This is a long post so if you have the attention span of a fan of reality TV then perhaps you should just skim the photos.
As always at this time of year I cross the i’s and dot the t’s on the past year. 2013 for me was pretty good in birding terms with 652 species seen. I got out birding on 286 bird days, low for me but a screen porch project and snow slowed me down a bit. The year’s efforts take my life total to 7963 bird days and so I expect to crack 8000 bird days in early 2014. I’ll let you know when it happens.
In 2013 my World list went up by 52 to 2669 with additions from Mexico in January (37 species) and Panama in June (nine species). The other lifers were from Nevada in March (four species) and single lifers in each of QC and Ontario.
My North America (ABA) list had nine additions, taking it to 562, they were: White-headed Woodpecker, Northern Pygmy Owl, Western Screech Owl, Pinyon Jay, Thick-billed Murre, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Ross’s Gull, Northern Lapwing and Garganey.
In Québec my usual dodgy luck changed and I added nine ticks to my province list taking it to 324. I finally saw a Purple Sandpiper in QC and also ‘went’ for the breeding Cerulean Warblers at their only regular site at Philipsburg. The other additions were Western Kingbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Western Meadowlark, Northern Lapwing, Garganey, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Swainson’s Hawk and Ross’s Gull. MY QC year list ground to a halt at 249 species although I didn’t really expend any effort year listing – my best year remains 2007 when I saw 266 species.
There is still a lot of room for improvement where my QC list is concerned, notably in getting my head down in 2014 and finding the regular breeders – LeConte’s Sparrow, Yellow Rail, Sharp-tailed Grouse and Bicknell’s Thrush. I could also add a flush of QC ticks were I to do the Blanc Sablon ferry trip, but it is not cheap and no lifers would be involved. My target in 2014 is to reach 330 – perhaps a bit ambitious but I still need some of the relatively regular species aside from the four mentioned.
I managed to get to my local patch, St-Lazare sand pits, 183 times and added nine species to my personal site list and to the list of species recorded at the site. They were: Glaucous Gull, Red-throated Loon, Yellow-throated Vireo, Louisiana Waterthrush, Virginia Rail, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Towhee, Swainson’s Hawk and Winter Wren. The additions taking my personal site total to 221 out of 228 species known to have occurred there.
The regular visits and some small dedication to the sand pits saw me recording 180 species during the year. This was a new year list record and one that could have been improved had I not missed Wilson’s Phalarope, Great Grey Owl and Northern Mockingbird that occurred there. I also set a new site day list record on 23rd August when I found 78 species there. Sadly, after I have clocked up 1501 visits in the past ten years the life span of the pits may be coming to an end. The corner near the Base de Plein Air had a constant stream of loaded trucks arriving to deposit their loads for most of the year, destroying the area that held Vesper Sparrow amongst other things. If the level of infill that took place in 2013 continues then 2014 could see another 6-10% lost. At the moment it does not impact on the main birding areas of the site but that may change in 2014. According to the local environmental officer the site after use is housing – I can only hope my constant voodoo chanting brings down the desired plague on developers and the like and that I can get a few more bird filled years out of it.
Every year I set myself optimistic targets for new species that I might possibly find for my local patch, in 2014, they are: Marsh Wren, Sora, White-winged Scoter, Northern Mockingbird, Snowy Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Boreal Owl, Short-eared Owl, Gyr Falcon, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Horned Grebe, Great Grey Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker and a phalarope, any phalarope will do! My current circumstances allow me to visit regularly but that may change, who knows.
I made eBird a habit in 2013 and it has actually changed the way I record birds when I’m out. I try to count as much as possible instead of just noting what I know to be relevant. My life total of eBird entries, more trivia I know, is now at 4301. I would reckon that will be 12000 plus when I’ve finished entering all my past records from all of my accumulated notebooks and spreadsheets. My 2013 year total of entries into eBird was 621 – modest compared to some but then I don’t believe in entering stuff for every 20 feet but lump contiguous habitats – such as the expansive fields around St-Clet, into one location. Obviously this is not suitable for a mosaic of habitats and it takes experience to know when to lump and split.
