2015: The Year in Birds

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Between my eye surgery in March that took 6 months to fully recover from and a major writing commitment that occupied most of my weekends before that, 2015 was not my best birding year. Nonetheless, I did manage trips to Oregon and Hawaii; and some rarities visited my “backyard.”

According to eBird, I added 20 species to my life list in 2015, though many of those are introduced exotics in Hawaii. Hawaii doesn’t seem to have a bird records committee, so there’s no one to rule on which ones “count” and which ones don’t. Clearly native birds like Wedge-tailed Shearwater and Hawaiian Coot count, but what to do about Red-crested Cardinal and Hwamei?

Sunday Dinner

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Cooper's Hawk with dead mouse

Cooper’s Hawk with dead mouse
Brooklyn Botanic Garden native flora garden at noon

Chipping Sparrow

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow in Fall Migration, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Save the Cedar Waxwing

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

For the last ten years or so, the real markers of the holiday season for me are the annual Christmas Bird Counts. I try to get to as many of these as I can. Yesterday was Kings County’s (which actually includes part of Queens County for reasons of convexity). This year I counted at Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden on a beautiful cloudy winter day. Conditions were ideal for sea watching, and we had a lot of great birds including all three scoter species (maybe more than a thousand Black Scoters), hundreds of Red-throated Loons, and eight Common Eiders.

However for me the highlight was three Common Waxwings that Joshua Malbin and I found in the woods at Fort Tilden. Shockingly, these were the only Cedar Waxwings anyone saw anywhere in the count circle yesterday, which makes them a save. They usually aren’t that hard to find, and we didn’t think much about them when we did see them. If we hadn’t bushwhacked the overgrown trail behind the West Battery, or been a few minutes earlier or later when we did, the entire count would have missed Cedar Waxwing this year.

#946 Black-and-white Owl

Friday, March 1st, 2013

As dusk was approaching we drove into the small city of Orotina. In the trees encircled in the town square, we found a lot of sloths, apparently released pets. But the real prize was a Black-and-white Owl our guide, Richard Garrigues, had staked out:

Black-and-white Owl


#944 and #945 near the Tarcoles River

Friday, March 1st, 2013

From La Ensenada, we drove back to San Jose; but with quite a few stops along the way. The lunch break in Tabaris added several beach species to the trip list, including Laughing Gull and Black-crowned Night-heron; but these are all long-distance migrants or widespread species of herons and gulls, so no lifers there. However I did have a life reptile, the Black Ctenosaur:

Black Ctenosaur, Ctenosaura similis, the fastest lizard in the world

These things are huge! I had great trouble getting far enough away to get one in the frame with my 400mm lens.

After lunch we stopped along a dirt road near the Tarcoles River, where we found #944, Scarlet Macaw! The last is one of those spectacular birds you think of when you think of the tropics. We only saw them at a distance, but they were pretty nonetheless.