21 March 2010

sharing the nemesis

Black Rail has been a nemesis for me since about 1999 when I didn't know what I was doing and saw one very tiny black bird scuttle from one marsh patch to another near Galveston's East Beach. Hindsight is haunting.

Matt and I have put up a poll in our sidebar for those of you wishing to guess at our next shared life bird - this exposes some of the odd gaps in our lists and makes us laugh at our own peculiar fortunes. We narrowed the species selected to migrants. We both need Gray Jay, for example, but won't likely get it until we go to their habitat. Likewise, Kirtland's Warbler would be a shared life bird but the odds of seeing it in migration are laughable. (Our current shared life bird list is here.)

As boring as a few nemesis critters are, we console ourselves with the first observation of a singing male Western Spindalis for North America. And veg carry. And a female nearby. With a nest. And another female in the vicinity. With birding karma like that, it's no wonder we dipped on so much other stuff last year!

But when you consider that I grew up in Houston and Yellow Warbler (supposedly the most abundant warbler in the US) was one of my last warblers... well, things are strange. Yellow Rail before Sora! Attwater's Prairie Chicken before Scaled Quail, Montezuma Quail before California Quail.

And Matt will gently mention Bluethroat in the lower 48 before Sprague's Pipit. Also Red-throated Pipit before Sprague's. Hmmm.

Of note, our last visit to Salineno coincided with the visit of a middle-aged Winter Texan who had just seen her life American Kestrel. That made me wonder...

Regardless, fling some guesses at us. Heck, fling your own nemesis or next-life-bird guesses at us. Don't be embarrassed, we feel a bit exposed as well.

Happy migration!


  1. I wish you guys could go to the Yoop with me this summer. I could get you Gray Jay, Kirtland's Warbler and probably a few other goodies. I have several fairly embarrassing nemesis birds at this point. Hook-billed Kite isn't that embarrassing, but it is getting pretty aggravating at this point, I have spent so many hours hoofing around Santa Ana and various LRGV refuge tracts to no avail. Williamson's Sapsucker might be the worst, I don't know how I have missed that bird so many times. Seaside Sparrow is another one that I have tried for at multiple locations without even a call note.

  2. I bet we could go - but you might not get rid of us until the first snowfall! Western Bluebird was something that avoided me for 2 solid months of CA birding and I finally only got it in 2006... in AZ. Franklin's Gull avoided me (having checked every Laugher near Galveston Bay) until last year =X I'd offer my best Seaside/Nelson's ST spot, but it got pretty Iked.

  3. my dad and i went up to to the yoop last summer and picked up connecticut & kirtland's warblers. also got our nemesis bird: black-backed woodpecker. i'm not sure how many states we've looked for it in without any luck, my dad would know for sure. i know at least maine, wyoming, montana - and we tried really hard in montana. also picked up spruce grouse. excellent trip mostly thanks to skye haas - great guy.

    i don't know if you'd call them nemesis birds but we're horrible on owls. don't even have northern saw-whet owl, lol. also missing boreal, hawk-owl & flammulated owl. we have great gray though! believe it or not we finally got our lifer western screech-owl three years ago in arizona, haha. black rail was one that took us a long time, too. we had a wonderful experience on the sargent tract of san bernard NWR with jennifer wilson a few years ago - she caught one with her bare hands, and a yellow rail.

    my vote is for hudsonian godwit. i had about a dozen of them last spring on the katy prairie. 1 at paul rushing park and the others way down longenbaugh. it was after one of those big storms and everything was flooded.

  4. Oh gosh, don't start me on hudsonian godwit! That's a long-term nemesis for me, plus seaside sparrow (part laziness to blame), little gull, kentucky warbler, and for the number of times I've visited SE AZ, zone-tailed hawk. Until Feb, my #1 nemesis was Least Bittern which I had heard any number of times but never seen. It had been a "goal bird" of mine since 2000 before I saw it this year. As for you guys? I have no guesses, just best wishes that you get it!

  5. Bryan, the owl thing must be a common thread - without professional help I'd still need Western and Whiskered. I've seen whitewash from a Great Gray and a pellet from Spotted... but otherwise my owls are very basic: Long-eared and Northern Hawk Owl were both freak accidents.

    Morgan, I'm glad we're not the only Hudwit-less birders! My first Kentucky Warb was window-killed in IL, took until '06 to see it during fall migration. Where did you get Least Bittern? I've failed thus far as a spouse in finding one for Matt =X