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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Kickin' Off the 2014 Year List

It's a new year, which means its time to start the 2014 bird year list! Amazingly, Dave in England and I TIED last year, each seeing 192 species. We were both short of our goal of 200, but have our sights set on the same number for this year. It was funny to hear that Dave already had 3 pre-dawn species on his 2014 list before we had even turned the calendars over from 2013!

My list has a very different look to start the year this time, since I spent New Years Day on San Juan Island instead of in Oregon. I still got off to a great start, but it's going to be very hard to reach 100 before the end of January without going off-island (several times?) to get some of the species that are gimmes in the Portland area but next to impossible to get there: black-capped chickadees, great egrets, western scrub-jays, etc.

The last couple of years, I've been able to pass 10 species before even leaving my parents' house. I had hoped to do the same this year, but our feeders have gone completely quiet in the last few days. My first 20 minutes spent outside, in the yard, only turned up five species: red-breasted nuthatch (1), common raven (2), pileated woodpecker (a stellar #3 - was #129 in March last year!), Pacific wren (4), and American robin (5).

Shortly thereafter I met up with my dad, who is also starting his 2014 year list, and a couple of other birders who were game for a day out and about around the island. Our first stop was at Sportsman Lake where we turned up a lot of waterfowl species including trumpeter swans (6), ring-necked ducks (9), and the first of the ubiquitous bufflehead (10) for the day. I also saw my first bald eagle of the year (15) here, and we moved on with 16 species on my list. Three Meadows Marsh added more of the expected species, and also turned up two I was very hopeful for - the marsh wren (23) and Virginia rail (24).

Driving some of the central island roads quickly boosted the list to 34 as many more expected species were added, the most exciting of which was probably a small flock of purple finches (31). We then went for a walk from Deadman Bay to Lime Kiln, adding our first marine birds including harlequin ducks (35), black oystercatchers (36), mew gulls (37), and others. While walking back to the car, another unexpected find was a sharp-shinned hawk (41).

We picked up a few more species as we meandered our way back to town for a lunch break, including a Eurasian wigeon (43) that I spotted very, very, very far away through the scope at False Bay and also a merlin (45) along Douglas Road. The only reason we saw the merlin is because I stopped to take a picture of this pair of bald eagles!

We ate lunch at Jackson Beach, a location I had scouted a couple times in the preceding days. As hoped, we turned up some common goldeneye (48) and a pair of long-tailed ducks (53), but gone were the greater yellowlegs and peregrine falcon that will have to wait for another day. Gotta save something for later this month!

We then continued the circuit we birded yesterday (when I was hoping to find a red-throated loon or some other surprise to regain my one-species lead over Dave), which turned up nearly 40 species for us in a couple hours on the last day of 2013. By this point the weather was turning, however, and gone was our pleasant, overcast morning, replaced with a chillier, rainier mid-afternoon. At Fourth of July Beach we found surf (55) and white-winged (56) scoters as well as a single Pacific loon (57). A pair of northern harriers (58) were flying near the redoubt at American Camp, but we couldn't relocate the shrike we saw there yesterday (and several times previously). By this time the light was beginning to fade already, so our last stop of the day was at Cattle Point where I knew I would have a shot to reach my Day One goal of 60 species. We saw a couple red-breasted mergansers (59) which I thought for sure we would have seen by then, and then the icing on the cake was a couple of surfbirds on Goose Island (60) as well as a few black-bellied plovers (61). Thank goodness for my dad's scope or we never would have seen them!

Thanks to a few early morning sightings, my dad remains one ahead of me at 62 as the first day of 2014 came to a close. I've established a nice early lead on Dave, however, who in what sounds like stormy weather turned up 30 species on January 1 across the pond. We'll see how long it lasts me, though - I don't think it will last we very long at all!

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