Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Chasing a Laughing Gull in Maricopa County

On November 5th, I came went home from a morning of birding at Morgan City Wash.  I was hoping to relocate a Bay-breasted Warbler that had been found nearby.  The bird was no doubt a long shot and I knew it, but I still tried and didn't come up with it.   When I got home I was tired and started to take a nap.  My phone ringing woke me up and I saw that it was Caleb calling.  Caleb said, "I've got a juvenile Laughing Gull at Hidden Lake!".  I woke up very quick and was out the door, on my first Laughing Gull chase in Maricopa County.  

Caleb told me how to access the where he discovered the bird.  I drove to the spot and it wasn't long before I got to see the gull.  It became a Maricopa County life bird for me, and I was pumped.  Mary was right behind me and we enjoyed it together for awhile and Mary captured great photographs as she usually does.  It was awesome to watch this rarity for awhile and observe it flying over Hidden Lake with views of the desert in the background.  

Caleb found the Laughing Gull when he didn't have binoculars and made the call with his naked eye.  Awesome story!  Caleb joined Mary and I, and then Ronnie, Dara, and Ryan joined us shortly after.  Sadly, the Gull seemingly flew off right before Ronnie, Dara, and Ryan came.  We had fun together and hung out at Hidden Lake for awhile.  Hidden Lake is an awesome place, and it is a place Caleb has worked at full time and part time.  They were getting ready for a busy event that they were hosting when the gull showed up, and thanks to Caleb and his boss, Jennifer Mladik, we were able to go.  It was awesome of Jen to open her property up to us, and I'm thankful to her and Caleb for being able to see this rare bird.

And not locating the gull that night turned out to be beneficial for Ronnie, Dara, and Ryan.  It was back at Hidden Lake the next day, and they were all able to not only get the Laughing Gull, but their county Heerman's Gulls too!  HEEG was a county lifer for Caleb too, and it was awesome that he found both of those rare birds (both county lifers for him) while working.  

Other than the Laughing Gull, here are a few more cool birds I've seen lately.  2020's birding continues as being awesome!


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Worth Another Trip

 The Black-throated Blue Warbler at Gilbert Water Ranch became famous in the birding community as it continued for close to a week after it's discovery.  Not only did it continue, but it put on a show for people when it was present at the entrance to the trail that goes between ponds 3 and 4.  It also didn't care about the presence of people walking by, birders observing and photographing it, or dogs walking by on leashes.  This bird was either tame or mindfully busy to eat as much as it could while caring less about it's surroundings.  Even non-birders walking by took notice of it and would stop to enjoy it.  The warbler was cooperative enough that getting cell phone pictures wasn't difficult.  When I went for the Blue on October 23rd, I spent a little over an hour watching it, and I went back on the afternoon of October 26th.  I spent another hour with it and sat down to enjoy a show.  This won't be a long post, but it's one to post the photos from the 26th to demonstrate how awesome this bird is to me, and also, how fearless it was.  2020 has certainly delivered good birding, and I didn't predict a Black-throated Blue Warbler would forage in front of my face for a long amount of time like this..

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Highly Wanted Stop On The Journey

Following the aftermath of September 13th-16th's unprecedented occasions, one might think that any bird could drop out of the sky.  My thoughts certainly aligned to it, and birds were everywhere.  I had reached 398 species for Maricopa County, and my excitement kept growing by the day following those three consecutive days where I got Maricopa County life birds.  As I've seen my share of bird species in Maricopa County, getting three lifers in the county in back-to-back-to-back days, plus a repeat of the first day with a self found Canada Warbler with Caleb, was unheard of.  Besides myself, every birder in Maricopa County was having a fest.  Migrants filled every hotspot.  It was fun to see everyone having a great time.  Caleb discovered Maricopa County's first Chimney Swift as it flew around his neighborhood and made passes through his yard.  When he told me about it, I didn't know what to say.  I decided that I was going to go into full-on search mode, and go out of my way to try and find new Maricopa County life birds.  After all, I came to a conclusion that financially I can't leave Maricopa County very much for birding trips for the rest of 2020, and for the first time in awhile, I've been okay with that.


