Loveland Reporter-Herald

7 birds added to a life list of decades


On the days leading up to the trip and through the hours flying to Mcallen, Texas, one question kept tickling my imaginatio­n: what would be bird number 500?

I began noticing birds when I was three years old. I began watching birds when I was 5 years old.

I began learning about birds when I was 11 years old. I began looking for birds when I was 17 years old. But I didn’t start listing birds until I was 20 years old.

Life-listing is the record-keeping tally that accompanie­s the recreation­al pursuit of finding and identifyin­g live birds in the wild.

When a person finds and identifies a species of bird for the first time, that species becomes a life bird and is tallied on that person’s life-list.

Many enthusiast­ic birders take life-listing so seriously that they travel extensivel­y to find birds. For many of them achieving 500 life birds happens within a few years.

For me, it’s been a few decades!

Visiting Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in far southern Texas and right on the Rio Grande offered me a chance to achieve that 500 life bird mark.

Finally. If the birds cooperated.

When I landed at the Mcallen airport, I had 492 birds on my life-list.

We got our rental car and were headed to find and settle into our Air B&B place when we passed a golf course where I found one. MUSCOVY DUCK >>

493. Up early the next day, we headed to Santa Ana. We got our entrance permit at the visitor center and walked into the refuge. We were barely a hundred yards in when a large bird swooped across the trail in front of us. GRAY HAWK >>


A very large orange bird with black markings soon become repetitive­ly obvious. ALTAMIRA ORIOLE >>

495. After lunch we visited Bentsen-rio Grande Valley State Park and paused at a birdfeedin­g station. One new bird whisked by affording little more than a half second look, not very gratifying. Another new bird fed on the ground in plain sight. PLAIN CHACHALACA >>



Park rangers advised me not to worry; the chachalaca­s would find me. Sure enough, the next morning we arrived at Bentsen about the time park staff were filling the birdfeeder­s outside the visitor center. Two dozen chachalaca­s energetica­lly worked the feeders, and we saw them regularly every day after that. A few even followed us on the trail! At the feeders with the chachalaca­s was another new bird. CLAY-COLORED ROBIN >>


That afternoon, we went back to Santa Ana and walked the nearly two miles around Pintail Lakes then to the hawk-watch tower and a side trail back to the visitor center. We had just turned the bend at Pintail Lake when a large bird fully half again larger than our familiar belted kingfisher swooped across the lake and landed in full sight. RINGED KINGFISHER >>

499. The day was ending and while we stopped to rest out of the 80-degree heat, that niggling question tormented me once more: what would be bird 500?

That will be revealed next week!

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