Friday, May 23, 2014

May 23 (Day 143) - Day off to rest legs, organize logistics.

Since I had allocated two days to find the 4 birds that I ticked yesterday, and since today was very windy, I decided to give my legs a much needed day off. Apart the from Hooded oriole (#442) that appeared outside the window this morning, most of today's excitement occurred during my afternoon viewing of "My Cousin Vinny".

As of today I have seen 442 species. I have about ~17 species left to find in Southern Arizona. In my plan for the year I delineated 7 phases to this year. These were:

Northeast in winter
Florida in March
Texas Coast in April
Southeastern Arizona in May/June
Mountains in June/July/Aug
California in Sept/Oct
Lower Rio Grand Valley in December

I should be finished in Southeastern Arizona in just about a week, and then I will move into the mountains phase of the trip. Looking at the rest of my year, there are ~135 ABA code 1 and code 2 species that I could potentially find along my proposed route. I spent the day binning these species into the phase of the trip during which I was most likely (or first) to encounter them. I have included a list of 10 species for "California Pelagics" that could come into play with either a kayak, a sailboat, or extended periods of sea watching from Point Reyes or Point Pinos. Sooty Shearwater is guaranteed from shore with zero effort.

Trumpeter swan
Ring-necked pheasant
Mountain quail (CA too)
Gray partridge
White-tailed ptarmigan
Ruffed grouse
Sooty grouse (CA too)
Dusky grouse
Sharp-tailed grouse
Greater sage grouse
Gunnison sage grouse (I would need TONS of help to get this)
Ferruginous hawk
Golden eagle
Mountain plover
Flammulated owl
Great gray owl
Black swift
Vaux’s swift
Rufous hummingbird
Calliope hummingbird
Lewis’s woodpecker
Williamson’s sapsucker
Red-naped sapsucker
Red-breasted sapsucker
Three-toed woodpecker
Black-backed woodpecker
Willow flycatcher
Gray flycatcher
Gray jay
Pinyon jay
Clark’s nutcracker
Black-billed magpie
Bank swallow
Mountain chickadee
Red-breasted nuthatch
American dipper
Western bluebird
Mountain bluebird
Varied thrush
Sage thrasher
Chestnut-collared longspur
McCown’s longspur
MacGilivray’s warbler
Sagebrush sparrow
Western Meadowlark
Brewer’s blackbird
Gray-crowned rosy-finch
Brown-crowned rosy-finch
Black rosy-finch
Pine grosbeak
Cassin’s finch
Red crossbill
Pine sisken
Evening grosbeak

CALIFORNIA in SEPT/OCT- 50 species
Greater-white fronted goose
Snow goose
Ross’s goose
California quail
Pacific loon
Eared grebe
Brandt’s cormorant
Pelagic cormorant
Sooty sheawater
Black rail
Black oystercatcher
Wandering tattler
Long-billed curlew
Black turnstone
Red-necked phalarope
Heerman’s gull
Mew gull
Western gull
Yellow-footed gull
Thayer’s gull
California gull
Glaucous-winged gull
Elegant tern
Common murre
Pigeon guillemot
Marbled murrelet
Rhinocerous auklet
Spotted dove
Cassin’s vireo
Yellow-billed magpie
Nuttall’s woodpecker
White-headed woodpecker
Red-breasted sapsucker
Chestnut-backed chickadee
Oak titmouse
Pacific wren
California gnatcatcher
Pacific-slope flycatcher
Allen’s hummingbird
California thrasher
Le Conte’s thrasher
California towhee
Hermit warbler
Golden-crowned sparrow
Bell’s sparrow
Tricolored blackbird
Lawrence’s goldfinch
Purple finch

CA PELAGICS - 11 species
Black-footed albatross
Northern fulmar
Buller’s shearwater
Pink-footed shearwater
Black-vented shearwater
Ashy storm-petrel
Black storm-petrel
Red phalarope
Sabine’s gull
Pomarine jaeger
Cassin's auklet

Least grebe
Plain chachalaca
White-tailed hawk
Whooping crane
Red-billed pigeon
White-tipped dove
Groove-billed ani
Common paraque
Buff-bellied hummingbird
Green kingfisher
Red-crowned parrot
Green parakeet
Sprague's pipit
Green jay
Great kiskadeee
Tropical kingbird
Couch’s kingbird
Long-billed thrasher
Olive sparrow
Altamira oriole
Audubon’s oriole

Looking at these bins, what I have concluded is that I am going to need less time than I thought in both California and Texas and more time in the mountains. The mountain species are going to be more spread out, harder to find, and more difficult to access because of very high elevations than species in the other two areas. The riding is going to be very difficult, but it should be incredibly beautiful as a consolation. I am going to have to do lots more hiking into the woods, and this is time consuming and a logistical headache. Woodland birding is a headache since I have to walk (often very far) away from the bike. Most people wouldn't leave their child unattended while they went on a 9-hour hike. This is sort of how I feel about my bike this year.