With only two Maricopa life birds remaining for my dreamed-up 400 life birds in the County, I started to plan to go to a lot of places that would be good for harboring rarities, or potential rarities.  I also knew that the next Maricopa lifer could take months, as there have been times where I've gone up to eight months without getting an addition.  Aside from birding on my days off of work, I decided that I would bird after work too.  Fortunately for me, I have a few good birding locations right by my home in Peoria in Skunk Creek Trailhead as well as Rio Vista Community Park.  And very close by too are the famous Glendale Recharge Ponds.  With these locations nearby, I knew that they would give me a chance at finding my 399th Maricoper.  Reps came in with the two local parks almost daily for awhile.  While I didn't find anything too crazy off the bat, I was stoked to find a female Hooded Warbler at Rio Vista Park and a Grasshopper Sparrow at Skunk Creek.

Things got a little exciting when I had a dark-winged tanager pop up at Skunk Creek that appeared to be a possible Scarlet Tanager.  The photos I got were bad, but were enough to warrant a high amount of curiosity.  Sadly, these photos and my brief observation couldn't be topped.  And quite a few birders looked with me after I reported the Scarlet possibility.

On September 24th, I teamed up with Mary and Caleb, and we decided to bird at the Hassayampa River Preserve and Lake Pleasant.  When we went to Hassayampa, we encountered an interesting vireo that Caleb spied.  Visually it looked like it was in the Warbling Vireo camp, but structurally, it was shaped more like a Philadelphia Vireo.  Caleb wondered if it was a very pale Philadelphia Vireo, and we all hoped that it would be.  After posting to identification groups, the consensus said Warbling Vireo.  After seeing the petite physical features Caleb pointed out of the bird (short tail and bill, especially), it was perhaps the weirdest "Warbling Vireo" ever.  I'll call it a Warbladelphia Vireo.  Like the Scarlet Tanager, these birds became teasers for me in how badly I was wanting to get to that coveted 399th bird for Maricopa County!  I thought I had something both times, to not having a conclusion-also both times...

After Hassayampa, Mary kindly took Caleb and me to Lake Pleasant, where we would look for rare waterbirds such as Jaegers via boat.  Last year, Mary worked incredible routes and found two Long-tailed Jaegers.  If memory serves me right, I gave the Jaeger of hers that I saw as my favorite bird of the year in 2019.  It was incredible.  This time, the three of us couldn't pick up a Jaeger, but we did discover a solid rarity in an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.  The gull gave us great views and when it flew north into Yavapai County from Maricopa County, it was a new Yavapai record.  We also got to see a few Sabine's Gulls.

Up next was another trip with Caleb on September 25th.  We went to Yuma County's famous vagrant trap in Dateland to start the day off, and then spent the rest of the day covering Maricopa County from Paloma Ranch and Gila Bend northward to Buckeye.  Caleb and I had four straight outings together (one with Mary) where we had found rarities in Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-green Vireo, Canada Warbler, and Lesser Black-backed Gull.  The streak ended on this day, but we did cross paths with the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher again!  The views of the bird were longer this time, and I got a few photographs I was happy with.  

Birds then started to come that I couldn't chase and really made me want to be in the field constantly.  At the end of September, Gordon, Pierre, and Jeff were birding at the Glendale Recharge Ponds.  In a short amount of time, they got to see a very rare Laughing Gull make a brief appearance in one of the basins.  The gull didn't stick around for a minute, and left as quickly as it came.  They were able to get pictures, and I saw the report come in while I was at work.  Also toward the end of September a lady from northwest Phoenix named Julie reported on one of the Arizona Facebook birding groups.  She thought she had a Goldfinch scarring away all of the other birds from her backyard feeders.  She said that it was a ruthless bully and that she was sick of it.  To the shock of the birding community, it wasn't a Goldfinch, but was a freaking Cape May Warbler!  As I said back in June on an earlier blog post, Cape May Warblers can be very territorial not only on breeding grounds, but also on feeding grounds in both migration and in winter.  In Maricopa's birding history, it only had two prior records of Cape May Warbler.  Sadly, Julie wasn't able to have visitors to her yard and the post went down just as soon as it went up.  Laughing Gull and Cape May Warbler in Copa County, all I could say was...."wow..."

 When October came around, my focus remained similar to what it had been and was centered solely on riparian areas.  At times, I'd visit the Glendale Recharge Ponds.  On October 1st, I went to Glendale after a long birding day at the Lower Salt River Recreation Area.  I was excited to document Purple Martin for myself for the first time in Maricopa County after not having photo chances at the other PUMAS I've seen in Copa.

