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Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Top 10 Birds of 2017

So by the numbers, 2017 was better than average for me, though not particularly stellar.

I did manage to get my official (old) ABA area list to over 700, just before the area was expanded to include Hawaii.  This normally would be a huge accomplishment that I would celebrate, except that I feel like I should have hit this milestone about 10 or 15 years ago (My ABA #600 was Kirtland's Warbler way back in 1997).  I guess I just haven't traveled as much this last decade as I did in the past.  Oh well!  I'm an official ABA 700 club member now, when all the big boys are now in up in the 900s!

I also got to bird in Spain, The Netherlands, and Mexico this year.  These were all work trips, with a little bit of designated birding, mostly on my own.

All in all, I added 4 birds to my ABA area list (Cassia Crossbill, White-winged Tern, Common Greenshank, and Corn Crake).

I was able to add 23 additional birds to my World list--8 in Mexico and 13 in an eight hour layover in Madrid.

Here are my Top 10 favorites for the year:

10) Eurasian Penduline Tit
When you start flipping through European field guides, this is one of those cool birds you hope to see.  I finally ran into a troop of them in Madrid on a whirlwind 6 hour layover trip out from the airport on my way to The Netherlands.

9) Spotless Starling
OK, its just a starling without spots.  No big deal.  But growing up prejudiced against starlings in the US, it was fun to start seeing other starling species.  I never did see one close enough to get a good photo.  And there really isn't much to see.  But it was fun to see anyway!

8) Spanish Sparrow
Growing up in the US, was also prejudiced against House Sparrows.  My friends in Europe love them, and are working tirelessly to stop their precipitous population declines, and I've learned to love them for that.  But these fancy House Sparrow cousins were a must see bird for me on my layover in Madrid.  Fortunately I came across a bush full of these bad boys and was glad to see them.

7) Cassia Crossbill
I've been a big fan of the crypto-species crossbills ever since learning about their diversity back in the early 1990s.  When this form was declared a good species by the AOS this summer, and learning that I had just lost Thayer's Gull to lumping with Iceland Gull, I made a detour up into the hills of southern Idaho to search for this bird on my way from Utah up to Oregon this summer.  I wasn't able to get very satisfying looks, but had at least one flyover calling this call type.  I look forward to going back up to this beautiful area again (I saw four moose up there in just over an hour) and getting better looks someday.  Looking for new birds takes you to great places you'd otherwise maybe never visit.

6) Eurasian Griffin
Another favorite from my Madrid layover.  I scanned dozens of these guys looking for a Spanish Imperial Eagle that never showed up.  But these crazy looking Old World vultures were great to see in and of themselves.

5) White-winged Tern
I moved to the East Coast for the first time in 1994, when this bird was almost annual in the DelMarVa area, so it was on the top of my most wanted birds list.  Then it pretty much stopped showing up.  I was out West this summer when one showed up in western PA, then one showed up during the Big Sit at Tinicum NWR 10 minutes from my house.  I was there early the next morning and got to watch it for 20 minutes or so before torrential rains set in and the bird disappeared, never to be seen again.  Unfortunately, it was too far away for photos, but great to watch as it patrolled back and forth along the back edge of the main impoundment on the refuge.  Super bonus to this bird for being my official ABA Bird #700!

4) Gray Silky-flycatcher
My favorite bird from my Mexico archaeology trip this summer.  I wasn't able to chase any of the ABA area record birds over the years, and am usually too far south in Mexico to see it.  But they were all over at several sites I visited this year, including the great pyramid at Cholula.

3) Eurasian Hoopoe
I must have first seen a picture of this crazy looking bird shortly after I started birding.  During my layover in Madrid this spring, I heard distant hooting and was able to track down this guy calling in a tree off in the distance.  Not the best digiscoped pics, but really happy to see this beauty.

2) Corn Crake
When I bought my first field guide back in the early 1980s, this bird was a dream bird illustrated in the old Golden guide.  There had been records up to the 1960s in the Eastern US, but then nothing.  I hadn't had a chance to look for them in Europe, and when one showed up on the side of the road on Long Island this fall, I dropped everything and took off to chase it.  It turned out that the drive was the hardest part about seeing the bird, as it was spectacularly easy to see parading around on the shoulder of the highway.  Bonus points on this bird for being able to show it to my teenage son, who joined me for the chase.

1) Smew
I've wanted to see this stunning merganser ever since I probably first saw it depicted in the new National Geographic field guide in 1983.  My trips to Europe have always been miss-timed to see this bird, but this past March there were still a handful around in The Netherlands when I traveled to speak at an urban nature conference there.  I still hope to see one in North America someday.  But in the meantime, I've bonded with these beauties in their native land.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

May Update 2017 Project 25/50/100/200

As of the end of May, my photo standings for the year are:

  • Mammals   6/25 
  • Herps         8/50
  • Moths       0/100
  • Birds     118/200

I'm doing OK on birds, but way behind on the others.  Since moving from NJ to PA, I need to find a new source of moths, as my yard here is not attracting them as much as our old NJ yard.  Also depending on a trip out to Utah and Oregon to get me more mammals and herps this summer.

A few photo highlights from May:

Snapping Turtle, John Heinz NWR, PA

Musk Turtle, John Heinz NWR, PA

Pileated Woodpecker, Home, Wallingford, PA

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Spruce Run, Hunterdon, NJ

Thursday, May 18, 2017

2017 Project 25/50/100/200

A little game I'm playing this year is to see if I can take identifiable photographs of:
25 Mammals
50 Reptiles or Amphibians
100 Moths
200 Birds

So far I'm doing terrible on Reptiles and Amphibians, have no moths, and 98 birds.  I've been posting most of my photos on Facebook, but will start doing updates here as well.

Today I spent half an hour in the yard trying to photograph, without a lot of success, several of my yard birds.

Better photos desired, but at least the following are (almost) identifiable:

Nesting at the golf course across the road, 2017 Bird#94 Baltimore Oriole
Home, Wallingford, PA

2017 Bird#98 Chipping Sparrow in the driveway
Home, Wallingford, PA

So hard to photograph with a bridge camera--2017 Bird#96 Chimney Swift
Home, Wallingford, PA

2017 Bird#97  Carolina Chickadee
Home, Wallingford, PA

Thanks to my friend Bob Ferguson for the inspiration for this game this year.  He's playing a similar game, with higher totals (and no moths).

Friday, May 12, 2017

Where I've Been

I've been A.W.O.L. here at the Birdchaser blog for over a year.  Most of my social media time is now on Facebook.  I post most of my bird photos and sightings on my personal profile.

But you can also join a couple of new Facebook birding groups I've started.  I'll be back here more frequently, but check out these groups and hope to hang out with you there on Facebook as well.

20 Bird Minimum Daily Requirement--this one's to share the challenge of finding at least 20 bird species every day, even when you don't have time for "official" birding.

Yard Birding--this one is for taking your backyard birdwatching to the next level, bringing hard core birding to your yard, balcony, or patio.

Birdchaser talk at Penn Museum in Philly

Looking forward to giving an all new Maya birds talk this Saturday at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia.   More details here.

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