Persistent and/or Stupid – in pursuit of three LIFERS!

Spring break afforded me the opportunity to go west. Visiting friends with Nina in San Diego was the primary goal but unfortunately I was struck hard with a nasty chest cough at the end of the weekend stay. Rather than catch a plane home with Nina Monday morning, I stubbornly stuck to my pre-determined plan to chase three “lifers”. The Gray Vireo reported that week by e-bird (only 75 miles east of SD) proved to be an easy spot. The mile long hike at sunrise at an altitude of several thousand feet did not help my developing pneumonia…..and my camera fell ill, as well. NO PHOTO.

The smart move would have been to have seen a doctor in Philadelphia by now. But no, I had a round-trip boat ticket to Santa Cruz Island in The Channel Islands National Park and I was NOT going to miss my opportunity to see the Island Scrub-Jay in the ONLY place in the world it resides. It is related to all jays but it is its own unique species that never leaves the island! Another strenuous hike led me to five (5) of the 12,500 members of this species that call Santa Cruz Island home.

Island Scrub-Jay (Santa Cruz Island, California)

Of course, I should definitely have been en route to ANY doctor by now. But no, the CODE 5 Tufted Flycatcher was a major rarity that was going to be relatively simple to find….once I boarded a flight to Tucson and drove 100 miles. My persistence was rewarded but admittedly, I really did not enjoy the experience. I just wanted to catch up on sleep that pneumonia’s persistent cough prevented.

Tufted Flycatcher (Cochise, Arizona)

It has been almost two weeks since this adventure and I am finally feeling well enough to document what was a remarkably successful 72 hours of birding. Birding-wise I am very proud of closing in on another milestone (723 ABA lifetime species) but I am also a bit embarrassed by the health risk I took in the name of chasing birds.

There will be more stories but I promise to listen to my body (as all of you should) and make the correct decision next time.

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Persistent and/or Stupid – in pursuit of three LIFERS!

  1. Dorothy Weisbord says:

    can’t believe this adventure with the big P…..glad you got the birds however. M and I would like you to have morning walk with us at Beaumont. On your time. D

  2. Oleary, Michael (M.H.) says:

    Dang George great birds! I’m hoping I have one on you. I returned last week on a trip from Anchorage and got the Hawfinch.. awesome bird. We were literally leaving and I took one last look outside and there it was. Take care Mike

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. michael bradley says:

    I am inspired by your dogged determination.

    MJB ’79

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. JD -Comcast says:


    You did the right thing!!

    The Tufted Flycatcher is really cool – never heard of it.

    Any idea what the official – or unofficial – North American record life list is?

    You must be close.



    • I had never heard of the Tufted Flycatcher either. It is a Mexican bird, looks like a cinnamon Tufted Titmouse. Only 2nd or 3rd time reported in USA. As far as numbers go….there aren’t too many living people with ABA (USA and Canada) life lists over 700. Certainly not too many that are under 60 yrs old (5 more months for me). Maybe 1,000 (20/state x 50 states?). 750 is really my next goal. I did meet two California guys last year who had day-tripped to the Fla Keys (for the Zenaida Dove and Black-faced Grassquit that I showed them!) who have 800+. They weren’t great ambassadors of the sport (unfriendly a**holes, in fact). Seems incredible to me but knowing they spend six figures/yr chasing birds, including spending a ton of time in Alaska, I suppose I begin to visualize that number.

  5. Well done! Biggest struggle is always the internal one!

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

  6. says:

    Awesome! I hope you are all better George.

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. Thanks Mike, I hope all is well with you!

  8. Joe Knowles says:

    Impressive, George! Especially knowing how under the weather you were as you were leaving SD. You got your birds!

  9. Jeff Day says:

    Way to go, George! 100% health and many more birds are my wishes for you!

  10. Tom Mason says:

    George, glad to hear you’re better. Great effort by you!!!

  11. Steve Stuart AOL says:

    You are a little nuts George, but that’s why we love you. Keep it going.


    Sent from my iPhone


  12. burkebiz says:

    Awesome. Hope you’re feeling better. I hate doctors too. While in the Wicklow Mtns., discovered from another birder that in Glendolough(home of St. Kevin) there are no larks ever seen in that valley even though they are plentiful on either side of the surrounding mtns. There is a legend behind it, as in almost all Irish pronouncements…!

    Sent from my iPhone – please excuse any typos.


  13. Jim Buck says:

    Congratulations, you crazy birder, you! (Yes, this log just about confirms it. Glad you’re self aware enough to see you cannot do that again.) Your photo of the jay was a beauty!

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