2019: A Year In Review

Let me first start out this year in review with an apology to all my readers. I’ve not been a very good blogger and have lagged behind in posting anything of interest. Some of this was due to my broken ankle at the end of Spring and lasting through the Summer. Those weeks that I was laid up kept me both from birding and blogging. Compounding this was a couple bouts of having the cold, which as a member of the senior population takes longer to get over. With that being said lets put this year behind us and hope that 2020 is a better year both for you personally, and birding.

For myself 2019 was a pretty good year for birds. I was able to add 11 new birds to my life list, with the latest being a Prairie Falcon that’s been hanging out in the flat farm land west of Bowling Green Ohio. I picked up that bird yesterday.

Below are 6 of the 11 new birds spotted in 2019, and if it wasn’t for our family vacation to Maine my yearly number would be significantly lower.

  • Common Eider
  • Sooty Shearwater
  • Great Shearwater
  • Atlantic Puffin
  • Northern Fulmer
  • Black Guillemot
  • Great Cormorant

For the greatest distance driven by car to tick off a new bird lies with the now famous Tufted Duck of Fennville Michigan.

back on April 28th I drove one way 335 miles to check this bird off my life list. Did this seem excessive driving just for 1 bird? Sure it was. However it was worth the drive to see a bird that I’ll probably never see again.

Most satisfying Bird of 2019: Well that honor goes to the Red Phalarope that I was able to check off the old Life List on November 3rd. Now I’m finally able to check off all North American Phalarope species with this beautiful bird that was spotted at Brookville Lake in Indiana.

For the 2 most surprising new birds of 2019 would have to be the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and the Prairie Falcon. Even though I don’t have any photos of these birds, they are without a doubt the most surprising birds that I never would expect to see this year.

As I reflect on 2019 I can’t help but to look forward to 2020, which will prove to be the most “birdiest” year to date. In the past I’ve had some very good years for birds but this coming year should put me past a personal milestone of 500 ABA birds.

In the next few weeks I’ll start making plans on going to the Southwest Wings Spring Fling in Sierra Vista Arizona. Long have I wanted to visit Arizona for their abundance of great birds. Like my trip to the Rio Grande Birding Festival, this trip should push me past the 500 mark for total birds.

If for some reason I don’t reach 500 by the end of that trip, I have yet another trip that will tip it into my favor. My eldest son is getting married on Oahu Hawaii in November. I’ll be there for 2 weeks. I can only imagine the birds I’ll be seeing.

These two trips have my brain on overdrive. After the holidays are over then I can start to concentrate on the task at hand. Study the birds and their songs and calls. I need to prepare. And it’s this preparation that makes us better birders.

With 2019 almost in the past, let us look forward to a better 2020, and better birds.

Happy New Year to you all.

 

Notes From The Field

While at Caesar Creek State Park yesterday I was scanning the lake from various locations to see if any waterfowl was starting to show up. For the most part all the action was centered around all the Bonaparte’s Gulls as they hovered over the lake as Common Loons stirred up all the little bait fish.

My last stop was a boat ramp and what caught my eye were all the American Pipits feeding along the edge. I was able to pull close with my car and snap off a few pretty nice shots.

” On The Road” for Life Bird #464

Treaty Line Road, Liberty Indiana

Phalaropus fulicarius, or commonly known as Red Phalarope has been kind of a pseudo-nemesis bird for me. I feel it’s the most difficult bird of the 3 Phalarope species to spot inland no matter what time of the year it is. I’ll hear about sightings of them along Lake Erie, however those sightings seem to be of birds in flight as they’re passing through during migration. Last year in the Autumn we had a particularly strong storm that came out of the north with north to south winds. A Red Phalarope dropped in at the beach at East Fork State Park for the remainder  of the day, and by the time I got there early the next day it was gone.

So needless to say searching out this particular species would be pointless around where I live, and opportunities aren’t necessarily showing up, it came as quite a surprise to read on the Indiana Rare Bird Alert that one dropped in at the mudflats along Treaty Line Road. And it doesn’t surprise me that it would be here, because this spot can be Hot, with a capitol “H”.

Having read the post Saturday evening I told myself that it’s probably just another one day wonder and it’ll be gone by the morning. But when morning came along during my second cup of coffee I read that it stayed through the night. Off I went on another chase.

The drive over was uneventful even though my stupid GPS took me all on back roads and with hardly any gas left in the tank I limped in a gas station in Liberty Indiana. A couple of minutes after hanging up the nozzle I turned onto  Treaty Line Road. You have to drive almost to the end before you’re able to view the mudflats. The lack of cars at the viewing area wasn’t a good sign. I noticed a pick-up that had turned around and was heading back. I stopped and aked if he was there for the Phalarope and did he see it. He did and then he said it had flown off. My heart sank and I felt sicker than I already was.

