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2012 in Birds

December 28, 2012
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Barring a run of remarkable luck over the next 72 hours, I’m going to end the year with the birding numbers I’ve got right here, right now.  That means that in 2012 I will have recorded a grand total of 311 bird species.  That’s only a smidge below my five year average, which is weighted low because 2009 was a slow birding due to the birth of my son, of 314.  While I enjoyed no international travel this year, I birded in 5 states, pushing state lists up in every single one of them.  Two states, Virginia and the District of Columbia, were entirely new this year.  The first offered some great birding to push it well above 100 in one go, and the second saw putzing around on a family trip rack up with 17 species, but just think of all those total ticks, to consider a list I had never given too much thought too before.

But anyway, I ended the year with 3 lifers, two from a trip to Arizona in August and the third, the addition of Eastern Whip-poor-will to the official list following a glimpse of one in May, which puts me at 513.

I did slightly better on the state list, adding 4 species in 2012 to put me at 328 in North Carolina.  There are still enormous holes in that list so here’s hoping I close those soon and get to 350 where all the “serious” birders live.

County birding was even more productive.  14 new birds for Durham County, 11 for Chatham, and 6 in Orange, plus various county ticks here and there.  I added a handful of North Carolina counties to my own personal ebirded list, which is an accomplishment even if the lists consist of less than half a dozen species in most incidences.

So, not a bad year.  In any case, this the season for year end lists, and I’m going to lay down the five best birding experiences I’ve had this year just as a nice stroll down memory lane.  I can’t wait to once again participate in the annual tradition of staying up will midnight and watching my eBird year lists turn over to zero.

5) Getting in the Loop: 2012 was the year that I finally got the in to help lead trips for the Carolina Bird Club’s seasonal meetings.  The CBC made an effort this past January to attract younger trip leaders and I, despite being on the near side of 30, got tapped along with a few other of my similarly youngish cadre of fellow birders.  I had a blast leading the rarity chase van and I’ve been invited to every gathering as a leader since, which is a nice thing to have going for you because I don’t know if many young birders in the midst of school and family and career would be able to make it happen without a little push.  Good on CBC for taking initiative.

Ruddy Turnstone - Wrightsville Beach, New Hanover Co, NC

4)  More than just birds: 2012 was the first year I expanded my repertoire to include herps more and more.  I’ve always loved reptiles and amphibians from my days as a kid, but for whatever reason I hadn’t put two and two together and realized how easily an interest in herps can dovetail with an interest in birds.  Best, it’s a great excuse to get my kid outside too, because birds are tough and small, but snakes, turtles and salamanders are usually easy enough to catch and show off.  And he really likes that.

Our second Marbled Salamander

3)  Community Building: in 2012, I participated for the first time in the Mini-Breeding Bird Survey managed by a former ornithology professor at UNC.  The routes are run just like the more famous big-BBS, except they’re about half the length and all located in the tri-county area.  Even though I had a hard time getting started due to various issues both my own fault (starting the count at the wrong spot) and not (car battery dies), I look forward to participating next year.

eBird MBBC

2)  Arizona Dreaming:  I had the great honor of participating in a birder social media summit hosted by Swarovski Optik in Tucson, Arizona.  It was great fun hanging out with some super bird-bloggers and birding in one of the legit jewels of the North American scene.  I saw some great birds, including two lifers, along with cool butterflies, herps, and spiders.  It was super fun, easily the highlight of the year if it weren’t for…

Spotted Owl - Miller Canyon, Cochise Co, Az

1) 200!!!!!: Cracking 200 species in one of my counties always felt like a pipe dream, but that Lesser Black-backed Gull from Hickory Hill boat ramp in Durham County that put me on the plateau was so, so sweet.  County birding has revitalized my own birding career in the wake of what would likely be a significant and lengthy hiatus in the birth and raising of a child.  Now I can fill that listing yen with birds that are never more than a few miles from my home, keeping me happy and my family happy.  Win-win.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - Falls Lake, Durham Co, NC

Not such a bad 2012, even if the species count was lower than I may have expected or wanted.  Onward to 2013, which promises to be very good indeed.

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