Sunday, September 4, 2016

Two Recent Life Birds

I usually post stuff much sooner on this Blog when I obtain a life bird, but for these next two bird species, I am finally getting around to it.

The first one occurred on August 13th, 2016, when I was birding in the Cascades with Walker and Khanh on our Boreal Owl trip.  Outside of the Boreal Owl, the chance for other lifers was very high.  We had Harlequin Duck as a possibility for me, as well as three gamebirds:  Spruce Grouse, Sooty Grouse, and White-tailed Ptarmigan.  A trip to the nearby coast would also result in several alcid species.  We never got to the coast, we never looked for Ducks, and we didn't find any of the game birds despite looking for all three of them.  But this small Chestnut-backed Chickadee I did get.  The Chestnut-backed Chickadee ranges along coastal states from Alaska south to California.  It prefers dense coniferous forests as it's habitat.  While Khanh, Walker, and I were driving on a remote back road in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, we encountered a family group of these neat-looking chickadees.

The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is a very small bird, one of the smallest chickadees in North America.

Understandably so, many folks refer to the Chestnut-backed Chickadee as the best-looking of the North American Chickadees.  While this one is more dull than some, looking at pictures of crisp adult birds shows a striking chickadee.  I would say that I have to agree with that consensus.

The other lifer was an "armchair" lifer, which is also pretty fun.  An armchair lifer is when the AOU gets together and splits one species into two or more species.  Sometimes they lump a two or three species into one species, which really sucks.  But this time, they gave us a long awaited split when they split Western Scrub-Jay into two:  the Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay and the California Scrub-Jay.  As I have many locations nearby and throughout Arizona where I commonly see Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, I have also seen the California Scrub-Jay a few times in California when I took my two trips to San Diego, one in 2014 and the other in 2015.  This split is one everyone figured would happen, and when it was done, the birding community loved the split.  These two Jays differ by looks, size, voice, and most importantly, ranges that don't overlap.  Since the split, one lucky birder in Yuma even found an Arizona first California Scrub-Jay in their yard!  While I have snapped off a few photographs of California Scrub-Jay when I was near San Diego, here is my best one.

My life list now numbers 528 species (All in ABA area, Lower 48), which the most recent three being California Scrub-Jay (first seen in 2014), Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and the epic Boreal Owl.

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