Anne and I saw a Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris) at Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area near Laughlin, Nevada this week.
As usual, I nearly blew it!
The first shot I managed to take of my lifer Groove-billed Ani, with camera set for moonlight raptors!
Big Bend of the Colorado SRA is a small park that lies on the bank of the Colorado River nearly at the southern tip of Nevada, where Arizona and California meet.
Anne and I spent the night at Big Bend because we were too exhausted to drive to Phoenix, and maybe I could try to find a last bird or two for my Clark County extemporaneous big year list. We woke up early and decided our best bet was to walk down the Swift Water Trail to the river. With a mix of tamarisk and arrow weed habitat, we comfortably predicted Abert’s Towhee and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. I stopped at a riverside marsh to search for a Ridgway’s Rail while Anne went on to the river. A few minutes later, I followed Anne and nearly ran into a large black bird!
From five meters distance, I didn’t even need to lift my binoculars to see that massive bill! I frantically lifted my camera and fired off a dozen shots in case the bird bailed and I began saying, then yelling “Annie! Ani!” louder and louder. Then I realized that I hadn’t changed my settings since the previous night, when I was over-exposing a silhouetted raptor on a telephone pole at night. As I put the camera away last night I distinctly remember thinking “I should really change the settings back while I’m thinking about it” but I was too lazy then. Somehow, the Ani hadn’t flinched despite my yelling and I managed to get a couple more shots in while Anne ran up to see the glorious cuckoo herself.
So another great bird and another lesson learned: don’t be lazy.
Same photo as above, with some processing to make it okay.
Remarkably, the Ani just perched in front of both my wife and I, still at five meters, for a minute or two before it flew back into a tamarisk. After several minutes in the tamarisk, it dropped to the ground and out of sight. Crotophaga sulcirostris means, apparently, groove-billed tick-eater, and it was likely on the ground looking for insects to eat down there. Anne and I decided to give the Ani some room so we walked a distance away and began furiously texting and posting the news of our find.
After a half-hour we took one last look for the Ani and it hopped up onto a dead tamarisk to sun. Having gotten totally soaked in the dense tamarisk in the early morning, it resembled a strange mix of raven and chimpanzee. It fanned its tail, preened for a few minutes, and then dropped again out of sight.