Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day 2013

Another new year is upon us--may the birding gods give birders much joy in the coming year!  And as for 2012, there were certainly plenty of vagrant rarities to keep people happy last year.  My post today is a short review of my birding highlights from 2012, and a recap of the big year efforts that have just been completed.

Other than the trip to meet with the 700+ club in early December, my last bird outing of note was when I made a spur of the moment trip up to Boston after Thanksgiving to visit friends, and to see a northern lapwing that arrived outside of Boston in mid November.  I had hoped during my big year in 2010 that a lapwing would come and stay late in the year like this one has but that did not happen.  Amazingly this one, plus a pair on Nantucket, have now been "wintering over" for weeks.  There is a good chance that anyone starting a big year is in MA today to add a northern lapwing to the list.

Not an hour drive from the lapwing that I saw with my friend Richard, a little egret was found about the same time.  I had already seen a little egret in DE a few years ago, so I did not also go check it out.  My birding photographer friend, Doug Koch, went to MA a couple days after I was there, and graciously shared his photos of the lapwing and egret for you all to see (click on any photo to enlarge).

Looking back over my year of birding, the trip to E. Africa, which is thoroughly documented already, was unquestionably the high point of the year.  Right behind E. Africa was the first ever gathering of the 700+ club in TX in December.  Spring migration in KS and OH was a delightful mix of birds and friends.  The whirlwind trip early in the year to see the Nutting's flycatcher in AZ, and the falcated duck in CA was lots of fun.  Interestingly, it appears that both birds returned to their respective spots in December making for another prime target to hit this week for this year's big year birders.  And last, the one day trip into Chicago to see the elaenia species found in late April.  Unfortunately, the birding experts could not make a final determination as to which elaenia species it was--white crested or small billed.

Turning to the many big year efforts put in in 2012, 2 young birders from Colorado started well, but unlike Gabriel Mapel in 2011, lost momentum by mid summer.  The father and son team from Ohio, Eddie and Liam, also hit a few rough spots beginning in late spring, and from what few subsequent blog posts they made, it appears that they did little birding in the second half of the year.

Black and Holly Wright who are based in TX and did a photographic big year, ended up with over 400 species photographed, but illness and the holidays made their December less productive than they had planned.  Sara and Simon--the trucker couple--seemed to have a lot of fun seeing birds while moving goods around the U.S.  After mid summer they also slowed down a bunch, but did do some more posts on their blog late in the year.  It appears that they will be trying again in 2013 to increase their number above the 351 seen in 2012.

Robert Baumander from Ontario definitely gets the award for being the most successful novice birder doing a big year.  He almost made it to 600 species seen.  Michael Delesantro and Renee Rubin unquestionably get the award for the "biggest bang for your buck big year" in 2012, tallying 654 species seen while spending only a little over $10,000 to do it.  And finally, John Hargrove (primary birder) and his wife, Beverly (regular in the field support, and big year chronicler/blogger), strove mightily to reach the 700 level but came up just short.  As Beverly said in her blog, John will need to go thru his lists and photos before making a final determination, but as of 12/31, his number stood at 689.  You can find the blogs for all these 2012 big year efforts on the home page of NARBA.

Peering into 2013, it will be interesting to see who will be doing big years.  I know that Jay Lehman, a birder from Ohio, is supposed to be out there today starting his quest.  Jay has the opportunity since his ABA life list is already at about 790 to be the first birder to see at least 700 species in a calendar year, and pass the 800 level on his life list in the same year. I suspect there will be other big year birders joining him, and hopefully most of them will be blogging so that we can follow their exploits.  As for myself, I check NARBA regularly to see if their is a rarity that I want to pursue, but mainly I prefer to go birding.  Spring migration will find me actively enjoying warblers in northern Ohio in May.  I am also toying with a return to Alaska in the fall to do some birding for a couple of weeks with friends.  Stay tuned!

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