Thursday, 17 January 2019

2018 Year in Review and a Lifer or Two: Part II

I finished off 2018 with a trip to Nevada, both for work and birding, and enjoyed visitiing the 3 adjoing states over the 4 extra days I was there, including Zion Nartional Park in Utah, the Grand Canyon area of Arizona and Death Valley in California.  Utah was the 29th state in which I have submitted at least one eBird list, though I had been to a few more, such as Maine and Vermont, long before I was a birder.  So, 29 down, just 21 to go!  I also added a couple of new Ontario Lifers, including an ABA Lifer with mere days left in the year, and I am now only 23 species away from 700.

My first destination in Nevada was the wonderful Bird Viewing Preserve in Henderson, just 20 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.


The birding there is terrific and you can spend hours in the morning discovering new species around every corner, in every pond and even on every bench and fence line, including Ruddy Ducks, Cinnamon Teal, Gambles Quail and even a female or young male Vermilion Flycatcher:



Close by is Wetlands Park, an oasis in the desert, with rocks and riverbeds, full of interesting wildlife, including coyotes,(I only saw the tracks), and naturally, Roadrunners, along with a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.


I spent a night in the interestingly named town of Pahrump prior to heading to Ash Meadows NWR, and enjoyed what has now become my favorite new beverage at a local pub:



No Lifers in Utah, but the Oregon sub-species of Dark-eyed Junco was a lovely site on a cold day in Zion National Park, as was seeing a Townsend's Solitare, both rare birds back home in Toronto.



Back home in Toronto, it was time for a Lifer or two!  The week I was gone, a Slaty-backed Gull began to be reported from a garbage dump and landfill out in Brantford, Ontario.  At the time the dump was open to birders to come see it.  By the time I returned, they had closed the dump and birders had to hope to catch a sighting in flight.  My first trip resulted in dozens of photos of hundreds of gulls, but not the rare one, so I was going to hope to find it on a return visit.

The next day another rarity showed up in the form of a Eurasian Collared-dove, this time in Hamilton.  Another rare bird in a home-owners back yard, which seemed to happen a lot in 2018.  I raced over and joined half a dozen other excited birders to enjoy the sighting.  I had seen a few just days earlier in Nevada, but this was number 325 for my Ontario List.


It was time to return to the dump in Brantford.  I searched the skies over the dump then went to the nearby lake to see if there were any gulls there, with no luck.  But after a coffee and bagel break, I returned to the road outside the dump and within a few minutes, I finally spotted the Slaty-backed Gull in flight.  I now had another new Lifer for the year, giving me 677 ABA species, 685 in the ABA area and a grand total to end 2018 of 1014 species reported.

By the numbers, I listed 451 species, and added 5 ABA Lifers, in addition to 63 I added in Trinidad.  I also added 9 birds to my Ontario Life List and 21 species to my Colonel Sam Smith Park List.  All in all a fun and exciting year.

2019 is here and I plan to keep an eBird a day list going, and add even more Lifers, both in ABA and my world list, starting with a February trip to Ecuador!

Monday, 14 January 2019

2018 Year in Review and a Lifer or Two: Part I

As the year wraps up, a couple of rare visitors to Southern Ontario added two birds to my Ontario List and, more importantly, a new ABA Species, giving me 677 since beginning back in 2012 and now just 23 away from 700.

I began 2018 with a trip to Trinidad where I added 63 species to my World Life List.  It was a great trip with nearly 200 species and amazing hummingbirds.

Then it was back in North America and a trip out to Ottawa to get my first photos of Gray Partridge.  I found them in the backyards of a housing complex.  Early in February I also got photos a recently returned Tufted Duck and of Ring-necked Pheasants from closer than 100 feet away, and my first for Ontario, number 317 at the time, and there would be 8 more before the end of the year.


