Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back at 2009

I did a lot of birding in 2009 and this benefited my various bird lists. My USA/Canada year list was 271 species; this compared with my 2008 total of 245, which was far higher than any previous year. My Texas year list was 203 species, also much higher than in earlier years. My life list for the USA/Canada moved up from 421 to 443 species.

In November a 10-day family holiday with my daughter in Barcelona and the Ebro Delta was a little disappointing as regards birds but there was nothing disappointing about seeing a thousand or more of Greater Flamingos in the Ebro Delta.
A short business trip to San Jose, Costa Rica, produced some exotic birds but the best sightings of the trip were that of Poison Dart Frogs and an anteater in the rainforest.

I saw several new species during short trips to San Francisco and Phoenix in February, Salt Lake City in May, and New York City in July. Salt Lake produced my first sighting of a Yellow-headed Blackbird while Phoenix had my first-ever Long-eared Owl.

New species for the year included Whooping Cranes at Aransas and Cerulean, Blackpoll and Swainson's Warblers at High Island.
Trips to Brazoria NWR, Galveston, Bolivar Peninsula and Anahuac NWR turned up lots of good birds such as Magnificent Frigate Birds and Black Skimmers. However, it was very sad to see the damage caused by Hurricane Ike at Anahuan NWR and other sites.
Anahuac NWR after Ike
CyFair College produced lots of good birds this year, including my first view of a Chuck-will's-widow. However, what I enjoyed most was watching a pair of Western Kingbirds raising a family in June ...
and watching families of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in June and July.

The Katy Prairie produced some great sightings, too. While Longenbaugh Road was quiet this year, Paul Rushing Park had lots of interesting birds, including Wilson's Snipes in the winter and Common Nighthawks in the summer.

A trip to Austin in September turned up very little except the very unusual sight of a Red Phalarope in Texas.
A visit to Brazos Bend State Park later in September was notable for great views of a family of Least Grebes, another very unusual bird in our area.

An October visit to Bear Creek Park in Houston turned out very well when I finally saw the male Vermilion Flycatcher that regularly winters there. Just as exciting, I also saw six species of woodpeckers in an hour : Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

The yards at home were quieter than usual but still provided lots of good birding opportunities. The saddest sight was that of a male House Finch trying unsuccessfully to keep alive a chick with a deformed beak.
The year ended on a happier note when I got a new camera, a Sony A230 with a Tamron 70-300mm zoom lens. This allowed me to get better photo of many of our yard birds, including this Yellow-rumped Warbler.
The camera also let me get a record of a quick visit by a new yardbird (#56), a House Wren.


So out of all the wildlife sightings I've had this year, which was the most exciting? For me it was the Yellow-headed Blackbird I saw in Utah in May. It may not be the rarest or most spectacular bird but it's one that I'd been hoping to see for well over 10 years.

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