Thursday, January 6, 2011
Bird and Birding Highlights of My Big Year
Now that the big year is completed, I have moved the travel map to the top of this post (click on any photo to enlarge). The next photo was taken on the inside of a bathroom door in California. The juxtaposition of a Boy Scout ad with a bail bonds ad just struck me as one of the oddest/funniest combos I have ever seen, and I have been waiting to share it. While most of my year was about birds, in traveling all those miles you run across all kinds of people and odd things people do including the 3rd photo above of the "boot/shoe shrine" I found in Nevada.
The rest of the pictures above are of various owls I saw during the year. I decided to repost these because I get asked often what was my best bird of the year. I can't possibly pick just one bird, but since I have great fondness for owls, I instead will pick owls as a group. Some of my favorite days of the year involved finding owls; and one of the very best days of the year was when Wes Fritz and I found the family of great gray owls in Yosemite NP. For the non-birders reading this, the bottom photo just above is of a great gray owl.
Like selecting 1 bird as the best of the year, picking one birding time or place as the best is also not even close to possible. For me birding all year was a chance to "live one's passion" in depth and at great length. There definitely were some higher moments than others, but no single one day or bird clearly tops the list. For those who like lists and specific highlights, I offer up the following:
The week I spent looking for grouse and prairie chickens with my sis in Colorado in late March
Finding a bar-tailed godwit in the Everglades in April with 2 other birders--Bob and Dex--who I realized while looking at the godwit that I had met in 2006 at Gambell, AK
The birding days in April in the High Island area of Texas that I spent with Dave Allan--a brit stuck in Texas because of the Iceland volcano
The 4 days I spent in south Florida and the Dry Tortugas in late April with my local birding buddy Pam
The 4 days of birding the spring migration at Magee Marsh, Ohio in early May
The 4 days of pelagic birding off of Hatteras, NC in late May
A morning in late June when my wife and I birded in Rocky Mountain NP with a mother, her 2 sons and a friend of theirs
Many of the days spent on pelagic trips off the west coast
The day I spent in the Everglades with Pete to see 3 flamingos
Hiking in southern Utah in September with my friends Marty and Craig
The intense back to back chases of the cuban pewee (FL) and the plain-capped starthroat (AZ); the black-tailed gull and taiga bean goose (CA); the fork-tailed flycatcher (CT), Ross' gull (CO), and pink-footed goose (MA); and the tufted flycatcher (TX) and streak-backed oriole (AZ).
The 3 days spent in northern California with Wes when we found the brown shrike, gyrfalcon, slaty-backed gull and arctic loon.
In general, it was so great to be able to bird at different times throughout the year with a few of my long time friends (Marty, Craig and Renee, and Dottie) and my wife and children. While there are more birders that I met this year for the first time than I can possibly list, I also have fond memories of meeting both new birders for me (Bob and John, Rob and Ricki, Doreene, Ken, Adrian, Jimmy, Diane, Red and Louise, Steve and Jane, Tim, Dave, John, Martin, Jean, Gary, and Wes), and birders who I have met and gotten to know over the years of my birding travels (Dan, Melody, Steve, Todd, Paul, Brian, Debi, Jay, and Larry).
In all my traveling around I also was able to spend some time with friends from around the country who are too numerous to name, but they certainly know who they are. Thank you so much for sharing this year with me, and often giving me a place to stay.
Finally, 2 posts ago I explained how it was possible for me to see 704 species in a calendar year. Beyond my willingness to put in the time and money, and the high number of rarities that visited the lower 48 states in 2010, I have left out until now the most important reason--the huge number of dedicated birders, and the instantaneous communication via the internet. Without the North American Rare Bird Alert (Narba), all the state bird listservs, and the legion of birdwatchers who are out birding everyday, it would not be possible to find out about enough rare birds in time to be able to chase after them successfully. So my final thanks is to the vast birding community who so love to be out of doors looking for whatever birds they can find.
I am going down to south Texas tomorrow with my local birding buddy Pam who has never been to bird in that area. The black-vented oriole is still being seen plus there are many other new birds for Pam to add to her life list. When I return I will morph this blog into just Slowbirding. Stay tuned!