Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Great January for a Birder Doing a 2012 Big Year

In reviewing the NARBA postings for the first 10 days of 2012, if I were doing a big year in 2012 my head would be spinning with the possibilities. And following Sandy Komito's big year dictum to chase immediately all ABA code 4 and 5 birds, I would have already criss-crossed the country in just 10 days, and would still be rushing about trying not to miss the amazing number of rarities currently being seen.

In 2010 when I did my lower 48 big year, I was blessed in January with several code 3-5 birds, beginning with the first North American record for bare-throated tiger-heron at Bentsen RGV State Park. But 2012 is off the charts with opportunities, particularly if one is doing a lower 48 big year. In south TX in the Valley the rarities include black-vented oriole (code 5), golden-crowned warbler (4), crimson-collared grosbeak (4), blue bunting (4), and rose-throated becard (3).

In Arizona you can find Nutting's flycatcher (5), rufous-backed thrush (3), rufous-capped warbler (3), and black-capped gnatcatcher (3). Florida is hosting La Sagra's flycatcher (3) and American flamingo (3). In 2010 I was able to see in Florida a La Sagra's as well as the red-footed booby (3) in the photo just below.

California has a wintering over falcated duck (4), and Oregon has a brambling (3) and emperor goose (2). Washington also has emperor goose and yellow-billed loon (2). Ohio has had for several weeks a black-tailed gull (4) while the northeast is sporting pink-footed and barnacle geese (3's), and a slaty-backed gull (3). New Jersey has a common chaffinch (4), and Tennessee still has the hooded crane--possible first NA record. Anchorage, AK has a dusky thrush (4) being seen, and Newfoundland this winter once again has a yellow-legged gull (4). Finally, it has been a very good irruption year for snowy owls.

Most of these birds showed up in December, so working out a travel schedule prior to starting a big year in 2012 would have been a top priority. And those that appeared only recently are in places that the other birds were already being seen. 8 of this January's lower 48 states rarities I did not see during my 2010 big year. I have not heard of anyone doing an all-out full ABA area or lower 48 big year in 2012, but there are several birders doing their version of a big year (photographic, low budget, father/son). Here's wishing you all the very best of birding this year.

Turning to my chase for the Nutting's flycatcher and the falcated duck that I referenced in my last post, a stomach virus laid me low last week so that did not happen. I still have my fingers crossed that both birds will continue to winter over at their current locations. In 2010 a brown shrike was found in northern California in November, and stayed into early April of 2011. Stay tuned!

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