2008 Birding Retrospective

2008 was a year I moved to a new state on the other side of the country, and a part of that state I’d only been to once before. It also featured trips to China and Louisiana. The net result was one of the biggest years I’ve had in a long time. According to eBird, my year total was somewhere over 300 species. I don’t know exactly because I don’t enter the China data there. Even more impressively, 2008 saw 61 life birds, 12 from China, 3 from Louisiana, and 46 from California. That’s not even counting some new exotics like this Red-whiskered Bulbul from Huntington Library and Gardens:

Crested bird, perched

In fact, the year really started for me when I visited Irvine in January to look for a place to live and found a Heermann’s Gull at Balboa Pier. I’d looked for this one further north before, and failed. Little did I know then how many I’d see over the following year.

Although my state lists aren’t as complete as my life list, especially for some early rarities from New York, California now seems to have safely passed New York in my lists, 258 to 245. Orange County is now my number 1 county with 214 species (all but 2 of those seen last year), way ahead of Kings (182) and Queens (173).

In 2009, I’ve got a stretch goal of 500 on my life list. That’s going to be tough since I’ve now ticked off most of the obvious birds around here. However there are still some Orange County birds I don’t have like the Common Poorwill and the Western Screech Owl. Heck, the Common Ground Dove is resident just across the creek at San Joaquin and I’ve still never seen one.

There are also probably a dozen+ pelagic species in our local waters I don’t have yet, and the first pelagic trip of the year sails out of Dana Point next weekend. Black-vented Shearwater should be a lock at this time of year, and lots else is possible. (Update: the trip happened before I finished writing this. Four life birds.) I wonder if anyone’s planning a trip for the Island Scrub Jay?

I also need to spend some time on the other side of the mountains. An amazing number of species get just up to the last mountain range or two, and then stop before reaching the ocean. Green-tailed Towhee is one I really want. Ditto Lewis’s and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. I had a maybe on that up at Modjeska this year, but couldn’t be quite sure. Maybe this is the year I finally visit the Salton Sea.

As usual, I’ll be in Silicon Valley, multiple times this year. Maybe this is the year I get lucky and finally find the Yellow-billed Magpies that have eluded me previously. American Dipper is another possibility at the right locations.

I should also spend some more time exploring Los Angeles and San Diego counties. There’s not a lot there that isn’t also here, but they do have some gorgeous parks and preserves to explore. Los Angeles did provide me with two life birds this year.

Doheny State Beach is good for gulls. Glaucous Gull and Mew Gull are both over there right now. I just need to find the time to to go chase them. And they’re some other chaseable rarities in the county including Gray Flycatcher at Mile Square Park and Tropoical Kingbirds both south and north of me. And sooner or later the Plumbeous Vireos will start showing up.

Still even 20 in the county would be a lot, and 40 in the state would be very good. I wonder if I can get to Southeastern Arizona?

One Response to “2008 Birding Retrospective”

  1. Tommy Says:

    With the trip to China you have me beat for the year. If we are looking at just North America I’ve got you by two for the year. 51 lifers for 2008.

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