It was the one bird I couldn't identify that broke my heart, but it's entirely my fault. So casual was I about this brief stop along the road - the area is conveniently close to I-15 - that I didn't check my field bag as we left the truck, and my trusty Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America was left sitting in the back. After we'd watched the varied waterfowl on the pond, strolled the scrub trail, and trekked through the open flats at the back of the property, I heard an odd thudding from a small section of deep brush. Closer observation showed an industrious woodpecker, obviously not a downy woodpecker or a hairy woodpecker, both of which I'm familiar with. I was fairly confident it was a red-naped sapsucker, and as I've seen them in the area before, I failed to watch too closely but did snap a couple of quick photos. We finished our walk and I didn't think more of it until returning to the truck and my absent field guide.
A quick turn to page 217, however, and my heart sank. That was no red-naped sapsucker I'd seen. Puzzling over the rest of the woodpecker pages and comparing it to my all-too-inadequate photos, it's likely the bird was a ladder-backed woodpecker, which would have been a new addition to my life list. I'm picky, though, and because I couldn't identify the bird in the field and couldn't confirm all the field marks, I do not feel justified in adding it. It's my fault - it's my field guide I left behind.
It's a mistake I've never made before and one I'll never make again. One lost lifer is enough.