I was still going to check it out. It was a long drive and worth the effort I thought. David, the guy in the pick-up truck, had a familiar name and one I’d seen with postings on Facebook. We struck up a conversation while I got my spotting scope up and started to scan. It took no more than a few minutes before I was able to re-locate the bird. JACKPOT!

The bird was really far of and these 2 photos don’t do any justice to the actual bird. But it’s a far cry better than having no pictures, like the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper that I saw a week or so ago.

There’s Always A First Time

I’m a pretty avid reader of the ABA Blog, and I always love reading the Rare Bird Report. All those really cool birds that people spot and take photos of that are always in other people’s back yards, never yours. Now one bird I’ve seen reports on through the years was of the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Usually you read about these birds while folks are birding in Alaska somewhere. Never in a million years would one show up, at least not literally, in my back yard.

This last Saturday my wife and myself were on our way to Detroit to baby sit our Grandson while our daughter and husband ran in the Detroit Marathon on Sunday. While getting settled in on Saturday afternoon I opened up Facebook at the various  birding pages I belong to, and lo and behold, someone spotted a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (ABA Code 3) at Killdeer Plains NWR northwest of Columbus. I’ve birded there before and it’s massive, covering 9,000 acres.

The predicament I was in was that I didn’t have any of my gear. No binoculars, spotting scope, or camera. Why would you carry all this when you’re just going to babysit? The bird stayed around Saturday and Sunday. and as Monday dawned I told my wife we’re taking a side trip to look for the bird. With a bird like this there were going to be plenty of birders that would take pity on me.

When we stopped in Bowling Green to grab some coffee I checked Facebook again, and sure enough the bird was still there. It took another 2 hours to get to Killdeer Plains because everything was pretty much 2 lane roads all the way there.

I found a lady who felt sorry for me and let me look through her scope, and there it was. Life Bird #463

Sorry, no pictures.

Maine 2019

Despite being out of commission with my broken ankle, I’m on the road to a full recovery. I’m still under the care of my orthopedic doctor and I’m now wearing a walking boot instead of being in a cast and using a knee scooter. And it was the best I could have hoped for as my trip to Maine was upon me. And now that I can walk around easier than before, my focus turned towards the whale watching trip out of Bar Harbor with the possibility of some new life birds.

This area of the country is drop dead beautiful! It’s vistas like this every morning from the porch of the house we rented overlooking Penopscot Bay that says it all.

The drive to Bar harbor took about 90 minutes and when we arrived at the dock the boat was already packed with people. It was a cool sunny day and as we settled in for the ride out the Captain warned us about how choppy it was going to get the further out we went. Despite the water conditions and how choppy it might get, my concern was my footing and balance while wearing my walking boot. And as it turned out getting any photograph of the birds proved to be very difficult.

My main concern was finding and identifying the birds, and getting any photo was the last. Our destination on this trip was Mt. Desert Rock and as we cruised towards this lonely island I scanned constantly for birds while holding on for dear life with one hand. And when I did spot a bird it was normally gone by the time i got my camera up.

Mt. Desert Rock

On the way towards My. Desert Rock I was able to check off Sooty Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Atlantic Puffin, Northern Fulmer, and Black Gallinule. As we circled the island I was able to locate a juvenile Great Cormorant. Large flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes dodged in front of the boat and Great Black-backed, Herring and Laughing Gulls soared overhead.

Northern Gannet

Common Murre

Common Eider

So I picked up 6 new species for my life list, which far exceeded my expectations. My list now stands at 462, and with my trip to Arizona next summer I should be able to break that 500 mark.

An Unfortunate Accident

A few weeks back I was finishing up a 25 mile bike ride on the Loveland Bike Trail. As I was pulling off the trail onto the sidewalk that connects the trail to the parking lot, my front tire went off the edge and caught the edge where the concrete meet the mulch. I tried to correct but it didn’t work. Down I went pretty hard onto my left side.

My left knee was pretty buggered up and my ankle was hurting as well. I was able to get myself up and load my bike onto my bike carrier and drive home. After parking and bringing my bike into the house i was finally able to sit down an assess my self. My ankle was swelling.

I cleaned up the best I could and drove to the E.R. To make a long story short, I have a broken Fibula down by the ankle. So as of right now I’ve been in a cast since for almost 2 weeks. And if everything goes well it should be coming off on the 22nd of this month and a walking boot applies.

So right now it’s front porch birding watching the hummingbirds fight over the feeders.