird gleaning bugs and nectar from our Texas Olive was a second unexpected spring migrant.  With feeders out for years, we had long been disappointed we had not attracted a greater variety of hummers.  This lady represented only the sixth hummingbird species to have found us.

August 9—On our Alaska Brown Bear trip we had White-winged Crossbills visiting the feeders at the camp where we were staying.  This was a rare treat after seeing Red Crossbills near Flagstaff the previous winter.

August 27—A Calliope Hummingbird found us, an immature female, identified by her tiny size and short, rounded tail without any cinnamon at the bases of the outer rectrices.

September 30—Autumn migration continued to bring us good things, this time a male MacGillivray’s Warbler with its sharp, diagnostic eye arcs, our second Mac for the yard.
October 4—A bird that had never even crossed our minds for our yard list passed through the bushes right outside the window at my computer.  Not a great bird but totally unexpected and out of habitat in our neighborhood, a female Northern Cardinal was so out of context that it was gone almost before I processed what I was seeing.

Here’s how I closed this column last year--keep on birding, bird often, bird hard.  Always words to live by.