Thursday, January 1, 2009

Traditional January First Big Day

Well, as it should be with every birder, Dan Casey and I birded at Big Day pace, trying to get as big of a head start as we could on our new year lists. We are not really big listers, but it is always fun to see what birds Dan has seen, over the course of the year, that I haven't and what ones I have seen that Dan hasen't. Listing isn't our main goal, but it is a good way to add a bit of fun, adn competativeness to our year.

My first bird of the new year was a MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE. I saw it at my feeders just as I was leavng to go meet up with Dan in Kalispell, along with a House Finch, which was my second bird of the year.

Meeting Dan, we headed to see what was around in Kalispell, and Evergreen. We picked up some gooD birds, inluding all three nuthatches (Red-breasted, Pygmy, White-breasted), Great Blue Heron, Blue Jay(still quite uncommon in this part of MT), Sharp-shinned Hawk, and WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL. This year is a truely AMAZING year for White-winged Crossbills. They are literally EVERYWHERE!! Every clump of spruce trees has at least a group of 3 WW Crossbills. We actually didn't see any Red Crossbills, which is prassumably the more common species. I only HEARD a couple of them, never saw., but the ABA rules are that you can count heard birds, so there is another tick off the list. From there, we headed for the dump, which from earlier posts, you may very well know has had some amazing gulls seen there. By now, it is snowing HARD. When we showed up, there only about a dozen birds, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. We met Chris Peterson from the Hungry Horse News, and wait to see if more gulls would file in. They did. With the new gulls was the latest rarity Pete Smith and I found back on the 7th of December of '08. THE ICELAND GULL!! What a great bird for January 1st!! Lucky, the weather wasn't 100% horrible, and I did manage to get a few good shots.

That was a great bird. Also at the dump, or Gullery, was a couple of first winter Glaucous Gulls, and a Thayer's Gull (both, 1st winter and adult)

After picking up a gynormous burrido, and a few more year birds, we stopped by Dan's house to check on his feeders, and the birds visiting them. I did pick up Song Sparrow as a new Year Bird, and a few shots of a Mountain Chickadee and Song Sparrow. My gandpa always says with birds, often you need to us manual focus, but it is horrible, because you can't get it sharp. I tend to disagree to a point. It is hard to focus on a small sparrow hoping threw the brush, but when you do, you can get some good shots. I had to us manual focus on the Song Sparrow, and of what you can see of the bird, it is nice and sharp...

After the breif stop at Dan's house, we buzzed off to the "Lower Valley", a section of Flathead valley that is riddled with little marshes and presereved prairie. Hope doesn't work on Snow Buntings, at least in my life, so far. We missed them, but made up for it later with a Merlin, and a Pileated Woodpecker in Evergreen.
All in all it was a gooD day. I now have 53 birds offically on my 2009 year list. I have started a Photography Year List competition with a friend of mine from the Young Birders Conference, and I am at 19 on that list. I wish I had heard about it before I went out birding today, I could have a bunch more!
GooD Luck Birding

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