Rare birds were discovered regularly in the county.  Scottsdale had a reliable Magnolia Warbler and Gilbert Water Ranch had a reliable Blackburnian Warbler discovered by Tyler.  A big part of me wanted to see the Blackburnian, but I decided to save money on gas and not go.  I regret it now, as I'd like to see another Blackburnian locally after my first in 2017.  While Magnolia was being seen in Scottsdale, there was a reliable Baltimore Oriole being seen in Tucson for a few days.  I wished that the two birds would switch places, as Baltimore Oriole is a bird I've seen a few times in Arizona, but not in Maricopa County.  The first half of October was a time frame that it was high on my radar, as well as Black-throated Blue Warbler if I was to guess another Maricopa lifer that had a solid chance of showing up.  I searched for these birds and others at the Salt River, the Verde River, and the Hassayampa River.  The searches for these birds were fun, and I enjoy these locations regardless of what's seen.  Plus it's great to be alive and have these awesome locations to go to.

On October 9th, I decided to try my luck at Hassayampa River Preserve.  I figured it would be a solid bet for species like Baltimore Oriole and Black-throated Blue Warbler, as well as many others.  It was awesome when I ran into Ronnie and we teamed up.  We worked most of the Preserve and carefully searched for birds. It was funny to me when Ronnie mentioned the possibility of Baltimore Oriole to me, because I had that in mind too when I came.  We ran into Steve and Joan and scanned through a big mixed flock of birds along the River Ramble Trail.  Ronnie and I had an interesting and bright Cassin's/Blue-headed Vireo that we weren't able to get the best of looks at.  It was most likely a Cassin's of course, but was certainly worth looking into more before we lost it.  I also had a warbler that struck me as a Blackpoll Warbler, but my look was brief and I lost the bird.  About a half-mile and over an hour later, Ronnie and I encountered the bird again, and luckily, it was a Blackpoll Warbler.  It was a fun bird to find, one that I've seen a few times in Maricopa.  For Ronnie, it was his life bird and it was a great co-find that we had, and fist-bumps were aplenty.

 After the Blackpoll sighting we called Eric and told him where it was.  Eric filled us in on some other rarities that had been seen at Hassayampa.  He said Chrissy had seen a Northern Parula and a possible Tennessee Warbler along the Palm Lake Trail and that he had a few Black-and-white Warblers along Mesquite Meander.  Ronnie and I went along Palm Lake and didn't find Chrissy's Parula, but we did find a cooperative American Redstart.

 It's a good thing Eric works at Hassayampa, because he is a good birder and gives the Preserve awesome coverage.  On October 10th, I couldn't believe it when Eric reported a Baltimore Oriole right from the picnic area at Hassayampa.  The oriole was feeding on palm fruits.  Ronnie and I had mentioned wanting to find one there, and then it actually happened, but Ronnie and I weren't at the Preserve when Eric found the bird.  I had my family in town, and I figured that I wouldn't be able to chase the Oriole that day.  After getting off of work, I visited with family for awhile, and then out of nowhere, a chance for me to chase the bird opened up.  I sped up to Hassayampa, and I would arrive at 3:40 to give myself a fifty minute search, which isn't a whole lot when it comes to birding.  The Baltimore Eric had was a first-year male, and I was on the lookout for it.  By the end of the 50 minutes, I stood there and searched, and at times I was joined by Chrissy.  I saw the Oriole twice and had really poor views and glimpses, ones that I didn't feel so great about.  When an Oriole did pop up in the open, I got excited and thought it was the Baltimore.  After snapping photos I realized it was a Bullock's Oriole and that it wasn't the oriole I had previously seen so briefly.  When I looked at the Baltimore, I didn't have enough time to eliminate other species, and I wasn't too fond of my observation.  My 399th bird had to be a little bit better, and I decided to come back again on October 11th..

