January 19, 2007

Big sky

24 mallard
25 American magpie *
26 house finch
27 common raven *
28 Bohemian waxwing *
29 hairy woodpecker
30 Clark's nutcracker *
31 mountain chickadee *
32 common goldeneye
33 ring-necked pheasant *
34 sharp-tailed grouse *
* not generally seen in Missouri
(total on this date in 2006: 25)

JAN. 6-12, BOZEMAN, MONTANA—A week visiting family in Montana gives me a chance for some Rocky Mountain species. I come up with fewer non-Midwesterners than I'd like. I hoped for more pine-tree birds: siskins, finches, redpolls, jays. But I'll be back in the summer, and this helps me get off to a faster 2007 start.

After falling short of 300 last year, I have a better idea of how my numbers need to add up through the seasons. My benchmarks include 60 species in January (compared to 41 last year) and well over a hundred by the end of spring migration. At some point a southern U.S. trip will be essential, though it doesn't count when on my return to Missouri I unexpectedly find myself looking for desert birds along a line of palo verde trees in Arizona.

Unfortunately I'm not in the great desert outdoors, but walking through the Phoenix airport checking out the landscaping through the glass. An ice storm in Missouri stranded me overnight in Salt Lake City, where luckily I have friends to stay with. We play Scrabble until 1 am and I resume my trip way too early the next morning via Phoenix.

As it turns out, I'm lucky to make it back home only a day late. From Phoenix we land on a slick Kansas City runway, de-ice, then shuttle to equally slick Columbia, where on arrival I discover my car sheathed in a quarter inch of ice that can only be removed by heating the car interior and hacking down to the layer of meltwater.


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