As the class wrapped up two intensive days of birding Chuck asked each of us, “What was your best bird?” Mine was a least bittern, a life bird(*) who flushed from the reeds when I stepped alone to the edge of the marsh.
Best Bird is now a tradition with me. At the end of every outing I think back on the birds I’ve seen and their behavior. Who was most beautiful? Who did the most interesting thing? Which bird took my breath away? I enjoy thinking back on the birds that made the outing worthwhile.
My trip to Nevada was so full birds that it’s hard to pick the best. I saw 127 species, nine life birds and thousands of individuals. Rather than pick a single Best Bird, here are some of the many “bests” of my trip:
- On my first day, in my first hour of birding I saw a peregrine falcon hunting the ducks at Henderson Bird Preserve.
- There were two beautiful “gray ghost” northern harriers at Duck Creek Wetlands last Saturday. I was glad to be watching them in 75 degree weather on the east side of the valley. Through my binoculars I could see it snowing in the west.
- At Corn Creek I saw a Swainson’s hawk (another life bird) when a raven hassled it until it flew away.
- Most unusual was a group of great blue herons and great egrets roosting on an unfinished roof near Floyd Lamb Park. The home’s roof was tar papered and stacked with ceramic tiles, waiting for the roofers to begin. The herons and egrets perched among the tiles. I would never have seen them but one of the herons perched on the crest and I saw his silhouette.
- On Sunday at Corn Creek there were phainopeplas perched on every available high spot. They like the place because there is so much desert mistletoe there.
- Thanks to a helpful local birder, I saw a vermilion flycatcher for the first time in my life. It was at Corn Creek, a beautiful male bird like the one pictured above. There was even a Pittsburgh connection: the birder who showed me the vermilion flycatcher grew up in McKees Rocks.
- Amazingly, I saw more ravens than crows. Crows are uncommon in the desert.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to see the original)
(*) A life bird is a species seen for the first time in my life.