Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Target & Wish Birds for 2014

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
It's that time of year again, birders. Our year lists all click back to zero and we start with a clean birding slate.

I'm off looking for new birds! Image by Mary Ferracci.

I'm making my 2014 Wish List of Birds. These are birds that I am hoping to see or planning on seeing in the new year. Most of them would be life birds, but a few are just birds that I totally dig for one reason or another. Here's what's on the 2014 Wish List thus far*:
Spruce grouse ©Washington Dept of Fish & Game

Spruce grouse: A bird I've sought repeatedly in Maine yet remains unseen by me. I've found feathers, though. It'd be a lifer. Best shot: Minnesota in February during the "Owls with Al" Reader Rendezvous event with Bird Watcher's Digest.

Northern hawk-owl: Hoping to find this one in the Sax-Zim bog. I saw one briefly and in silhouette in northeastern-most Pennsylvania in about 1989 and I've been in BVD-mode ever since (that's Better View Desired, by the way—get your mind out of the gutter). It'd be a make-good lifer.

Snowy owl: We're taking the Bird Watcher's Digest staff on a half-day trip here in Ohio to search for a snowy owl later this very week. Since this bird was my spark bird way back in the late 1960s, I feel a special affinity for it. Wish us luck! Not a lifer, but always impressive.

Snowy owl ©Bill Thompson III

California condor: I've wanted to see this bird in the wild since they captured the last free-flying individual years ago. Now that they are breeding in the wild again, I'm even more determined. This is a long-shot for 2014 however. I'll be in Arizona in January at the Wings Over Willcox festival, but not in the right part of the state. It'd be a lifer.
California condor ©NPS

Ivory gull: I missed the ones that were seen well south of their normal range in the winter of 2009. I had a hunch I'd regret not going after one. It'd be a lifer and it's a species that may go extinct in our lifetimes. And no, it's not because they were all captured and melted down to make Ivory soap.

Barnacle goose: This one is going to have to show up near me. Lifer. Best chance might be at the Winter Wings Festival in Klamath Falls, Oregon in February.

Black rail: Have heard them but have never seen one. I have no planned trips in 2014 that are ideal for finding this bird, but I'm still holding out hope that we will cross paths. Not a lifer, but a visual lifer.

Steller's or Spectacled eider: I'd settle for a sighting of eider one. Both would be lifers. Best chance, though still a long shot, is at the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in May in Homer, Alaska.

Gyrfalcon: I've never chased this species because I've never been near enough to one to do so. But if the phone rang right now and one was seen within a 12-hour drive, I'd probably go. Lifer. Best shot is a drifter that comes well south and terrorizes pigeons in an old rock quarry, grain elevator,  or some similar setting.

Bicknell's thrush: I'll need to scale a high peak in the Adirondacks to get this species—something that's not currently on my schedule for 2014. It would be a lifer, though one of those AOU-taxonomic-split lifers that happens when the DNA of some individual birds within a particular species gets sufficient spinning in a centrifuge to turn one species into one or more new species.

Smith's longspur: I am planning to go after this species in western Ohio in late winter/early spring. There's a three-week window during which northbound Smith's longspurs stop over in the muddy agricultural fields of far-western Ohio. I plan to be there, scanning with my spotting scope.
Smith's longspur ©Tom Johnson

Eurasian tree sparrow: It's a long shot that I'd get to see this species in 2014. I'd have to go to St. Louis, Missouri to have the best chance to see one. I'm thinking a road trip to see my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates play their arch-nemesis St. Louis Cardinals might offer the perfect opportunity. Lifer. Besides, I am both a baseball and a birding lifer myself.

What are YOUR Target/Wish-List Birds for 2014?

* I reserve the right to change my mind arbitrarily as to the contents of this list.


On January 7, 2014 at 4:59 PM Anonymous said...

Hope to join you on one of your trips this year. Good luck!

On January 7, 2014 at 6:13 PM corey said...

Two thoughts. You'll be at Space Coast, no? Come on the Black Rail trip and watch me get it as a lifer and maybe with both of us wishing really hard we'll even get to see one!

Also, per Google maps, Cedar Beach Marina in New York State is an eight-hour, forty-five minute drive from Whipple. There has been a Gyrfalcon there for a couple of weeks, though it is sometimes difficult to spot. GET IN THE CAR!!!

On January 8, 2014 at 1:37 PM Kim Smith, NatureIsMyTherapy said...

I'm really hoping to finally add Kentucky and Cerulean Warblers to my life list in 2014. I'd also really love to get some better looks at Bobolinks and Meadowlarks this year.

I hope you get your wish birds, especially that California Condor. I saw one soaring over the Grand Canyon in 2012 and will never forget it. First came the awe at its size, followed by amazement once I realized what I was looking at. And even better, I got photos of it that allowed me to look up the tag number and identify the exact individual. Ah, thanks for the great memory on this frigid Michigan day!

On January 11, 2014 at 11:29 AM peachfront said...

California Condor is a gimme at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I wasn't there 5 minutes before I spotted my first. So if you have time to get to the right place, seems like it would be pretty easy.

I'm from deep south Louisiana and don't know how to drive on snow or ice or I would already be up north trying to join someone for a Snowy Owl chase. You think they will have Snowy Owls on that Minnesota event? I'd be interested in hiring a guide/driver or paying the expenses/costs of another birder who can drive in the north if there's a decent chance. Can you guys recommend anyone? Thanks.

On January 11, 2014 at 12:17 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Corey: Good ideas! I'll see about the rails trip in FL, though I'm only there for 3 days.
Peachfront: There are snowies in the Carolinas, in southern WV, and in lots of non-snow-covered areas of Ohio right now. And yes we'll probably have a snowy on our Reader Rendezvous in MN.

On January 11, 2014 at 4:15 PM peachfront said...

I've never seen a grouse either. Any grouse. Really thinking seriously about that Minnesota trip now. What happens if there is a blizzard? Is it moved to the next weekend? Sorry about all the questions...

On January 11, 2014 at 6:33 PM Anonymous said...

Peachfront: there has been a Snowy Owl in Jacksonville Florida for two weeks. Little Talbot Island SP/Huguenot Park. That's a road trip for you! There's a male Harlequin Duck in Fernandina Beach too. And you can see Snow Buntings at Huguenot. All these birds within 35 minutes of each other!

Bill: the Grouse would be very nice! And I agree with Peachfront, any Grouse!

On January 11, 2014 at 10:43 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Peachfront: Regarding the MN trip: We'll go unless there's a level 3 emergency and it's illegal to be out.

On January 12, 2014 at 2:02 PM peachfront said...

Thanks, guys. I signed up for the Minnesota trip so I look forward to meeting some of you. Been thinking about the drive to Jacksonville but I was afraid I would drive out there and it would be gone. That's what happened to me with the Dallas owl. It left the day I was driving out! But I may try for it anyway.

On February 11, 2014 at 7:42 PM Birdhouse said...

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