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Top 10 Birds of the Decade

December 21, 2009
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I had intended to use this space today to recap the Raleigh Christmas Bird Count I did on Saturday, but as the day was largely wet, cold, and windy and the birds seemed hardly happier to be out in it than we were, there’s not much to be said.  Our little group ended with 41 species, which was pretty solid for such a bad day, but had nothing exceptional to make for an exciting blog post.  A flock of American Black Ducks, uncommon in this part of the state though common towards the coast, were the best we came up with.

So instead, I’m going to take inspiration from (re: get bailed out by) several other of my blog colleagues and rank my top ten birds of the decade, those birds that have had a real personal effect on me and my birding career over the last ten years.  So without further ado…

10.  Painted Bunting (June 26, 2006)- Most of my birding formative years were spent in southwest Missouri, which my dad and I covered with a fine-toothed comb.  So it was a real treat to go back to my old stomping grounds and find a lifer not an hour from my house.  Bonus that it was such a gorgeous bird.

9. Scott’s Oriole (February 4, 2008) – Birding in North Carolina has been a blast, and so was being part of the carnival atmosphere surrounding North Carolina’s first record of this desert denizen with no business being so far on this side of the Mississippi River.

8. Short-eared Owl (February 19, 2006)  – One of the coolest moments of my birding career was standing on a dirt road road in Alligator NWR in eastern NC with my friend Nolan watching owl after owl cross the road and start working the fields.  We counted 22 in all.

7. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (March 21, 2007) -Frustrated by a calling bird that had stayed out of site of my dad and I that very morning, I left that evening to go back to Bentsen State Park without him to try again.  I eventually found a bird with the help of a couple other owl searchers and watched it as the dusk got almost too dark to see.  A testimony to the power of perseverance and yes, my dad was super jealous.

6. Northern Hawk-Owl (January 23, 2009) – The bird was cool enough obviously, but to share it with some awesome bird blogging colleagues was a blast and a half.

5. European Storm-Petrel (May 20, 2008) – Probably the rarest bird on my life list, found on a late spring pelagic out of Hatteras last year.  Those trips are practically rare bird factories.  There’s nearly always something incredible, you just don’t know what it’ll be on any given trip.

4. Crimson-collared Tanager (June 28, 2007) – I saw so many incredible birds on a 10-day trip to Costa Rica in the summer of 2007 that it’s hard to pick just one.  This bird, found on an overcast day at the Arenal volcano, with it’s jet black and maroon plumage accented by a silver beak, was probably my favorite.

3. Blue-footed Booby (March 13, 2006) – Staying international, I was the baffled and grateful recipient of a once in a lifetime trip to the Galapagos as a wedding gift from my new in-laws.  We all had an incredible time.  The birds were relatively few, but the bizarre and amazing Blue-footed Boobies were our constant companions and their death-defying dives made for phenomenal nature watching.

2. Ash-throated Flycatcher (December 2, 2009) – Spotting rarities is great.  Finding rarities is even better.  This remains the best self-found bird I’ve discovered since moving to NC.  It’s a great feeling when you realize what you have and even better when subsequent birders are able to re-find it.

1. Black-throated Blue Warbler (September 12, 2005) – It’s hardly a rarity, but it represents my return to birding after a nearly 10 year hiatus.  My experience with this bird, one I’d always wanted to see, on my honeymoon of all times, made me realize that I had let this thing I loved sit too long on the back burner.  The rest is history.

The was a fun trip down memory lane!  What are your birds of the decade?

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4 Comments
  1. December 21, 2009 8:56 am

    Great list…but you rediscovered birding on your honeymoon!?!?! Great Audubon’s Ghost, man, how have you stayed married? And how cruel was it to let Danielle think she was marrying a normal guy and then turning into a birder once the vows were said? 🙂

  2. Nate permalink*
    December 21, 2009 9:02 am

    @corey- According to Danielle, pretty cruel… 😉

  3. Danielle permalink
    December 21, 2009 5:21 pm

    Corey – AMEN!!!!! : )

  4. January 5, 2010 4:22 pm

    OK, here goes: first (and last) sightings this decade: pyrrhuloxia; calliope hummingbird; royal albatross; red junglefowl (yes, a “real” chicken!); brown-capped rosy finch; green-tailed towhee; bluethroat; Ross’s gull; alpine chough; red-winged fairywren; budgerigar (in the wild also). If you’ve been counting, that’s eleven. I just couldn’t bring myself to axe the final species!

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