Saturday, January 8, 2011

Birding 2010 in Review

2011 is here, and that means wrap-up and review posts for 2010. First off, a month-by-month summary of last years birding:

January- I started off the year in Pennslyvania, and on the drive home found my first lifer of 2010, 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the Deleware River at Falls Township Community Park. Other birding expeditions build my year list, including a trip to Stratford that netted Lapland Longspur and Saw-whet Owl. The NYSYBC annual meeting took place at Marshlands on the 16th, with the usual winter waterfowl and songbirds present.

February- I went to the Croton Point Eaglefest on the 6th, where I saw lots of eagles and waterfowl, as well as my lifer Redhead. I chased and found the Yellow-headed Blackbird in Chappaqua on the way back. Though not technically a birding trip, the NYSYBC set up tour of the collection of the bird department of the Museum of Natural History, which was really fun and interesting. The latter part of the month was my trip to Costa Rica, the by far birding highlight of the year. I found 174 species, 139 lifers, and such incredible birds a Resplendent Quetzal, Scarlet Macaw, Common Potoo, 15 different hummingbirds, toucans, motmots, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, more than a dozen flycatchers and a handful of tanagers. It was really awesome.

March- March is a slow month for birding, and I did not see that many birds. However, returning migrants such as Tree Swallows and Eastern Phoebe highlighted the NYSYBC trip to Stockport Flats. Other notable birds this month were displaying American Woodcocks at Marshlands and a Snow Goose on a golf course in Mamaroneck.

April- More returning migrants, with Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Marshlands, Swamp Sparrow and Bluebird at Greenwich Audubon, and a nice Wilson's Snipe at the tennis courts near my house.

May- Obviously excellent, with many warblers and migrants.16 warblers, including Bay-breasted and Cerulean were at Central Park on the 2nd, plus Red-headed Woodpecker and Rusty Blackbird. A very productive afternoon of birding at the Botanical Gardens added Blackburnian and Canada Warblers, with 10 others giving good views as well. Doodletown was excellent as usual, with Cerulean, Blue-winged, and Hooded Warblers highlighting. And to top off the month, a Sedge Wren near my beach house was a cool and rare lifer.

June- I didn't do too much birding, but visited Marshlands a couple times, and birded Jamaica Bay with Benjamin, Jacob and Lila, finding waders such as Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Glossy Ibis, and Little Blue Heron, as well as getting distant looks at my life Barn Owl.

July- I was at my beach house for most of July, finding Bonaparte's Gull, Common Eider, Whimbrel, and my life Arctic Terns at various beaches in the area. Back in New York, I went on the NYSYBC trip to Cupsogue, where shorebirds and terns were everyone, including Western Sandpiper, Red Knot, Black Skimmer, as well as  Roseate, Gull-billed and Sandwich Terns.

August- Back in Massachusetts, a trip to South Beach did not turn up the reported godwits, but there were Whimbrels, a Roseate Tern, some Horned Larks, and Black and White-winged Scoters. A whale-watching trip to Stellwagen Bank had more whales than birds, but there were still a few Wilson's Storm-Petrels and Greater Shearwaters around. I did a "Big Day by Bike" on the 15th, finding plenty of birds, including some unexpected ones, like Broad-winged Hawk, Northern Waterthrush, Eastern Bluebird, Brant, Horned Lark, and Red-shouldered Hawk, posting a pretty good (for August and without a car) day total of 68. A bird walk with the local Audubon hit some good shorebirding spots, and ended up with White-rumped, Stilt, Pectoral Sandpipers and a Wilson's Snipe. A cool yard bird was a Black Tern, which ended up off the beach across the street from my house after a storm. To finish the month, I found a pair of Baird's Sandpipers at Jamaica Bay, a decent rarity and a lifer, and moved from shorebird migration to warbler migration by finding 9 warbler species at the end of the month.

September- One of the better months of the year for birding. I started off with a bang by finding a male Golden-winged Warbler at Marshlands, a lifer at the first fall record there. Two trips to the hawkwatch at Greenwich Audubon were very fun, with morning flight watching early, then warblers in the early morning, and  hawkwatching for the rest of the day. I also found two longtime nemesis birds, one each day- Purple Finch and Common Nighthawk. One weekend later was some of the most fun birding of the year- watching nocturnal migration of warblers from the top of the Empire State Building. We saw more than 800 birds, including cuckoos, catbirds, vireos, grosbeaks, geese, a heron, an egret, and, of course warblers. A Peregrine Falcon added excitement by plucking birds out of the air- diving down from the spire to snag a warbler many times, with sucess 3 times. I got two lifers the next day in Central Park- Gray-cheecked Thrush and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.

October- I went to Cape May the first weekend of October. The birding capital of the country was excellent as usual, with warblers at arm's length and many migrants of every variety. The best was probably Cape May Warbler, a lifer, plus it was cool to see my first in Cape May. I saw 95 species in 2 days, neither of them full days of birding. I went with Benjamin to Marshlands to successfully look for Nelson's Sparrows on the 11th, and went to the hawkwatch a few more times. Towards the end of the month, I saw the Prothonotary Warbler at the New York Public Library, and banded Saw-whet Owls.

November- This is rarity month, and most of my birding was in the form of "twitches." First was a failed chase after a LeConte's Sparrow at Milford Point, where consolation came in the form of two lifers- Sora and American Golden-Plover. Next up was the Stamford Fork-tailed Flycatcher, which I saw twice. Then the Cave Swallows in New Haven with the Connecticut Young Birders Club. Finally, a post-Thanksgiving twitch after Connecticut's first Northern Lapwing, which I missed by 5 minutes. Sort-of-Consolation birds were Barnacle Goose and my life Greater White-fronted Goose.

December- Rarity-chasing continued when I went to see the Varied Thrush in Central Park, with a Yellow-breasted Chat as a nice bonus. The day after Christmas I was up at my beach house, seawatching, when my life Iceland Gull flew overhead. Last life bird of the year. Other good birds there were both loons and White-winged and Surf Scoters. On New Years Eve I went to the Read Sanctuary in Rye, where I couldn't find redpolls or grebes, but I did see my last addition to my year list- a flyover American Pipit.

A really great birding year. Lots of beautiful birds (quetzal, macaw, tanagers), rare birds (forktail, barnacle goose, varied thrush), lifers (a lot), and memorable birding experiences. (empire state building at night, saw-whet owl banding, black and white owl stakeout in Orotina) Will 2011 top it? I don't know. It would be pretty awesome if it does.

Good Birding!

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