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2007: Retrospecticus-Top 10 Nature Moments

December 31, 2007
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I have truly had a fantastic year. I am not a religious guy, but I would be hard pressed to say I haven’t been blessed with regard to the birdies this year. I ended 2007 having logged a total of 533 (302 ABA) species of which 30 were ABA life birds. A whole 221 were Costa Rica lifers.

In the vein of a nostalgic meme that’s been making the rounds, I’m putting the last retrospecticus of the year in the form of my top 10 best nature moments of 2007. It has been really difficult to narrow it down to only 10, but I’ll give it a shot. Here they are in reverse order.

10) I just wrote about this last week but, I’ll mention it again. It’s not often you get a three lifer day in the place where you grew up and cut your teeth birding. That alone makes my trip out to the prairie of west Missouri one of my top birding days this year.

9) In January of 2007 I traveled with the Chapel Hill Bird Club on their annual trip to Lake Mattamuskeet NWR and the Outer Banks. I’d been there before but a yearly trip out east is a must for every birder in the state. If the sight of thousands of Tundra Swans and Snow Geese constantly shuttling from field to lake and back again all day long doesn’t do anything for you, then I’m sorry, your heart must be made of solid stone.

8 ) Discovering a new part of South Texas out by Falcon Dam. The morning started with a Common Black-Hawk from the banks of the Rio Grande and ended at the Dewind’s trailer with a cracker of a Clay-colored Robin. I’d birded the Valley on several occasions (my grandma is a snowbird) but this was the first time we’d made it out west for its completely different habitat and birds. The wait was worth it.

7) Watching Black-capped Petrels from aboard the Stormy Petrel II on a windy day off the Outer Banks. I took two pelagic trips this year, one in February and one in September. As a midwesterner born and raised, ocean birding has been the one aspect I’d never taken advantage of until moving out here and I’m totally hooked. To that end, it’s where I ultimately have found the vast majority of my life birds of the last couple years. It’s a blast, I look forward to many more.

6 ) I can’t boil Costa Rica down to just one experience. This summer I got to spend 10 bird-filled days with my two best birding buddies, my friend Nolan (who brilliantly planned the whole thing) and my dad. This spot has to go to our first morning at Savegre Mountain Lodge in the Talamanca Cordillera in the south of the country. The overwhelming hummingbirds including the aptly named Gray-tailed Mountain-Gem, the Resplendent Quetzal in the parking lot, and the incredible fun of being in a completely new place with completely new birds in front of you. I was hooked on Neotropical birding for good.

5) On my February trip to Hatteras for a winter pelagic I had an unfortunate flat tire that forced me to drive the entire weekend on a tiny donut at no faster than 45 mph. It was going to be a long slow trip home if it hadn’t been for Neil and Pat Moore, retirees who were volunteering at Pea Island NWR that day. They directed me to a garage that was open on Sundays where I purchased a replacement tire that got me home safely. Neil and Pat are the folks for birders to know out on the Outer Banks, be it for news on rarities in the area or for a ride out to Cape Point in their 4×4. I know they don’t read this blog, but their kindness in that situation is a prime example of the kind of incredible people you can meet doing this birding thing we do.

4) Costa Rica. Monteverde. An empty trail. Then, suddenly, a Highland Tinamou. Most unexpected bird of the trip and very cool. Helped along by the serendipitous meeting through a mutual acquaintance of a group of Purdue students studying birds. I don’t know if they read this blog, but a great time was had at least on my end. And thanks for the Black-and-Yellow Silky-Flycatchers, Matt.

3) Back to South Texas. Because I had birded there several times previously, there weren’t many specialties I had left. One I had always missed was the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. I was motivated to get it this time as there were at least two breeding pairs reported at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, a place we were certainly going to hit. So, bright and early my dad and I walked into the park for a morning of birding. Suddenly we heard the whistled tooting of a Pygmy-Owl. We quickly triangulated the location of the bird in a dense thicket. It kept calling but we just couldn’t find it, and I won’t add heard-only birds to my life list. When it eventually had had enough of tormenting us and stopped calling we were SOL. It bugged me all day that we were that close, so that evening I drove back to the park and walked in (my dad didn’t go, thinking I’d fail) only to hear another Pygmy-Owl calling again. The light was fading so I ran up to where the bird was to find a man and a woman who had been camping in the park trying to find the bird as well. It was obviously very near when suddenly the woman said, “Oh, there it is!”. In a flash we were all on it, watching its throat puff out with every little whistle. It’s so much smaller then I imagined. When it had had enough, it flew off, leaving us high-fiving and congratulating each other for an awesome bird experience. Best. Bird. Of. The. Year. My dad was jealous…

2) Costa Rica again, this time our time with Rudolfo Alvarado, the guide we hired to take us out for a day. We gave him a short list of target species we really wanted. You want a Snowcap? BAM, you got the Snowcap (gorgeous). Manakins huh? How ’bout I take you where this White-ruffed Manakin is? Play a little tape. There’s your bird (incredible). Trogons? Let me just imitate this one for a second. Oh, there’s a Black-throated Trogon (beautiful). He birded with us from dawn till dusk, we certainly got our money’s worth. It was one of my top birding days ever.

1) Starting this blog as a way to chronicle my birding experiences and meeting so many interesting people through the blogosphere. I am especially impressed with the number of younger birders (in the 18-35 range) who take advantage of the technology. It’s often hard for people like us to find each other in the regular birding community, the fact that we’re able to connect online is really inspiring. Maybe in 2008 I’ll get to meet some of you. Know that my home is always open to those visitors to North Carolina who are looking to get some good birds, and you just may be able to twist my arm and get me out there with you. Uh, just e-mail me first.

What a year, seriously. I’ll be incredibly lucky if my 2008 is even remotely as good as my 2007, but trying to top it is what makes it fun. Happy New Year to all!

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2 Comments
  1. Mike permalink
    January 1, 2008 1:34 pm

    Wow, N8, that’s quite a year you just had! Hope 2008 is as enjoyable.

  2. Amy permalink
    January 2, 2008 1:54 pm

    Even though NC isn’t exactly close to NJ, I hope you can join the next blogger gathering in Cape May, N8.

    P.S. Chapel Hill holds a special place in my heart, as the first place I sipped sweet tea. Mmmm.

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