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Steve Howell finishes up his 2020 Bigfoot Year

January 11: Steve Howell finishes up his 2020 Bigfoot Year

Steve Howell concludes the saga of his COVID-enforced 2020 Bigfoot Year in his California home town (see previous FTH posts) with a summary of December, one of the highlights of which was this Christmas dawn, accurately foretelling some much needed rain. 


As any birder knows, diminishing returns is a rule of birding, and after many, many days afield in town I didn’t find a single new species in December for my Bigfoot Year. But it’s always nice to watch the regular local birds, including this dark Merlin in the neighborhood.


And the wintering young Ferruginous Hawk, which finally flew over my yard.


Bird of the year in town, however, was found by a friend on December 7th, and I was called in to help with the ID. Common Poorwill is the only “likely” nightjar here at any season, but this bird was mooted as perhaps a whip-poor-will. Imagine my surprise on seeing it—what the Chuck?! 


After sleeping in the sun, this one-day-wonder immature Chuck-will’s-widow yawned at dusk, preened its breast a little, and flew off, never to be seen again. Only the fourth California record, and two of the others were also in December–January, hinting at an interesting, but as-yet-unexplained, pattern.


One more oddball at the year’s end was this handsome male hybrid wigeon, a “new bird” for the walking year, even though I’d seen both parent species. So, the Bigfoot Year ended at 230 species, plus one hybrid, plus one species not found myself. 


This sunlit Merlin on January 1st was a nice way to ring in the New Year, and let’s hope 2021 allows a little more travel. Wishing a Happy New Year to all WINGS participants, and I hope to see some of you in the field later this year? And now we sit back and wait... 

Posted: January 11, 2021