Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bird of the Year, 2013

It's a couple hours past sundown on New Year's Eve, so I think it's safe to say I won't be seeing any more birds this year. This raises the question of what the best bird of the year was. I don't have a clear winner this year. It was undoubtedly the Black-backed Woodpecker last year. There were so many good birds this year, but nothing with as compelling of a backstory as last year's woodpecker. But I have to pick one, so...

There are three things that consistently raise my birding passion to it's highest level: visiting new places, seeing birds with unique habitat and niches displaying typical behavior, and woodpeckers. Those three converged with several birds this year, but the one that comes to mind first is the Acorn Woodpecker. Yes, that'll be two years in a row for the Picids. (If I get that White-headed Woodpecker next summer, it might be three.)

View of the Santa Catalina Mountains on the way up Mt. Lemmon. My lifer Acorn Woodpecker crossed my path around the next bend.

Making my first-ever trip to southeast Arizona, one of the first lifers I encountered was an Acorn Woodpecker flying across the road in front of our car on the way up Mt. Lemmon. It was a good bird, but didn't linger for the kind of lengthy view I wanted.
Acorn Woodpecker guarding a cavity that appeared to belong to a pair of Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers.
Two days later, we were rewarded with a pair of Acorn Woodpeckers in Madera Canyon, fighting with a pair of Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers over a cavity. Both the flycatchers and the woodpeckers were entering and exiting the same hole.  

Cave Creek Canyon - with a view like this, every bird is a great bird.

The day after that, I went to Cave Creek Canyon and got to see an Acorn Woodpecker retrieve a stashed acorn and feed it to a juvenile. In hindsight, that interaction sealed the deal. Those two Acorn Woodpeckers on a dead snag along the creek in Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains, are the birds of the year. 

And I managed to get a photo of my bird of the year this year!

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