On the 11th, I had a little over three hours to search, which was a huge upgrade from the previous day.  Right when I got there, I saw Troy and Mary and went over to join them.  Troy had just gotten there before I did and Mary had been there all day.  It wasn't long before Troy spied a bird feeding on the palms above us.  We looked up and saw that it was oriole-sized.  It then peeked it's head out, and it was the Baltimore Oriole!  "It has an orange throat", Troy said.  "It also has a brownish head that is much different in color from the orange throat", I said.  We saw it fly out of the tree and Mary, who was standing the furthest to the left out of the three of us, said, "and it was very orange underneath!".  With that observation, I felt great about the sighting but wanted photos.  Steve Hosmer emerged from the picnic area and said, "I think I photographed the Baltimore Oriole, the Oriole was in the picnic area about ten minutes ago.  Is this the Baltimore Oriole?"  Clearly it was, and Steve had gotten some good pictures.  (EDIT:  It turned out Steve photographed a Bullock's Oriole and I thought he had photographed the Baltimore when I looked through his viewfinder.  After carefully re-reviewing my observation and looking at photos of all the orioles photographed, I'm confident I got to see Eric's bird and Steve's bird was different than what we observed).  By the end of the day, the Baltimore Oriole remained elusive and none of us could refind it.  Troy, Mary, Eric, Steve Boyack, and I all looked carefully.  While we couldn't come up with the Oriole again, we did have a fun surprise with this Tennessee Warbler who popped up.  It was hard to see and predict at times, and it may have been a bird that Chrissy had thought she had a few days prior to our visit.  After I initially detected the Tennessee twice before others could get on it, the third time I detected it proved to be the charm and we all got to see it.  I loved seeing Mary get pumped about it, because it was a life bird for her.

Now that I had 399 species, I was crazy to me that I was one bird away from reaching 400 for Maricopa County.  I obsessed about it.  I even had dreams about it.  I knew that anytime I raised my binoculars could be, "that time".  And as I mentioned earlier, the "hot streak" of crazy birds could die down or my chances of lifers could be put on hold for up to months too.  Regardless, I had to get out there every chance I got.  My buddy Josh and I often talk about our adventures in birding in our home counties.  His county is Kandiyohi County, Minnesota.  Josh asked me what my prediction for what my 400th Maricoper was going to be.  It didn't take me long to say, "well, I would like for it to be Black-throated Blue Warbler".  Josh went on to say, "that's one that's high on my radar for Kandiyohi County too".  Around the time of this conversation, three to four Black-throated Blue Warblers were being seen in Arizona at once, and I knew that one had to be in Maricopa County somewhere, and gosh I wanted to find one or for someone else to find one.

I had a few dreams too, and they revolved around me finding my 400th on my own.  In one of the dreams I found a Clark's Nutcracker at the Salt River.  I celebrated and celebrated and it was a long dream that I swear was freaking real.  But then I woke up, and those first few minutes of the morning were horrible.  Maybe we'll have a Clark's Nutcracker lowland invasion this year.  Another dream I had was of me finding a White-eyed Vireo as my 400th bird.  I saw it well, but it landed in a bush in front of my face.  My voice seemed to echo in my dream, a drawn out, "that's my 400th bird in Maricopa County".  Then the vireo flew off and I was randomly surrounded by about twenty people dancing around me, and they were having their own celebration for something going on in their life while I was having my celebration.  I think they wanted me to join theirs. And then I woke up.   Seven Springs seemed like one of the better areas for a White-eyed Vireo to exist in Maricopa County (as well as a Black-throated Blue Warbler).  I gave it a shot on October 15th.  Along Seven Springs Wash I was glad to find my lifer "Sooty" Fox Sparrow, which is a rarity in Arizona.  It was my best bird of the day.

On October 16th, I explored the Lower Salt River Recreation Area, primarily at the Goldfield Recreation Site.  It is an awesome location to bird at, and I found a Magnolia Warbler!

Further into the day yielded an American Redstart.  This Greater Roadrunner was fun too!

Then there were some birds that came along that were quite the teasers when I had 400 so close.  One of them was a Short-eared Owl that Levi found at Glendale Recharge Ponds.  Short-eared Owl is freaking epic, and it is one that I've searched for many times in Maricopa County-without luck.  Levi was birding and saw the Short-eared Owl come into Glendale from the east, and it even circled one of the basins that is filled with tall grass.  It seemed as if the owl wanted to land, but a Northern Harrier that constantly harassed it probably altered that decision.  Levi's discovery was a great one, and it adds more hope that I may get Short-eared Owl in the future for Maricopa.  Another bird was that Cape May Warbler.  Three weeks after the initial discovery of the bird, it was reported through eBird as continuing from private property.  And it was still continuing.  Gosh, I wanted to see that one (still want to see that one!)!  Cape May Warbler was the last warbler I lifered on in the United States on my summer trip to the Northwoods.

