Birding with a Big Year Birder

Yesterday I received a text from someone I know locally asking me if I was interested in taking some visiting birders out to go for the Rustic Bunting. I didn’t have any particular plans, so figured I could do that, and said it was fine to pass my contact information on.

Nicole Koeltzow arrived with her friend Amanda on the 11am flight. They had been in Nome the day before, and I believe overnighted in Anchorage before flying to Sitka this morning. Nicole is working on a 2018 ABA big year (today’s Rustic Bunting mad 772 in the traditional ABA area) and, while Amanda isn’t doing a big year, she has over 800 species lifetime in the ABA (which is a lot). They flew to Nome for McKay’s Bunting and stopped in Sitka on their way south again.

I picked them up from the airport and we headed over to Parker’s (who I had been in touch with to let them know we would be stopping by), and used the car as a blind to watch for the bunting.

I think we waited and visited for 20-30 minutes before it showed up. Perhaps unsettled by our presence, it disappeared again, and though we had seen it, there was not really a chance for decent photos (which Nicole was hoping for).

We waited another half an hour or so before it came back again, and this time photos were taken, and Nicole and Amanda were able to celebrate a life bird for each of them.

After visiting with the Parkers for a short time, there was still some daylight left, and I asked them if there was anything in particular they were interested in seeing. There were a handful of species that were possible to find which they would be additions to their Alaska state lists, so we spent some time going around Totem Park (where I think they got one or two new state birds, and I saw a Hooded Merganser which Connor had found earlier in the day – my first for this year). They spent the last of daylight looking around downtown in case the Dusky Thrush had returned and so far gone unnoticed, but didn’t find anything unusual.

Amanda was on the evening flight, but Nicole wasn’t able to get on it, and agreed to record a conversation with me for an upcoming radio show before heading to where she was spending the night.

During a break in our recording, it was interesting to see Nicole using the internet on her phone to try and figure out the logistics of getting from Sitka to interior BC to look for a Fieldfare which had been found during a Christmas Bird Count this weekend.

I enjoyed getting a chance to go birding with Nicole and Amanda during their short trip here – I don’t expect I’ll ever get into birding at that level, but it was interesting to hear about their experiences and witness their enthusiasm for birds.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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