2012 all done.

2012 stats and review

Here is my personal review of my (mostly) birding life in 2012 with stats at the end and a few photos from today. I’ll be posting a few favourite photos from the year next time.

World – Sandra and I visited Panama in January, seeing 218 species, 11 of which were new and we greatly  enjoyed  another excellent week at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort  http://www.gamboaresort.com/ . I am still offering the possibility of guided trips there so if you have not contacted me previously about them, please do so and I’ll send details.

In April we went to Cuba, stopping in the Bay of Pigs and hoping to catch up with the rest of the Cuban endemics still outstanding. We managed most and saw a respectable 134 species and added 14 to the life tally. The area we stayed in was good for birds but the hotel was of a very poor standard unless you are into stalag style accommodation, lousy food and 80s disco music. We decided there and then that that was Cuba done and no need to return although a trip out west rather rescued things a bit and it was nice to spend a night in a real hotel.

Local patch – During the year I spent a lot of time watching St-Lazare sand pits (228 visits). The rewards for such diligence were finding Wood Thrush, Wilson’s Warbler, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Swainson’s thrush there, all new additions to my patch list. The highlight bird of the year though was a long-awaited Buff-breasted Sandpiper. I didn’t find it, I read about it while sat in a room in New Hampshire preparing for the pelagic trip the next day. I would suspect the finders could not muster a dozen site visits ever but the inverse laws of birding gave them a Buff-breast for which I am eternally grateful.

Quebec – It was again hard to add species to my Quebec list. I did see Red-headed Woodpecker, Little Egret, Western Grebe and a self-found Pacific Loon but Purple Sandpiper again eluded me and Sandra has flatly refused to go to Tadoussac again unless it is T-shirt weather and who can blame her. Everything else available in Quebec was too far away to bother with, the exception being a Yellow-breasted Chat just down the road that the finder didn’t alert locals to directly. Honestly Alain, an email on the day would have been appreciated! Predictably it had gone the next day.

At the moment my North America list is not a priority, birds get added when I see them (obviously!) and I’ve not really made any specific trips to target species, just been to places where new species are possible. The first such trip was to Reno, Nevada. Due to a set of circumstance too unbelievable to recount, I ended up working a week’s contract in Reno for the same company that fired me in Montreal in October 2011. I engineered the contract to allow free time so I could visit various places and see some nice western birds, life additions were American Magpie, Prairie Falcon, Sage Thrasher and Clarke’s Nutcracker. There is a follow-up trip in the offing in 2013 and I hope to add a few more ticks if it happens.

After becoming Canadians in 2010 travelling into the USA became easier and there was no need for finger prints, retina scans, DNA samples from both sets of Grandparents plus dollars for visas etc., so in 2012 we visited Maine for a long weekend and then did the aforementioned New Hampshire pelagic. Maine often seems birdless but the coast around Boothbay Harbour was pretty good and a trip to Scarborough helped also. I added Roseate Tern, Saltmarsh Sparrow and Cory’s Shearwater and Leach’s Storm-Petrel to my North America list. The New Hampshire trip didn’t actually add a bird species but a Sperm Whale you could virtually stroke (we didn’t) and a Right Whale were pretty good compensation and I now have a New Hampshire list to add to.

The only other North American addition was an astonishing find, a Thick-billed Kingbird at Presqui’lle Park in Ontario. We were in the last group to see it and were just very, very lucky but there you are. Perhaps the only other bird we might have had was a Grey-crowned Rosy-Finch which lingered in New York State right up until the end of the week. We were all geared up to go but no.

Our garden in St-Lazare is designed (!) to attract birds and a fair amount have found it worth visiting over the past nearly ten years. Garden ticks are few and far between these days and this year was no different with just Wilson’s Snipe and Willow Flycatcher new.

The only other list I keep is, in my opinion, more indicative of how active a birder is, the self-found list. In Quebec I only managed one addition but a good one, Pacific Loon.

Away from birds I concentrated on odonata and had a very good season starting with the earliest Green Darner for Quebec ever. Some species that were formerly rare in Quebec suddenly became common in our area, especially at the pits, perhaps the foremost site for dragonflies in Quebec albeit totally unprotected from calamitous change. I was also fortunate enough to add Comet Darner to the Quebec Odonata list in 2012 and was involved, along with Chris Cloutier, in the discovery and identification of River Bluet, also new for Quebec. The darner was at a site near Rigaud, actually there were two insects and only Wayne Grubert and Sandra have it for Quebec. The bluet was at St-Lazare sand pits and I hope a small colony persists in 2013.

For many years I have neglected the butterflies in North America and, to some extent, they will remain low on my priority list in 2013. In 2012 we in Quebec witnessed a life event movement of Red Admirals in spring and Painted Ladies in the autumn but the butterfly I will remember 2012 most for is the Common Buckeye. It was very rare (if not hypothetical) in Quebec prior to 2012 but I found it at two sites, one being the pits naturally, and it bred there, so we should have some next year if the larvae survive a Quebec winter.

That about covers it, if you have not visited this blog before details of all of the things mentioned are in previous posts. Look away now if you don’t want to know the scores!

In 2012 I did 311 field days birding, my joint highest annual total of bird days sharing the position with 1990. My life total bird days moved on to 7677. My pits bird days lumbered up to 1318, still a long way behind my previous patch’s total but getting there. The rest of the stats are just raw numbers.

World life list – 2633, World year list 587. ABA life list – 557, Canada life list – 323, Quebec life list – 316, Quebec year list 235. Pits life list 213, Pits year list 175. Self-found birds in Quebec life list – 281. North American Bird species photographed (digital) – 378. Garden life list 147, garden year list – 88.

North America Odonata life list 130. Quebec Odonata life list 106, Pits Odonata life list 70. North America Butterfly life list – 88. Quebec Butterfly life list – 63.

Now back to today. I went out looking for either of the recent Great Grey Owls today, no joy. I did a circuit starting and ending with the pits, seeing 33 species. Highlights were the regular St-Clet Snow Owl on the same post as always and digiscoped. A fearless Merlin, secretive Wild Turkeys pretending to be Chickens and a Northern Goshawk chasing pigeons through St-Polycrap although I may have got the spelling wrong unless there is a saint of parrot droppings?

Once home I refilled the feeders yet again as the hoard of 120 Common Redpolls, two Hoary Redpolls and three Pine Siskins had emptied them already. Below are shots of the day’s birds.

Happy New Year to all of the people who slog their way through this blog and too all those who were kind enough to comment despite my lousy jokes, photographs and occasional rants, I hope you continue to enjoy in 2013.

DSCN5853 IMG_6617 IMG_6621 IMG_6656 IMG_6658 IMG_6696 IMG_6723 IMG_6740

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