I continued to put myself in position to find that 400 bird, hoping to get lucky.  After work, I would go out to bird.  On days off, I would go places where I felt would give me a decent chance at finding something.  When I went to Seven Springs and the Goldfield Site at the Salt River, those were two under-birded areas that would've been really fun to find something new at.  The Rio Salado Restoration Area in downtown Phoenix has great habitat, but it isn't the best place to bird.  Last year, a male Black-throated Blue Warbler was found in the habitats around the Audubon Center.  Besides that one location, the rest of Rio Salado holds great potential.  I caught sight of a Gray Hawk that has been sticking around the Salt River there for a long time.  I looked for rare warblers.  There was also this gangster Pelican illustration, I guess they must hide out in the thick riparian at Rio.

The time then came around for my days off of work, my "weekend" of October 22nd and 23rd.  I was planning it to be a good weekend.  Awhile back, I was made aware by Caleb and Felipe of some extensive grassland in Maricopa County that has been unknown by birders.  The grounds are in the north-central part of the county, and Felipe said they look good for a variety of uncommon to rare grassland species such as Short-eared Owl, longspurs, Sprague's Pipit, and maybe even something like a Baird's Sparrow.  I've been wanting to see it ever since I was told about it, and Felipe stated that it is very awesome.  For the 23rd, I made plans with Caleb, Felipe, and Micah to bird the grasslands.  I was pumped to bird with them, and explore this new area.  

On a non-birding note, my sister Tiffany has been pregnant and was expecting her son, Jack James, to be born in mid-November.  When the 22nd came around, I decided to try my luck at Hassayampa River Preserve for birding before the bigger exploration of the Maricopa County grasslands would take place.  I was halfway to Hassayampa when a text from Tiffany came in saying that her water broke and that JJ was going to come early in the next day or so.  It was awesome to me that I was about to become an uncle and have a nephew!  If it weren't for Covid, I would've been doing a u-turn to the hospital.  Hassayampa was fun to bird, but my focus wasn't at it's best.  Felipe, Caleb, and Micah had more days off than me, and decided to go to the Chuska Mountains in extreme northeast Arizona rather than the Maricopa grasslands.  I didn't blame them at all for wanting to go to the Chuskas, that range is epic and is one I hope to go too sometime.  As I had a lot on my mind, I didn't mind not going to the grasslands and I was wanting to do more of a low key exploration on the 23rd.  My parents were coming down to stay at my house and would arrive later on the 23rd, and I decided I'd go hiking at the Verde River for the morning.  My Mom was the only family member who would be able to visit Tiffany, my brother-in-law Josh, and JJ at the hospital.  I wanted to stay in perfect cell phone range to get the news about my newly arriving nephew.  It wasn't long into my hike at the Verde River when I heard my phone go off.  I knew what text it was, and when it came, I was climbing over a fence to access the trail.  While sitting on the fence, I looked and sure enough, Jack James "JJ" Pevey Swartz had come into our world.  I'm now an uncle to this awesome little kid, and I have a nephew.  I couldn't believe it.  This is truly epic!!!
It was hard to focus on birds.  I found two decent woodpeckers at the Verde, a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a female Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker.

After the Verde River, I decided to head home to be around for when my parents would arrive.  I had gone to the Verde River with rare warblers on the mind, especially Black-throated Blue Warbers.  A thought even crossed my mind upon leaving Verde, "I bet Gilbert Water Ranch would be a good spot for a Blue to show up".  There have been loads of eastern warblers at Gilbert Water Ranch after the Canada Warbler that even included a Blackburnian Warbler.  I had stuff to do, and I found out my parents weren't going to be coming to my place until much later in the day.  During errand runs, I forgot about birding.  I got home and had an incoming call from Mark before I got out of my truck.  "Are you going to Gilbert Water Ranch?"  

"For what" I said.

