January 21, 2016
Clark's Nutcracker
Clark's Nutcracker
No January is complete without a retrospective on the best of the previous year--in any endeavor.  This marks the third year now that I have done this in a column, and I hope everyone who reads this will enjoy a look back at all the good birding memories they have from 2015.  Here’s my top ten in chronological order, a nice mix this year of common and not so common species.

January 26—At Seven Springs on the Tonto I chanced upon a communal overnight roost of Western Bluebirds, several coming and going, at first light in below freezing temperatures, from a cavity in an ancient oak.  Who even knew bluebirds roosted communally?

February 7Along the creek at Sunflower I finally found the flock of Evening Grosbeaks being seen off and on since the holidays.  It had been five years since I had seen this enigmatic, migratory species in Arizona.

March 21—Checking for migrants at Sunflower, I heard the familiar, machine gun like “Kak, Kak, Kak,” and then flushed a Cooper’s Hawk which dove out of the trees and over my head.  I suspected an active nest, but didn’t hang out.  I’ve heard some stories.

June 7—On the Kougarock Road out of Nome, Alaska, we photographed a Bluethroat.  On this exact date twenty-two years earlier we had found one but could not get within camera distance of this spectacular little arctic breeder from Siberia.

June 12—Returning into Nome near midnight (midnight sun, remember) we came across a scrum of upwards to a hundred Black-legged Kittiwakes fishing and diving into the surf along the beach.  The frenzied scene included four species of gulls and two species of jaegers.  An unforgettable, lifetime once spectacle.  Only in Alaska.

July 16—Just after sunrise a pair of Clark’s Nutcrackers alighted in our campsite in the White Mountains and spent fifteen minutes gleaning items from the forest floor around us.  It’s hard to find this species when you’re looking for it.  We felt blessed that they found us.

August 15—At the height of a summer monsoon storm I rescued a Varied Bunting nestling that had somehow fallen out of its nest and was being fed on the ground by its mother.  For the whole story, see jimburnsphotos.com/pages/8-20-15.html.

September 21—The first White-crowned Sparrows returned to our yard to overwinter.  Though not their earliest date, it still seemed at once remarkable yet a relief--daytime highs still above 100, but proof the summer heat would soon abate.

October 14—The Yellow-breasted Chat foraging through the Sweet Memory bush outside our computer room window was not a yard bird, but it was only our second chat.  In a calendar year that saw no new yardbirds, we celebrated it.

December 30—The Lanceolated Monklet that Steven Easley pulled from the cloud forest in Tapanti Nation Park was, by his accounts, the most difficult of the birds to find in Costa Rica that we had actually seen.  A signature bird with which to end another great year!

Keep on birding.  Bird often.  Bird hard.