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2010 in Birds

January 3, 2011

It’s always fun for birders to look back on what has passed since the last time the Earth was in this general position in its orbit.  And since Pope Gregory XIII decided that this was the arbitrary point on which the seasonal axis would turn (Seriously though, the middle of winter?), now’s the time for birders, not only those with blogs, to look back on the last 12 months with fond remembrance.  And I am nothing if not Average Joe Birder, so here goes nothing.

First, my stats.  I noted 338 species of birds thing year, most of them seen.  Of that 338, 34 were life birds.  For the ABA area, the number is less, a total of 239 species from my home state of North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Kansas.  Of those, 5 were life birds.  In my home state of North Carolina, I ended the year with 209 species, two of which were new birds for the state, Lapland Longspur and Connecticut Warbler.  Not a bang up year by any stretch of the imagination, but not too bad*.

*Only if you ignore that awful Deepwater Horizon thing that happened though.  From the birds’ point of view, this could be a rough year, but that’s too depressing to dwell on now.  Besides, have you contacted your representatives about a Spill Bill yet?  There’s still time!

No, this year was notable for reasons other than the birds that I saw, as they tend to be.  The following are five fantastic birding experiences from 2010, with a bonus sixth that was cool and tangentially related to birding. I hope you’ll indulge me this nostalgic navel-gazing.

1) Essex County, Massachusetts.  For the second straight year I traveled north to take part in the Super Bowl of Birding as part of the Bloggerhead Kingbirds.  Other members included Corey from 10,000 Birds, Mike from Feathers and Flowers, Andrew from Birdingdude, John from A DC Birding Blog, and the captain, our captain, Christopher of Picus Blog, who, before the competition even started, arranged for us to see a Common Chaffinch that was coming to a feeder.  It was easily the best bird I saw all year.  We ended up winning the Essex County Excels Award for most point within the county lines and, of course, a good time was had by all.  The same team is returning this year as well.  Perhaps we take it all?

2) Volcan San Pedro, Guatemala – This past February I was able to participate in the Inguat Bird-watching Encounter in Guatemala at the invitation of the nation’s Board of Tourism. I don’t know what else I can say about what was a pretty amazing experience, but I had been seriously jonseing for some neotropic birding, and even though I was only there for two and a half days – a time period that gets you special consideration among airport security professionals incidentally – I was able to sate that desire.  Not only was the birding phenomenal, but the opportunity to hobnob with the likes of Ted Floyd and Bill Oddie was as incredible as the Chesnut-sided Shrike-Vireos, the White-throated Magpie-Jays and any number of other multi-hyphened tropical gems.  It made missing the Horned Guan nearly tolerable.

3) Mason Farm – There’s nothing inherently special about Mason Farm, other than the fact that it’s my local patch.  But I picked up a new camera this spring, and it has made my regular birding that much more exciting as I try to capture a portion of what I find on a weekly basis in electrodes or pixels or whatever it is that you use instead of film these days.  Hopefully it makes this blog a little more exciting too.

4) Off Hatteras – Is there ever a bad time to go on a pelagic?  I mean, besides winter?  For the first time, I traveled offshore and back without picking up a life bird.  It was a small disappointment, and one I knew was going to come eventually, but there’s nothing to complain about when you’re watching Black-capped Petrels arcing over the Gulf Stream.  Besides, the birds may have had nothing new to show, but the marine mammals were amazing; five species of cetaceans, including Sperm Whale and an amazing breaching Humpback Whale were enough to curb any disappointment at failing to see Trindade Petrel or Cahow.

5) Falls Lake, NC – The nemesis that wasn’t and perhaps my most satisfying lifer.  The amazing long-staying Connecticut Warbler in Durham County eluded me once, but not twice.  Thanks to local birder Robert Meehan, I turned what looked to be a second unsuccessful run at the bird into sweet victory.  I was merely one of many birders who were able to pick up their life Connecticut Warbler on that litter-strewn back arm of Falls Lake.  A truly great bird.

6) The ongoing soap opera of the American Birding Association took up much of the summer.  What could have been an embarrassing and acrimonious tossing of the President turned into a public airing of what we, as birders, want the ABA to be.  It was, perhaps, one of the most most constructive discussions about the organization in its history in that it was completely open and honest.  I’m honored that I had something to do with that on this blog, and I appreciate the fact that the principles involved were so willing to talk about it all.

Truth told, the whole thing started with my search for something to write about on a slow summer Friday.  From then on I was made aware of some of the major complaints and the series of posts that followed inspired some really great and frank discussions about the ABA’s future.  And the people involved, including new prez Jeff Gordon, were listening, and I don’t think I can say enough how humbling and gratifying that realization has been for me personally. Even my blatant and somewhat brazen request to be more deeply involved was considered, and I’ll have more to say about that in the near future, but needless to say I do think the ABA has an essential role to play as a champion for North American birders and it’s exciting to see them fill that role in the way we always hoped that could.

So, some 2010, huh?  Here’s to a great 2011.

  1. January 3, 2011 8:15 pm

    Chaffinch…damn….are those feathers really getting analyzed? Epic bird. I’m still stoked on a Hawfinch I saw last year on Adak Island (Alaska)…particularly since somebody guaranteed me that I would see more on Buldir Island and that never happened.

    • January 4, 2011 7:51 am

      I see them practically everyday (particularly in winter) and am stoked on them each time. I hope you saw it well.

  2. Nate permalink*
    January 3, 2011 8:39 pm

    @Steve- Yeah. I never heard anything about the feather analysis, and honestly completely forgot that’s what they had in mind when they did it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s countable.

    And Hawfinch… wow. That’s a bird that doesn’t mess around. And it’s got a name to match, Coccothraustes. Literally a kernal-shatterer. Like it’s a Norse god or something.

    • January 4, 2011 7:48 am

      It doesn’t.
      It has.
      And it likely is.

  3. January 3, 2011 10:52 pm

    Great recap of some pretty stellar happenings in 2010. Here’s to an even better 2011 more birds, more countries, more photos, and more Big Days. Hey, if I’m lucky I’ll get to bird with you *twice* this year! Of course, that makes my year better, not sure about yours.

  4. BirdTrainerRobert permalink
    January 4, 2011 2:08 am

    Sounds like a great year, Nate! You’re welcome about that CT Warbler… now I just gotta work on my Durham Co. Oporornis sweep…. halfway there! lol

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