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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Bird Year List: End of 2018, Beginning of 2019

This was my ninth year keeping track of a bird species year list. My goals for 2018 were to reach 220 birds for my year list, and photograph 95% of them, for a target of 209 species photographed. I exceeded the number goals, tallying 261 (my highest ever) on the year list and photographing 243 of them, a 93.1% capture rate. Thanks to our road trip to Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico, I also tallied 21 life birds this year, second only to my 23 life birds on the Alaska trip in 2010.

Because it's fun to play with numbers, here's the break down over the years for bird species added by month:

Dave (from England) and my dad Rainer and I have also had a friendly competition over the years. For 2018 my dad tallied 266, winning for the second year in a row and the sixth time in eight years, and Dave came in at 195.

There were a lot of birding highlights in 2018 but here are a few of my favorites.

Madera Canyon in Arizona was one of the most incredible birding spots I have ever seen. Not only was it full of life birds for me, but the action at the feeders at Santa Rita lodge was captivating and ever-changing; one full day of sitting there doing nothing else was not nearly enough of watching! One of the most unexpected moments was, thanks to a tip from a couple fellow birders, locating a pair of elusive Montezuma quail:

Later on that same trip, we rented a boat in San Diego Bay to track down the "mega-rarity" - a Nazca booby. While it was a bit of splurge expense-wise, we knew it was a memory we would never forget, and it was definitely one of the major highlights of our two week trip:

While it's exciting to see exotic birds far away from home, some of the best sightings can also happen literally right in your yard. Another highlight this year was this barred owl who spent at least half an hour eying our domestic quail in their aviary in broad daylight.

For 2019, we are trying out a new twist on our photo year list, trying to take photos without the "hand of man" in them. So, no birds at feeders, sitting on wires, etc. Last year my photo year list had about 15% of the pictures with the hand of man, so I wasn't anticipating it would be too much of a challenge. Turns out there's a lot more things to think about than expected! For instance, I decided this lovely shot from Day 1 of 2019 shouldn't count, since this song sparrow is perched on pressure treated lumber.

On January 1st I tallied 44 species on my year list and got decent photos of 17 of them. This was my favorite shot of the day:

Greater yellowlegs at Jackson Beach on January 1
Given the more difficult photo challenge this year and the fact that I won't be traveling as far afield, I'm lowering my goals a bit for 2019. My goal is to reach 200 species on the year list and photograph 90% of them, or 180. Here's to another great year of birding!

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