Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Introduction to Walker's Wings

Hello everyone!  My name is Walker Noe, and I am a 19-year-old birder in Phoenix, AZ.  Here is a blog of my various photographic and birding adventures!  I keep extensive lists of the birds I see, and I am obsessive about the quality of my photos.  I am also absolutely obsessed with hummingbirds.  I aspire to be a professional photographer someday.  For my first post, I will try to give some of my past birding highlights, as well as some photos to accompany them.  This post will be very long, but it summarizes my first two years of birding, and I hope it will be worth the read!  All photos on my blog are mine.

My lifelist is currently 431 birds.

I started birding in May 2013, so I am fairly new at it.  I know some of you know the various birdcalls, and could identify them in your sleep.  I make no such claim, and my birding acuity is founded on my rather sharp eyes and $65 Nikon Aculon binoculars.  The bird that got me started was the Verdin.  Finding such a small and active bird in my own backyard made me wonder what else I could be missing.

I was ecstatic when I nabbed this questionable-quality Verdin shot.  No crushes here!

I quickly became a fanatical birder.  My list grew at a decent pace, and I continued to learn.  My first birding trip was to the Gilbert Riparian Preserve, where I netted 20 lifers.  Caspian Tern was a good bird, and I got it before Rock Pigeon!

Rosy-faced Lovebird!

In early August 2013, I went up to Prescott, AZ, and experienced a truly epic hummingbird scene.  50+ Rufous, 30 Black-chinned, and dozens of Anna's and Broad-tailed swarmed around feeders at Lynx Lake.

These were my first real bird crushes.

My first "big" birding trip was in late August 2013 to Madera Canyon, where I luckily achieved such birds as Lucifer Hummingbird and Violet-crowned Hummingbird.  I still kick myself for opting for Madera over the Blue-footed Booby.  The Lucifer Hummingbird was a nice consolation prize though.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird!

Then I realized why they call these guys Magnificent!

My 100th lifer came in Maine, and it was a Common Eider.  Nice bird, and I was pretty excited.  I knew I could do better, though, and a lifetime hobby had begun.

In November 2013, I went with my family on a Caribbean cruise.  My bird senses were tingling!  I was beyond excited.  I picked up 43 lifers in a week, and some highlights were Cozumel Emerald, Yellow-throated Warbler, Shiny Cowbird, Smooth-billed Ani, American Flamingo, Bananaquit, Saffron Finch, Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby, Masked Booby, Red-billed Tropicbird, and the amazing Ruby-topaz Hummingbird.

Ruby-topaz Hummingbird!  Look at that smug little punk, man oh man.

Cozumel Emerald! Endemic to the Mexican island of Cozumel.

Masked Booby!

My lifelist was 150 after this epic trip.

I had an experience that really solidified my interest in birding in late December 2013.  I was hiking a mountain preserve behind my house, a place that has become my patch, and I found a beautiful male American Kestrel feeding on what appeared to be a lizard.  I crept as close as I could and fired off some nervous shots.

This experience was truly thrilling, and as a fairly novice birder made me incredibly happy.  I have never had a chance with a Kestrel like that first one.

At the start of 2014, I wanted to BIRD HARD.  I increased my local birding, and got some more lifers that most of you probably see at least twice a month.

My next highlight was a trip to Cottonwood Arizona in May 2014.  I picked up some Tanagers, and got unbelievable Green Heron crushes (Man, I'm humble).

Flagstaff in summer netted some nice birds like Mountain Chickadees, Lewis's Woodpeckers, and Canyon Wren.  My 200th bird was a Pinyon Jay.  Those birds are smart, wow.

In September 2014, I was able to go on another cruise to the Caribbean, this time for two weeks.  It wasn't a "birding" trip, but managed 79 lifers on that trip, about 130 species, and the highlights were American Pygmy Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher, Antillean-crested Hummingbird, Bahama Woodstar, Green-throated Carib, Cozumel Emerald, Canivet's Emerald, King Vulture, Red-capped Manakin, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Jabiru, Social Flycatcher, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Vireo, Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Vireo, White-crowned Pigeon, Red-legged Thrush, Roseate Tern, Scaly-breasted and Pearly-eyed Thrashers, Rufous-tailed and Cinnamon Hummingbirds, Northern Jacana, and many others.

Smooth-billed Ani

Gray Kingbird

Canivet's Emerald

Little Blue Heron

Without a doubt, the number one highlight was a Black-headed Trogon deep in the jungle of Belize.  Without  the assistance of a guide (I don't use guides), my younger and also adept brother discovered this incredibly handsome fellow.

I think I nearly cried at the sight of this bird.  Not visible here is his quite-unfairly bright yellow belly.

Here you can get an idea of the type of habitat he favored.

In Florida, before our return flight, I picked up a nice Purple Gallinule lifer crush.

In October 2014, my family headed up to Idaho to scope out a potential family move (spoiler, we're moving in August).

I picked up my 300th bird,  a Clark's Nutcracker, up in unseasonably-warm Idaho.  I also fell in love with Evening Grosbeaks on that trip.  Spruce Grouse was another highlight.  16 lifers in a week in ID.

With that, the highlights of 2014 ended.