All this time I had been hearing reports of a Mistle Thrush in New Brunswick.  It was finally during the second week of February when the bird was still hanging around, that I decided to go for it.  After a long day of flying and driving, I arrived to see it badly late that afternoon, and spectacularly the next morning, number 1010 for the Life List.  I also got my first photos of a Black Guillemot, though it was a juvenile.


In March, I added the Rose-ringed Parakeet,(freshly added to the ABA List) to the Life List,(1011), down in Naples, Florida but it was in Ontario that spring and early summer where the real excitement was.  I keep few Life Lists.  World and ABA obviously, and, of course, Ontario, the province where I live.  I don't keep a backyard list or a country/city list, but I do keep track of all the birds I have seen in Colonel Samuel Smith Park down by Lake Ontario in Toronto.  I go there about 100 days a year and began the year with 200 species seen in the park.  In early April, while birding with Sue, she spotted a Virginia Rail, the first new species for the park of a year where I would add 21 species over the next 8 months.


The rail was followed by a Pine Warbler and Sora, and then the arrival of a Yellow-breasted Chat in the aftermath of a late April ice storm and an early May wind storm.  That weekend another park first, a LeConte's Sparrow put on an equally spectacular show for both birders and photographers.


It was then off to Rondeau Provincial Park for the Fantasy of Flight Birding Festival, where my two goals were the realistic chance of getting my first photograph of a Golden-winged Warbler and a less likely chance of a spectacular Fallout after a spring rainstorm.  Lucky for us, we got both on the same day!  I also got to add White-winged Dove to my growing Ontario Life List.


Back in Toronto, I added 3 more birds to my Col. Sam List: Eastern Meadowlark, Ruddy Turnstone and a Purple Finch in a field of grass, along with the annual whimbrel migration.  And just when I thought migration season had come to an end, on a cold morning, early in June at Bronte Harbour, dozens of birders flocked to see an Arctic Tern, number 319 for my Ontario List.



During my summer travels, I got to see a lost Whooping Crane in Michigan and added two Lifers in Florida: Mangrove Cuckoo and Roseate Tern, both down in the Keys.  I also had a great trip out west, too see Black-billed Magpies in British Columbia and down to West Virginia where I found a Worm-Eating Warbler at the Brush Creek Preserve, home to a unique assemblage of rare plants and animals.  And when I returned to Toronto, another first for Col. Sam Smith Park, a Dickcissel



Early fall saw trips to Florida and the spectacular fall birding destination of Cape May, New Jersey.
No Lifers there, but there was a Eurasian Wigeon, for our one rare bird of the trip.  When I returned news of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in Colonel Sam Smith Park was hot off the OntBirds Alert, Number 214 for my Park List.  And there were more!  A Wilson's Snipe, Pine Siskin, Pectoral Sandpiper, Parasitic Jaeger, and my holy grail of Park List birds, a Nelson's Sparrow,(219).  But all that excitement ended with a trip to the hospital to fix some rods and screws in my spine.  Still, I managed to continue my daily eBird streak by birding out my hospital window each day, and my in my back yard while I recovered at home.


Barely recovered from my surgery, a report of a Black-throated Gray Warbler came in and I added another Ontario Lifer, number 320 for the Province List. Next, it was a Common Eider, number 321.  Back in Colonel Samuel Smith Park, more Park Lifers were seen.  Down here in Toronto, it is rare for a Boreal Chickadee to be seen, but a first for Col Sam, this bird had us racing around the park to finally see and get photos.  To top it all off, a Northern Goshawk flew over giving me two new Lifers for the Park,  numbers 220 and 221.


We weren't finished with Ontario rarities just yet.  There were a few more, including ridiculously rare Calliope Hummingbird,(322), coming to backyard feeders in Goderich, on the coast of Lake Huron.  Then, before I headed south to Nevada for a work/birding trip, the Great Kiskadee that had been seen all fall in Rondeau Provincial Park returned.


I had not gone pre-surgery since the drive was a little too far for me at the time, but post-surgery I took the trip and added another Ontario Lifer, number 323 and there would still be more...