Mark said, "There's a Prothonotary Warbler there and a male Black-throated Blue Warbler right at the entrance to the 3/4 trail".  I turned my truck back out and started driving to Gilbert right the second he told me.  After obsessively having Black-throated Blue Warblers on my mind as being a possibility at many Maricopa County locations, it was awesome to be chasing one. I looked on Facebook and saw that Dara reported the warbler to the birding community after it was discovered by Paul Bard earlier in the day.  After I tuned out, I was very appreciative of Dara for her timely post and of Mark for his timely call.  I had plenty of time for the chase, thanks to them!

Gilbert Water Ranch is incredible for rarities and is one of the best birding locations in Arizona.  By taking a quick walk through the Ranch, it's obvious as to why it's an incredible birding spot.  I was pumped and the drive seemed to take much longer than the 45 minutes that it was.  When I arrived at the ranch, I ran most of the way to the 3/4 path, which is a trail that goes through basins 3 and 4.  It is probably the best trail for birding at the ranch, and the entrance gives off a great vibe for the trail.  

When I got there, I saw Cindy at the entrance to the trail where the warbler was being seen at, and as I looked just beyond Cindy, I could see the Black-throated Blue Warbler with the naked eye as I walked up.  I watched it with my binoculars first before taking pictures.  The sight of the bird was incredible, and it quickly turned into the best look I've ever had of this species.

For my 400th bird in Maricopa County, a Black-throated Blue Warbler matched that number very well and I was pumped that it was my 400th after I had called it to be and wanted it to be.  

This wasn't just any Black-throated Blue Warbler, it was the Black-throated Blue Warbler for the ages.  People referred to it as a pet.  It certainly acted like one and would constantly forage right alongside the trail, and would land on the ground only feet away from people.  Cindy is a great photographer and has photographed birds from all over the world.  I watched her get amazing shots, and at times the warbler was too close for her camera to focus.  

It was fun to celebrate this bird and enjoy it with my friends.  More so than the bird, I kept thinking about how I've become an uncle.  October 23rd will go down as an epic day in my life.  

For Jeff, it was his 400th bird in Arizona!  Mark took this picture of us celebrating the bird.

Black-throated Blue Warbler is an eastern warbler that breeds in the Appalacian Mountains to the south and extends its range northeast to Maine, northwest to northeast Minnesota, and north into stretches of southernmost Canada.  On breeding grounds it is found in shady understory of thick woodlands, and it is most often detected by the male's slow and loud songs.  In Arizona, this bird is a rare but annual fall migrant.  As I said earlier, this species had shown up in several other places in Arizona right before this one showed up in Gilbert.  This Black-throated Blue is a first-year male.  I spent a few mornings in Wisconsin over the summer trying to get good looks and photos of them, but overcast weather made it very difficult in the east.  This guy really made up for it!

Since 2009, I've birded Maricopa County a lot.  Some years obsessively, and there's been some years I haven't birded it much because I love exploring elsewhere too.  2010 was the year that I really became interested, and since then I've done everything I've been able to to see as many species in the region as possible.  Reaching 400 is something I'm very thankful for, and I hope to keep finding more birds in Maricopa in the future.  Gilbert Water Ranch has always been an awesome spot in my book.  In 2009, it was my go to spot for when I was really starting to learn birding.  I had my first chase in a Tennessee Warbler here, and found my first Arizona rarity for myself in a Wood Stork.  This location is legendary, and will always be one of my favorites.

For these last two birds, the Baltimore Oriole and Black-throated Blue Warbler: big thanks to Eric, Troy, Paul, Dara, and Mark for helping me in a big way to see the birds.
On October 23rd, I also noted two important things:
One was that I thought the day when I got 400 it would be the best thing ever, and that nothing could come close to the excitement.  Well, it turns out that the warbler couldn't come close to the fact that I'm an uncle and that I have an epic nephew that we call J.J.  
J.J. will have a sense of humor too!
Another thing I really stood out to me is how awesome the birding community is.  Maricopa County has many great birders, and the coverage the county has gotten over the last few years is incredible.  Birders are accomplishing amazing things for themselves, and it is fun to watch.  The coverage is so good that there are gonna be plenty of birders who will reach 400 species in Maricopa County in the upcoming years.  It's a county that has amazing diversity.  We keep learning new things every year.  With the knowledge that we now have, I don't think 400 is nearly as difficult to get as I originally thought it was going to be.  It's fun, and I look forward to seeing the fun continue in this epic region among a great group of people.  Without a group effort from these birders, seeing a high amount of birds would be impossible.  Thank you everyone!