I started 2015 wanting to beat my previous year's species count of 280.  A January 2nd outing to the Gilbert Water Ranch put me off to a good start, with 96 species.

Another scouting trip to Idaho in mid January put my yearlist over 150, and I was sitting pretty.  25 lifers up north put my lifelist around 340.  Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Purple Finches, and Bohemian Waxwings made that expedition special.

Back in Phoenix, I discovered a female Painted Bunting while out birding with Mr. Mark Larson.  That was probably my first rarity, and the beginning of my rarity chasing.  I picked up Chestnut-sided Warbler, Brown Thrasher, Ring-necked Pheasant, and Eurasian Wigeon in the upcoming weeks, and I was BIRDING HARD.  That Wigeon was so tame I could have kicked it for being so trashy.

A trip out to the Thrasher spot got me all four species out there, but no Sage superspecies Sparrows.

College limited birding time, but I got down to Madera over spring break.  An overnight trip also enabled me to visit the Tubac Hawkwatch and take a little detour to Patagonia for the wintering Trogon (ooh, the suspense).

Hepatic Tanager, Arizona Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker, Yellow-eyed Junco, and Townsend's Warbler were the highlights of Madera Canyon.

That evening, we went over to Florida Canyon in hopes of nabbing the Rufous-capped Warbler and Black-capped Gnatcatcher.  I am lucky to have my little brother who shares my passion, or else I would be birding mostly alone.  Well, we got both ABA code 3s, and that was really unbelievable!  The next morning, we got three hawk lifers at the hawkwatch, and down to the De Anza trail we went.  The Sinaloa Wren was AWOL the two previous days, but we managed brief and unsatisfactory views, enough to add it to our lists!  Down to Patagonia, where our target was the Trogon.


Crush you very much Mr. Trogon.  My second Trogon species came with a failure of superlatives.

We also picked up Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet and Lazuli Bunting in Patagonia.

This was the point that I realized I may have an inordinate amount of luck, but I'm OK with that!

Two days later, we went to California for my lil bro's basketball tourney.  A little cajoling and my parents agreed to accompany us birding.  Being my first time on the Pacific coast, I picked up 25 lifers within minutes.  My highlight was the large number of cooperative and crushable male Allen's Hummingbirds.

Curlews were also obliging.

Ridgway's Rails were another nice pickup at Bolsa Chica Reserve.  My 400th bird!

Well, I headed home.  College and time dictated no more birding until early May, when I found a Harris's Hawk nest.

Flagstaff in May got me some more nice lifers, including Flammulated Owl (heard only, sadly).

Through Facebook, I got in touch with Mr. Tony Battiste, who offered me a great rate for his B&B.  My brother and I planned a trip down there for the third week of May.

As extreme luck would have it, the Tufted Flycatcher and Flame-colored Tanagers both arrived a day before our trip down there!!!  I told you I'm lucky.

The crushing, and 12 lifers, continued.

Yeah, I know that's not the Flame-colored ;)

The hike to the Tufted was brutal, but any bodily pain vanished at the sight of this mega-mega-mega rarity.  Wow.

I thought this could never be topped!  Here I had Tufted Flycatcher, Elf Owl, Red-faced Warbler, Montezuma Quail, and Flame-colored Tanager all in one day!  What in the world!!

My next trip was a young birders camp, which you can read about in more detail at

My highlights were Whiskered Screech-Owl, Northern Pygmy Owl, Elf Owl, Western Screech Owl, Band-tailed Pigeon, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Northern Goshawk, and a MEXICAN CHICKADEE NEST!  Wow!  Head over to Caleb's blog for the full scoop and photos.

Well, here you go!  From here on out my posts will be more detailed summaries of each individual trip, instead of a big old two-year summary.  I hope you enjoy my blog, stories, and photos!  I love birding and hope to share my passion with you, the readers.

I suggest you follow my blog, I will be hitting you guys with some good stuff in the near future!

Sometimes I may share a meaningful photo from my past experiences, and give an excerpt on why that bird or photo is special to me.

Thanks so much for reading!

Coming soon:  Rarity in Maricopa?  What could it be?


  1. Nice post and intro to your blog, Walker! I look forward to your future posts. Your pictures are great.

    1. Thanks! Your blog was a big inspiration to me!

  2. Awesome Blog Walker!!! I enjoyed reading about your past experiences. Amazing photos! I wonder what that rarity is ;)

    1. Thanks Caleb! It is a bird with all three primary colors in its plumage! ;) What could it be?

  3. Congrats! Love the trogons... Keep it up and don't burn out!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Brenda! I'm not worried about burning out!

  4. Nicely done! Now if you are leaving in August, you got a pick up the birding pace for all of our desert birds......LeConte's Thrasher, Bendire's Thrasher etc etc. You may already have them, but my targets would be focused on the Arizona only birds. You've done a great job in two years! I remember watching my first Black-headed Trogon alone in the forest. It flew only feet away from me. I wanted to scream outloud from all the excitement but instead I just watched for the time I had. Like you, I don't like guides if I don't need them. But alas, the birds become harder and the targets a lot more tricky:) I hope you keep up your passion. This is a very exciting hobby for all kinds of reasons!