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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Top 10 Birding Moments of 2006

Following the lead of Kris Purdy on the Utah Birds email list, here are my top ten birding moments of 2006. If you care to share a similar list, feel free to do so in the comments, or if you post it elsewhere, leave a link in my comments so we can all enjoy.

10) First Guatemala sighting of Shiny Cowbird. These aren't particularly spectacular looking birds, and we weren't sure exactly how rare this bird was when we saw them on the side of the road near Jocotan, but we got some really good close looks and that's what they were. I've submitted my sighting to friends in the Sociedad Guatemalteca de Ornitología.

9) Showing multiple hooting Barred Owls to my owl workshop participants at the Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory in Austin, Texas. The teenage girls from an afterschool environmental program were kind of freaked out, its not something that Tejana girls usually do. But it was cool, and the owls were very obliging.

8) The Barred Owl that I was able to see and share with others on the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association birdathon. It was the middle of the day, we didn't think we had a chance of seeing the bird, but I was able to spot it high up in a tree and get it all riled up with some hooting. We didn't stay long, because we didn't want to disturb it too much, but it really put on a show for us once it got going.

7) Looking for, and finally finding, Budgerigars with Bill Pranty in Florida. These little birds are apparently disappearing quickly down there, where there used to be tens of thousands of them. We drove around for hours before we finally saw three fly onto a power line and then into a tree.

6) Seeing Red-vented Bulbul in Houston. Exotic introduced species are not high on most birder's lists, but I'm really interested in a) how these guys come to inhabit our cities and b) how they mostly stay under the radar of the birding community. These birds have been in Houston for over a decade, and we still don't know much about them.

5) Finding the Marbled Murrelet in San Diego county, and having other birders be able to relocate it later that week. Always nice to find rare birds while visiting a new area, and having the local birders be able to see them too.

4) Keel-billed Toucan in the Tuxtla Mountains. What more do I have to say, you don't see toucan's every day!

3) Fork-tailed Flycatcher fifteen minutes from my office. Having chased and missed this species before, and having one show up at my local patch at Hornsby Bend--and stay for over a month--within a year of my moving away from Austin, it was sweet to finally get to see this bird in North America.

2) Birding on Hog Island. Always good to go out to see the Atlantic Puffins and other birds on Eastern Egg Rock. Its just great to spend a week away from traffic noise, with birds I don't get to see every day. Everyone should treat themselves to a weeklong program out there. Very nice.

1) Soaring with Black-vented Shearwaters off La Jolla Cove, California. OK, I wasn't really soaring with them. But looking through the spotting scope, sharing the same wind off the ocean, it was almost like I was right there with them in another world. Peace.

2006 was a pretty good birding year, with more good moments than I can mention here. Not a huge species list for the year (just under 400 ABA area birds, and a couple hundred others in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras). Besides those other countries, I was able to bird in seventeen US states. Hopefully 2007 will bring even more adventures.


Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful top ten moments of 2006! How wonderful!

Anonymous said...

just curious, what's the reason budgerigars are "disappearing" in Fl.? -- this is the first I've heard of this, I would've thought they'd be thriving...

birdchaser said...

In Florida, Budgies mostly lived in subdivisios built on former salt marsh habitats right along the coast, where they nested in nest boxes and in the machinery that people use to lift their boats (davits). The thought is that they are facing increased competition for nesting sites from starlings and (especially) House Sparrows. There used to be a lot of retired folks who kept and maintained special nesting houses for the Budgies, but as they have gotten older and died, others have moved into the neighborhoods and not maintained as many boxes or feeders for the birds. So, they are probably down to less than 50 birds now, when once upon a time you could see over 10,000 on powerlines along the highway.

Last year I wrote to some members of one homeowners association in the area who were interested in working to help the Budgies. Time to check in with them and see if they've been able to get together to do anything about them.

It seems funny to take special efforts to help an introduced exotic species, but really, in the habitats where they live (those subdivisions on old salt marshes), there really aren't many (if any) native birds of conservation concern to protect, so it might be worthwhile to protect these birds which were an important part of the cultural landscape of the mid-20th Century Florida development boom.

LauraHinNJ said...

I love that Barred Owls are so *hootable* - I've never seen more than the suggestion of one, but boy have I heard them!

Snail said...

That's a splendid list of birding moments!

I had no idea there were feral budgies in Florida. Is it only FL? Are they established elsewhere in the US?

birdchaser said...

Escapee budgies are seen at times in most of the major large cities in the U.S. I saw them several times in Texas. But Florida has the only "established" population (countable under ABA rules, at least for now)--though the numbers there have been declining for more than a decade, and may well wink out soon.

wolf21m said...

Great top 10 list. Since I haven't seen any of the birds listed, it really is a top 10 for me! Thanks for sharing.

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