Friday, January 10, 2014

Recap of My Birding in 2013

My final installment reviewing 2013 focuses on my own birding during the year.  Since I have blog posts on my various birding trips, I will not go into great detail, but will underscore the highlights.  First off, I made a quick trip to Florida in February in hopes of seeing a bananaquit and a western spindalis in the Miami area.  Over 3 days of searching I managed to strike out on both.

I did get to Virginia in time to see the black-tailed godwit that was at Chincoteague for a few weeks.  Soon after I had  a trip planned to visit friends in Boston, so I did not immediately fly up to Boston to look for the fieldfare, and missed seeing it by a couple of days.

My birding success picked up when Dan Sanders, Doreene Linzell and I spent a week in early April birding in Florida.  We saw white-cheeked pintail, thick-billed vireo, western spindalis, purple swamphen and nanday parakeet--some or all of which we needed for our ABA life lists.  Unfortunately, we missed by a couple of hours finding out about a bahama mockingbird that showed up at Bill Baggs SP.  We were too far away to turn around, but I did chase it the next day by myself without seeing it.

I went out to California in late April to bird in Kern County, and to do a pelagic trip out of Ventura in hopes of seeing a Murphy's petrel at sea.  The birding on land was enjoyable, but no Murphy's showed up. At least I did get to spend a day with Wes Fritz on that trip.  We became birding friends in 2010 during my lower 48 big year, and have continued to stay in touch.  He is one of the best field birders I know, and has helped a lot of birders find rarities in California.  He also is an outstanding pelagic birder, and chummer par excellence.

My next major birding was going to Magee Marsh on Lake Erie which has become an annual rite of spring for me.  A spotted redshank had been found in early April in Indiana, and was relocated in early May.  I waited one day too long to try to see it on my way to Ohio, and missed it also.

The week of birding in Ohio was excellent.  I particularly love being able to see 20-25 different warbler species on most days by walking the boardwalk at Magee Marsh (click on any photo to enlarge).  It is also great to see other birders who are "regulars" there each spring.

In July I made a quick trip out to New Mexico to see the first ever ABA area rufous-necked wood-rail that spent about 10 days at Bosque del Apache NWR.  Next up in late September and October was 3 weeks in Alaska, mostly on the Pribs where I was able to add 9 ABA area life birds.  5 were code #4's (white-tailed eagle, Middendorf's grasshopper sparrow, fork-tailed swift, common rosefinch and gray-streaked flycatcher); 3 were code #3's (olive-backed pipit, common snipe and spectacled eider); and a code #2 (red-legged kittiwake).

While on the Pribs, it was really good to be able to bird with long time friends Dan, Doreene, and Laura Keene.  I got to spend a week birding with Neil Hayward, and met 2 of the giants of ABA birding--Paul Sykes and Larry Peavler.  I also saw Bill Frey who I met first during my big year in 2010, and then again in Alaska in 2011 on a week long raft trip to see gray-headed chickadees.  Plus I got to see Jay Lehman in Anchorage where he, Neil and I shared a couple of meals.

With the great blue-footed booby invasion last fall, Dan, Doreene, Laura and I decided we had to go to southern California to see them, and the nutmeg mannikin that had recently been added to the ABA list.  We also went to Arizona to see the rosy-faced lovebird--another new add to the ABA list--and picked up sinaloa wren for Doreene and Laura's life lists.  I missed seeing a tundra bean goose at the Salton Sea on my way back to L.A.

My last birding foray for the year was in November to look for the amazon kingfisher--only the second recorded in the ABA area.  It was a great last new ABA life bird for the year.

I would say I had a very active year of birding which resulted in my adding 19 life birds to my ABA list even though I missed seeing 5 other life birds.  It is the kind of year that Michael Delesantro will need each of the next 6+ years if he is going to achieve his new goal of adding 139 new species in order to see 800 different bird species over an 8 year period in the ABA area.

I received a couple of comments from my last post that I want to reply to before wrapping up this entry.  Laurent suggested that a refinement of my relative strength of big year measure--dividing all code #3-5's seen by a big year birder by the total number of birds seen that year by the birder--would be to subtract all code #1 and #2 birds missed by the birder.  This would encourage a big year birder to try very hard to see all the code #1 and #2 birds on the ABA list.  As I continue to look at the issue of how to measure relative strength of big years, there so far has not been one method that seems particularly effective.  This refinement would make a slight improvement, but still leaves me feeling that the final big year total will continue to be the primary measure of big year success

Laurent also raised a point about heard-only birds being acceptable on big year lists.  He wondered if trying to see a bird so as not to have it as a heard-only bird would exacerbate the taping issue that continues to be a bit of a hot button in birding circles.  Hard to know, but definitely another good observation.

As promised, I have after 41 years of birding finally added up all the birds that I have seen in the full ABA area, and the lower 48 states.  The numbers are:  780 full ABA area and 741 for the lower 48 states.  I also have 3 provisionals--hooded crane, rufous-necked wood-rail and an elaenia species seen in Chicago that is still being researched.  Most interesting for me is that while I have birded since 1973, I discovered that all the birds I had on my list prior to 2000 I have seen again, so my millenium list on the ABA listing central site is also at 780 birds.

Finally, Dorian Anderson, a birder living in Massachusetts has begun a self-powered big year.  You can find his blog link on the Narba site.  Who knows how many other big year birders will surface in 2014.  I know that my next birding adventure will be in March when I go to Morocco.  Stay tuned!

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