127153aHave you started a bird list for 2014? Last week I wrote about keeping a record of the birds you observe in the new year, noting the species name, the date observed, where you saw it, and any other field notes.

New Year’s Day found me getting out of bed at a ridiculously early hour on a day that I could have slept in since the store was closed. But no, there were birds to be seen! Actually, one bird in particular. A species that I have wanted to add to my life list for some 40 years now, but it has managed to elude me.

Ever since November, I have known about a rufous-backed robin that has been observed regularly at the Cameron Trading Post in Cameron, Arizona. I have been wanting to drive up there to look for the bird, but the timing just hasn’t worked out because of everything going on at the store.

So here was my chance, a day off. I left the house at 6 a.m. It was early, it was cold, it was pitch dark – but I was excited to be on a birding adventure. Can you guess what my first species of the new year was? Driving east on I-40, the first birds that I saw were common ravens. Not a big surprise that this would be my first entry in my 2014 bird list.

I arrived at Cameron just after 8:30 a.m., and it was a beautiful sunny, clear day – but it was absolutely silent. I walked around the courtyard where the robin has been seen and I couldn’t rustle up a single bird. I was beginning to wonder whether I was going to find the rufous-backed robin or not.

Finally, I started seeing some American robins, which encouraged me, and then I heard a very distinctive, high-pitched call note that I did not recognize. When I am out in the field birding, I rely on my sense of hearing to find and to identify birds. I can usually identify birds by their call notes and their songs without even seeing the birds making the sound.

As soon as I heard this bird call that I didn’t recognize, I knew I was destined to find the rufous-backed robin – and I did! It ended up being a very cooperative bird. I got great looks at it for long periods of time and took a dozen or more pictures of it. What a great way to start the new year – a life bird on January 1st!

As I made my way back to Prescott, I made frequent birding stops, adding over forty species to my 2014 list. At Old Walnut Canyon ponds in Flagstaff, I added Townsend’s Solitare, Pygmy Nuthatch, Steller’s Jay and Bald Eagle.

I also stopped in the Sullivan Lake area east of Paulden, where I added mountain bluebirds, black phoebe, chipping sparrow and a greater roadrunner.

Want help compiling your bird list? This Saturday, Jan. 11, the Natural History Institute is hosting its first community field outing – a birding exploration to find and identify the wide assortment of raptors that winter in the grasslands of Chino Valley. Van transportation will be provided, so there is a fee of $15. Call 350-2280 to sign up. Also, check out the Jay’s Bird Barn website for free bird walks offered in the Prescott area every week.

And finally, we are back in our “new” old location! The store is really taking shape, and it looks beautiful. I look forward to hearing your birding stories throughout the new year.

Until next week, Happy Birding!