Many of these mountain species are going to be very tough to find:  Flammulated owl, Black swift, Rosy finches, all the grouse/partridges, Mountain plover etc. I have not even listed birds like Boreal owl as I believe it will not be to possible to find this bird unless someone has a nest in his/her yard. I have no idea how to go about finding many of these species as I have done little to no birding in WY, IA, and OR.  I have spent much time staring at these mountain species in eBird, but any additional help would be greatly appreciated. Right now I am thinking of something like this for a potential route. I am sure that this will be heavily modified as I go along.

I hope this gives everyone an idea of what the next few weeks and months will look like. I am always looking for birding help and lodging along this route, so if you want to become part off the adventure, please send me an email at!

Rockin my new roadrunner hat!


  1. First, I wanted to suggest Hook-billed Kite to add to the South Texas list. Mainly though, I suggest you look closely at the route through Colorado, as both I-25 (CO Springs to Denver) and I-70 (West of Denver) are not, I would say, bike (or bird) friendly. Instead, maybe US-285 for much of the traverse to Denver from the central part of the state.

    1. Yeah, I have yet to look at exact roads, but I will say that I have enjoyed the interstates as they are normally in better shape that local roads. I felt incredibly safe on I-10 through TX/NM since the shoulder was so wide. Some states let you ride on the interstate, others not so much.

      HBK is possibility and would surely be nice, but its a code 3 bird I've missed in TX several times in the past. Will look for it if its around, but I must get the easier birds first.

  2. Consider getting Tropical Kingbird out of the way now in Arizona, and consider adding Gunnison's Sage-grouse and prairie Chickens to your possible Colorado hit list. Grassland gallinaceous birds will be tough this time of year but with the right connections might be findable...

    As almost every species on your "mountain" list is findable in Colorado and northern Utah, I view the northbound jaunt through WY, ID, OR as a potential waste of time and mileage and encourage taking a Nevada route. This would free up considerable time to chase down high plains species and mountain birds in Colorado, Utah, and the Sierra Nevadas. Even if you had to carry more camping gear/water and take it slower it could still save a ton of time. It would also shoot you out right in the Sierra Nevadas/Central Valley, which you would need to pedal back inland for anyway at a later time.

    1. Hi

      I will try to get the Kingbird in AZ 3 days from now, but if I miss it I should be able to get it in TX.

      I will hopefully be going right through Gunnison, so I will try for this bird. I just don't expect to get it without tons of help.

      The problem is that I do not think I can do that ride through Nevada without a support vehicle. It would be 5 days of 100 miles a day in 90F with few places (if any) for water and food. I do not have camping stuff either. If I go up and over Nevada, then I do not need to go to the Sierras. It depends on how the bird finding goes. Things like Trumpeter swan will require going a bit further north.

    2. If you could do west Texas (or would consider biking through Wyoming!) without a support vehicle, I don't see why Nevada would be much different. Wendover, Wells, Elko, Carlin, Battle Mountain, Winnemucca, and Lovelock all have civilization. Most are separated by about 50 miles, with the maximum (Winnemucca to Lovelock) being about 70 on mostly flat terrain. I'm not sure where the 5 days * 100 miles/day figure is coming from.

      Since Nevada is mostly federal land (unlike TX), you could also camp almost anywhere you need to, potentially breaking it up into more segments if desired. If you sleep at the right elevation, a tarp and blanket would suffice for camping gear this time of year. Adding some extra water carrying capacity would probably be the main adjustment if you needed to do a couple nights of camping.

      Regardless of route, Yellowstone is way up there and might not be worth it. TRUS can be found along the I-80 route near Rock Springs, WY at Seedskadee NWR...

  3. add Sprague's Pipit to the LRGV hit-list

  4. Hey Dorian,

    I'm in SE Wyoming (Laramie to be exact) and would be happy to help you find birds in the state. I agree with the commenter that the interstates in Colorado and Wyoming might not be a wise choice, but I could suggest an alternate route. Although cutting out Wyoming might make things easier, it's going to be really tough to find Mountain Plover, Great Gray Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, and others south of the state. I just sent you an email with more details, so check your inbox for that. Best of luck, and keep up the awesome work. You're an inspiration to us all!

    Don J.