Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 Big Birding Year in Review

During 2015, I undertook what I describe as a "Bigger Year Than I Normally Do" (BYTIND). After a goose chase to Pennsylvania and New Jersey in December 2014, my ABA list stood at 688 species. With gas prices remaining low, and with our Prius still getting 50 miles per gallon, it was a good year to try to reach 700. Over the course of the year, Nancy and I traveled to 27 states, never getting on an airplane the entire year. The number of miles driven was...a lot. I didn't keep track! In this process, I recorded my highest ever annual ABA list, ending the year with 495, And we did get ABA species #700, and 701. Brief summaries of our trips are presented below, with links back to the blog postings from the time. At the end, I have included the states we visited with the number of species seen in each state this year (quite a few were just "pass-thru"), and my overall life list in each state.

Our first trip was to Florida in January. Details of this trip can be read in four parts, Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here. We had 7 target species: Egyptian Goose, American Flamingo, Black Rail (lifer), Purple Swamphen, Key West Quail-Dove (lifer), Black-hooded Parakeet (lifer), and Budgerigar (lifer). We succeeded in finding 4 of them; #689 was Purple Swamphen, #690 was Key West Quail-Dove, #691 was Egyptian Goose, and #692 was Black-hooded Parakeet.
Egyptian Goose. Florida. January 2015.

Black-hooded Parakeet. Florida. January 2015.

A review of my ABA list during a very cold and snowy February resulted in my finding that I had not taken into account the "split" of Sage Sparrow into Sagebrush Sparrow and Bell's Sparrow, both of which I'd seen more than once, so sitting home watching the snow come down, my ABA list rose to 693 species.

In March, we drove down to east and south Texas. Details of this trip can be read in four parts, Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here. On this trip, there were only 5 target species (often in winter Texas hosts many more, but not this year): Aplomado Falcon, Black Rail, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Striped Sparrow (lifer and potential ABA first, pending TBRC acceptance), and Blue Bunting. We did manage to see the Striped Sparrow as our first new bird on the trip, but it will not be added to my ABA list unless it is actually accepted onto the ABA list, perhaps in a year or two. The Black Rail proved impossible to find, and both Gray-crowned Yellowthroat and Blue Bunting had last been seen about a week before our arrival. So, we left Texas with only Aplomado Falcon as species #694.
Aplomado Falcons. Texas. March 2015.

We stayed in Michigan during the spring, which resulted in one more species for my Michigan list, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck only about 12 miles from home, and a Kirtland's Warbler only 7 miles from our home (a first for my Wayne County list).
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. Michigan. May 2015.

Kirtland's Warbler. Wayne Co., Michigan. May 2015.

In June, we took a shorter trip to the East Coast, through New Jersey to North Carolina, were I took a pelagic trip out of Cape Hatteras. Details of this trip can be read in two parts; Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. Target species included several possible species on the pelagic trip, including Bermuda Petrel, Fea's Petrel, Trindade Petrel, European Storm-Petrel, Red-billed Tropicbird, and Bridled Tern. Alas, none of these made an appearance. But another target species, Black Rail, finally....FINALLY after 37 years of trying, was found in New Jersey and added to our life list, and was ABA species #695.
Cory's Shearwater. North Carolina. June 2015.

Over the summer,  another review of splits by the AOU resulted in Ridgway's Rail being added to my ABA list (#696).

Our last trip of the year was a very long drive, to West Texas where I was attending a hummingbird bander's conference. There were no new ABA species there, but we had a great time, and I also added several species to my Texas list. All 9 target species for my ABA list were in Arizona:  Plain-capped Starthroat (lifer), Rosy-faced Lovebird (lifer), Buff-collared Nightjar, Tufted Flycatcher, Sinaloa Wren (lifer), Rufous-capped Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, and Five-striped Sparrow (lifer). Details of this trip can be read in four parts: Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here. We succeeded in finding #697 (Plain-capped Starthroat), #698 (Five-striped Sparrow), #699 (Rufous-capped Warbler), #700 (SINALOA WREN), and #701 (Rosy-faced Lovebird).
Adult male Lucifer Hummingbird. Texas. August 2015.

Five-striped Sparrow. Arizona. August 2015.

Rosy-faced Lovebird. Arizona. September 2015.

The rest of the year was spent in Michigan, with good chunks of time devoted to banding at Lake St. Clair Metropark. I tried to break 500 on my annual ABA list, but that would have required a trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and by late fall my schedule no longer was open enough to make that possible. Attempts to find species more locally, like Northern Shrike and Ross's Goose, failed. My last new ABA species for the year (#495) was a Golden Eagle in Jackson County, Michigan.
Golden Eagle. Jackson Co., Michigan. November 2015.

Here is a summary of my 2015 bird lists from states visited during the year.Life lists are in parentheses:

ABA - 495 (701)
Lower 48 - 495 (685)
Michigan - 273 (376)

Texas – 263 (400)
Arizona – 163 (277)
Florida – 160 (279)
North Carolina – 115 (198)
Virginia – 96 (211)
South Carolina – 95 (158)
New Jersey – 91 (211)
Georgia – 80 (143)
New Mexico – 79 (207)
Ohio – 78 (289)
Louisiana – 77 (168)
Oklahoma – 77 (123)
Indiana – 71 (194)
Maryland – 62 (145)
Kansas – 51 (131)
Arkansas – 40 (116)
Pennsylvania – 40 (126)
Tennessee – 40 (125)
Colorado – 38 (227)
Missouri – 37 (78)
Delaware – 26 (128)
West Virginia – 26 (114)
Kentucky – 25 (123)
Illinois – 18 (146)
Mississippi – 18 (140)
Alabama – 16 (168)

Next goal, 700 in the Lower 48 states...