Discovering Jim Burns

Who knew that when we decided to go to SE Arizona for a little R&R from winter that it would become a birding adventure extraordinaire! While clicking through various birding sites on line, I came across the name of Jim Burns, and a note that said if you have any questions about birding in Arizona, just email Jim. That sounded easy enough...so I did. A short little email that explained our upcoming trip, and asked if could he suggest any birding hotspots. Little did I know that I had just tapped in to one of North America's better birders, an author (North American Owls: Journey Through a Shadowed World), and an amazingly generous man who emailed me back. Not just a short pithy little response either. Oh no! A very pointed one..."I'd be happy to direct you, but first you need to tell me what birds you're looking for.", wrote Jim.
Well! That sent me searching through all my bird books, looking at migration maps, and making lists of birds I actually hadn't seen yet, but wanted to. I was a neophyte birder - and until this Burns initiated quest, hadn't really taken it too seriously. That was about to change big time!
Several hours after cracking open the first bird book - my tattered and worn Stokes - I had in fact come up with a Bird Wish List. And it had 72 birds on it!!
I thought, "Well, I can't send this back to that man! It's too long!" Then, I thought, " But he did ask!" and so I hit send.
Three or four days later, a reply arrived. Not just any reply...an amazing four page response that had taken my wish list, and then gone through it, bird by bird. He'd devised a numerical code:
1 - no chance; to 5 - can't miss. Beside each of my birds was now a number, and THEN a comment on where to find it!! For example: Elf Owl - 4 - They nest in the telephone pole by the Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon. This kind of incredible information was provided for every one of my 72 birds! I was absolutely gobsmacked!!
The List became our trip bible, and lists were made of lists, pictures added, notes, and driving directions included. Never in my life had I been so prepared for a trip - and never has a trip been more successful! Thanks to Jim Burns, I added 62 new birds to my life list, we had an amazing time, met some wonderful people, and can't wait to go back.