The past ten days have been insane, even by Big Year standards.
I’ve criss-crossed the country in a schizophrenic fashion. Friday I was in Tulsa looking for Smith’s Longspur, when I got this text from my buddy Brian C. Johnson “Nutting’s run this weekend??”
I have spent several weeks this year birding with Brian in Arizona and Michigan. The list of birds we’ve managed to see would be the envy of many listers. We just never seem to dip when we chase something.
We have successfully twitched the following rarities this year: Tufted Flycatcher, Flame-colored Tanager, Common Crane, Slate-throated Redstart and now, Nutting’s Flycatcher. Not to mention, Kirtland’s Warbler and Montezuma Quail.
We had been planning to look for Nutting’s Flycatcher all year. I had already dipped on this bird in the California Gulch in Arizona in the spring. I really wanted this one.
Although this is a rare Code 4 bird, we knew there was a small breeding population at Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge. The last eBird report was months old but it didn’t mean they weren’t there.
We started the 3.5 hour drive from Phoenix at 4 a.m. The refuge is in a remote part of La Paz County, Arizona near the California border. The dirt road is pretty rough, there’s no cell service and it’s easy to get lost out in this desert.
Once there, it was basically a crapshoot. Walk along the dry river bed hoping to hear the Nutting’s call. This area is not frequented by many so you are basically bushwhacking your way through mesquite.
We spent several hours walking around with no luck, the Coyotes howling nearby. We ended up walking for about 3 miles before hearing the distant, diagnostic “wheep.” It took us another hour to locate the bird and get a short recording! This was not a lifer for Brian but he had never heard the bird. Trying to identify a Nutting’s Flycatcher without hearing it, is extremely difficult.
We had done it again! This was no easy tick and I have the cuts and bruises to prove it.
Nutting’s Flycatcher is #811 for 2017.
#755(752+3) in the old ABA Region.