2008 was a pretty decent birding year. I'll do a recap in a moment, but to start, here are my best birds of 2008.
1. Northern Jacana: I started out the year in Utah, then spent a week on business in Arizona, where I was able to see this Mexican bird at the golf course in Casa Grande. Pretty cool!
2. Bendire's Thrasher: After missing this one a couple years ago near Rodeo, NM it was great to finally run into one out west of Tucson.
3. Rufous-backed Robin: Nice bird for my North American list, at Catalina State Park in Arizona in January.
4. Brown-capped Rosy Finch: I had been too early to see this bird in Colorado a year ago, but made a run up to Sandia Crest while in New Mexico to give a talk in March. Nice to see all three Rosy Finches swirling around 2 miles almost directly above suburban Albuquerque.
5. Wood Sandpiper: I've been looking for this bird for a long time, and was thrilled to be able to chase one found in Delaware last spring.
6. European Storm-Petrel: This one is a bit controversial, I was the only one to see it on a pelagic trip off Oregon Inlent, NC this Spring, but I got good close if brief looks. Great two days of trips with many nice birds and Sperm Wales, sea turtles, etc.
7. Little Egret: Another bird chase to Delaware got me this bird at Bombay Hook NWR in June.
8. Sharp-tailed Grouse: Still fascinated by these birds I saw almost every day I was in Utah for New Years last year, sitting in people's yard trees in Paradise, Utah south of Logan.
9. Totoweh: This was my favorite bird name from my Belize ethnographic research trip. It's the Mopan name for the Barred Antshrike, which has a characteristic call of totototototototototoweh! A common bird, but a great call and name.
10. Atlantic Puffin: My youngest daughter was finally old enough to go on the boat out to see these guys on Eastern Egg Rock near the Hog Island Audubon Camp where we've been going the last few summers. A great bird to finally get my whole family to enjoy!
Some great times this past year. I had originally hoped to see 500 bird species this year, and to see at least 100 species in at least 5 states. How'd I do?
I saw about 537 species last year, but not all in North America (which was my original intention). I only saw 417 species north of Mexico. I did see 100+ species in Pennsylvania, Utah, Texas, Arizona, and Maine.
I also started the year wanting to get my Bird RDA of 20 species each day...I did that every day until sometime in June or July, when I missed a day. After missing one day, it was easy to miss more days. I still tried for the RDA most days, and probably got it on over 300 days last year--but I lost track. I'll see how it goes this year.
I was also doing a BIGBY to see how many birds I could see on foot from home or work--I got over 100 species that way, then lost interest and ambition to push that list higher.
A lot of the loss of birding ambition came late in October when I finally realized I could actually finish up my PhD dissertation on Urban Bird Conservation in the Geography Department of the University of Texas at Austin. 2008 will always be the year I finally got that done and became Dr. Rob.
Now that that is behind me, what are my birding goals for 2009? For the first time in many years I don't have any! I think I'm going to have a busy year, and birding will be important for maintaining my sanity, but I don't have any specific goals in mind. I'll be birding wherever I travel this year, and hope that includes a lot of new locations as well as old favorites. I haven't been out to see my family in Oregon for over 3 years, so hoping to do that this year. So far I have work trips scheduled to Mississippi, New Mexico, Florida, Texas, and Alaska.
We'll just have to see how it goes and enjoy the journey! Happy New Year and best birding to everyone in 2009!