Like Kyle, the year 2002 was full of personal highlights: I added 33 birds to my life list (all found in Missouri), and finally reached that big life-bird #300 mark. There were two reasons for those numbers: 1) It was the first year that I had my own spotting scope on hand for both migrations (most of my lifers were the little itty-bitty shore birds); and 2) I had the spectacular resource of MoBirds and all the extremely helpful people that reside there (THANK YOU!).

To keep this from going on for pages, I'll cut my list down to a Top 5:

1) Black-crowned Night Heron: I first discovered the joy of listing when I made a trip to Sanibel Island, Florida in 1996—I quickly polished off all the herons... with the exception of one. Finding a Black-crowned Night Heron had become a sort of obsession for me, but I knew that some day one would cross my path. One evening in April I found myself standing on the levees at Cooley Lake in the fast-fading evening light. I was just about to pack up my scope when I was startled by a flock of six large birds flying directly toward me. Before I could get my binoculars up they had passed overhead and were disappearing to the north. From that brief glimpse, I knew I had seen my first Black-crowned Night Herons, but was disappointed by the look. I stood leaning on my scope for a few more minutes and then noticed six specks on the northern horizon. Gradually they grew larger, and I realized that my herons were returning for another fly-by. They buzzed me once more, then settled down in one of Cooley Lake's pools to the south of me. I raced back to my car, sped over to a spot where I would have a better vantage point of the pool they had landed in: And there they were. Breathless, I took in their long white plumes curling over their charcoal backs and their startled chestnut eyes. It was one of those moments when I remembered why I bird.

2) Red-necked Stint: I arrived at sunset on July 29 and met a large group of birders who told me "We think it's still out there, but it's too dark to see it now..." The next morning I was there at sunrise. Several hours later, I got spectacular views of the bird in the open on the sandbar. Well worth two trips.

3) Calliope Hummingbird: One of the birds that made me say words other than "Wow". Some people allege there was a Calliope Hummingbird at the Anderson's feeder in November, but all I saw was a blur. I'm sure it was a great bird, and I actually saw it flash by three times, but it's still not on my life list (I'm a stubborn birder—I make birds work to get on my life list). Nonetheless, birds like this fuel the fire and keep me moving—not much else would motivate me to drive 3 hours to Columbia at a moment's notice. Seeing an example of birder cooperation (the shuttle service) and seeing old and new acquaintances made it worth the time.

4) Swainson's Thrush: Early in the morning on May 14, I experienced a Swainson's Thrush "fallout" like no other. They were dripping from the trees and littering the paved path through Watkins Mill SP that morning. One of those moments when I just stand still and enjoy.

5) White-winged Dove: A perfect example of birder hospitality. Shortly after Ed and Heidi McCullough reported on MoBirds a White-winged Dove in their back yard, I was on the phone inviting myself over. When I arrived, they were waiting for me in the driveway and promptly pointed the bird out to me. They were wonderful hosts who had an even more interesting guest.

Thanks again to everyone. Happy New Year.

Kristi Mayo
Kearney, MO (Clay Co.)
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