I woke up on the New Year's Day both happy and sad. It was over. How can a year fly by so quickly?! That part is still hard to get over. What an amazing journey it has been! But I am also happy to stop the doubled efforts of chasing birds I have already seen. My purpose for last year's event was to load up on my North American birds. Here are some fun facts from my journeys to California, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, the New England states, and of course, Arizona.
I began the year with a Pied-billed Grebe in southern California and ended the year with a rare(for AZ) Red-necked Grebe. In the US, I found 468 species of birds. For North America, I found 476 birds. I've been doing some work down in Mexico again and it will be my focus this year. I am surrounded by bird ID books from these regions! As of now in the US, I rank 62 for the 2014 year. Some birders haven't entered all their lists into ebird yet so it could slightly alter the ranking. But I have secured myself within the top 100 for the year and achieved my goal set back in January. In the state of Arizona, I ranked number 2 thanks in part to all the birds found in the state and for this reason, it kept me on top of their list.
But those are just numbers. The true purpose of my birding is to live the birding adventure and find as many of our world's birds as I can before I visit the green pastures:) Or sadly, before they disappear. My current life list stands at 586. And it's hard! It was so easy a few years back adding birds to the list. Now, it takes a lot of planning and good use of my time. With the night studies, my full-time job, a partner and regular life duties, I was able to add 127 life birds to the list in 2014. Not a bad haul.
What were the highlights? Each place was special and so much fun. But let's look at the bird discoveries......
The most exciting camping trek?
There is no doubt at all here on this one. Although our Greer trip comes close! It was our AZFO camping trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here we did a survey of nesting birds around the area. We had an amazing crew, did some rough camping, and worked incredibly well together. Everyone still talks about that trip up there. I hope to join my AZFO group again this year as we explore Organ National Monument down by the border.
|The North Rim of the Grand Canyon|
I think Kathie Brown can vouch for this one. The Bicknell's Thrush. I will say this about the Mt. Washington Auto Road. It sucks. Beautiful scenery but full of cars and annoying people. And the entrance fee is overpriced. This bird was the trickiest to sort out with the constant traffic. My ears are VERY important when locating birds and this trek was very difficult thanks to all the noise pollution. I still have a bad taste in my mouth about the experience. I remember how quiet and uncomfortable I made everyone feel in the car by my quiet anger. I am not proud of that moment, but I was determined. There were many thrushes in the area which also made listening to the Bicknell's call a challenge. We did manage to spot a couple of the BITH. However, I will never go on that road again.
|The gorgeous mountains of New England|
We went for the Atlantic Puffin along Maine's coast on very rough waters. This is where Kathie and Micheal lost it! The rocking of the waves were too much for them. The Audubon guide was hit left and right during his presentation with ice cold ocean water! For me, I felt like a giant dancer capturing all the amazing terns, puffins and guillemots around the Eastern Egg Island while the ship rocked back and forth.
|Eastern Egg Island|
Whispering to the Florida Scrub-Jay. In a magical moment, the captain of the jays flew to the top of my hat and kept lookout while his company flew all around me to feed on the ground.
Camping on the Channel Islands for the Island Scrub-Jay! There we watched migrating whales, tiny foxes and orcas around our island while spending a couple nights on Santa Cruz Island.
The Upland Sandpiper. The call alone was cool!
A Snowy Owl in Kennebunkport, Maine in the middle of summer!
The AZFO fall get together in Globe and grassland sparrow banding with Dr. Janet Ruth.
|Janet releases a Savannah Sparrow|
While observing Lesser Nighthawks, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flew past me at sunset. I couldn't believe my eyes! And it was all experienced alone after a really bad day at work. This bird made me forget it all.
While observing the endangered Piping Plover on Bunche Beach, FL, I was attacked by thousands of chiggers. I suffered an entire month after a trip to that beach.
The Montezuma Quail and Bell's Sparrow.
The grasslands of Southern Arizona
The bitter dip?
The Gunnison sage-grouse! I'll find you! The weather was NOT cooperative on this day!
Most overlooked place to bird?
New Mexico! For those people who say there is nothing there, I challenge you to look again. WOW! Plus best food stops this year! Green chiles......
Road trek up to Gunnison, CO! WOWSA!
The worst decision?
Perhaps not the greatest place to bird. One team member discovered a man shooting up in the bushes. All of us had seen the bird in other parts of the country but we wanted it on our Arizona list:) It would have required us to hike a wash full of broken glass, used needles and possibly encountering other nasty things. We decided to leave the area for safety issues. However, we knew the birds were hiding in that wash. And so we dipped on this bird. Later in the year on our way to Gunnison, we passed through that same area sans the visit to what I now label "Drug User's Wash" and found the bird around a housing area. Much safer!
The Rhinoceros Auklet.
I'd like to thank all the people involved this year with Las Aventuras. The treks have been amazing and without the people, many of the adventures would have been lonely ones.
When I think about birding in Central and South America, and of course, Mexico, my heart beats a little faster. It's why I do what I do in the real world. It has taken me to the most amazing and breathtaking places on this planet. This year, my goal is to explore Mexico again, do a pelagic and spend time with my family back in Wisconsin. And then there is our wedding at Rocky Mountain National Park this next year. Will I find a White-tailed Ptarmigan while I say, "I do.....love birding."?:) Or will I get myself into trouble under the eyes of Mother Nature for trying to bird and marry at the same time? Only time will tell:) Happy New Year to you all!
|This year's photo album|