In 2013 I also entered my lists into Bubo, an on-line listing site based in the UK but suitable for all wherever you are. If you’ve not already used the software just Google Bubo. If you are an anti-lister, and some are, well you are entitled to your opinion however misguided you are.
Aside from the birds, I had a pretty good year for dragonflies at the pits with six additions to my personal site list including one lifer (Elfin Skimmer). I also added Variegated Meadowhawk and Sphagnum Sprite and Black-shouldered Spinyleg to the site’s unrivaled odonata list. My personal pits ode list is now 76 out of 78 species known to occur at the site. Taking a broader view I also added seven species to my QC list including four lifers taking my QC list to 113 species.
During the year I had the great pleasure of birding with my good lady wife, Sandra. I also spent time in the field with Graham, Colin, Steve & Howard in the UK, Claude, Alain, Rob in Nevada, Jordan and Zoe and Mikkel and I met more fellow QC birders than ever before. It was great fun everybody and I hope to see some of you in 2014.
Right, after all that bumf here are the pictures, all taken during 2013 and selected for the best of reasons, because I like them – captions at the bottom.
This set of photos are from a January trip to Puerto Vallarta on the west coast of Mexico. We didn’t get shot at or kidnapped by drug cartels but we did see lots of birds and enjoyed a few photo ops. The species are: Brown Pelican, Mangrove Cuckoo, Mexican Yellow Grosbeak, Least Grebe, Military Macaw and Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
Panama is one of our favourite destinations and this year we took a green season trip, swapping the Gamboa Rainforest Lodge for the Decameron noisy beach hovel two hours east of Panama City. The hotel site aside we birded parts of Panama we’d not seen before and had some luck with the camera. You can see the posts by clicking on the Panama tab at the top – here are shots of: Mangrove Cuckoo, Roadside Hawk, Ruddy-breasted Seed-eater, Aplomado Falcon, Yellow-headed Caracara and White Ibis.
March found me spending three weeks working in Nevada for convoluted reasons that you just couldn’t make up! While there I took every opportunity to enjoy the bird life around Reno and a little further afield. I was a bit early for the main migration but still saw a lot of birds. Here are shots of California Quail, Northern Flicker, Hermit Thrush and Sandhill Crane.
A trip to the UK in October allowed me to add two species to my still precious Nottinghamshire list – Cetti’s Warbler and Red Kite. Photo ops were few but some unexpected Glossy Ibis were snapped. It was nice to see common birds like Woodpigeon, Common Gull, Magpie, Rook, and Robin again and to see the first Whooper Swans at Martin Mere in Lancashire.
Québec hosted a good rarity this year, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. I dipped one in 1983 in the UK and had not had the opportunity to catch up with one until a bird stayed a few days at Baie du Febvre. It proved very popular with QC birders from far and wide.
Winter saw an influx of Great Grey Owls and a couple were present around St-Lazare. The bird was very faithful to an easily reached spot near the town and was typically fearless. I later found out that one had been seen at the sand pits but you could only get to it by cross-country ski or snow-shoe, methods of traversing snow that I don’t have any inclination to practice.
Other much appreciated photo ops during the year were: Rough-legged Hawk (dark form), American Bittern, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Shrike, Least, Baird’s and Pectoral Sandpipers, Grey Jay, Cape May Warbler and a particularly apoplectic Ovenbird.
One of the birds of the year for me was a Thick-billed Murre – a species I have wanted to see for many years. I never expected my first to be bobbing on Kingston waterfront just a few feet away but it was. In strange symmetry, the first truly twitchable one in the UK is itself bobbing about off Portland, Dorset at the moment.
Finally, although we are only part-way through it, a clear highlight for the year is the current Snowy Owl influx, the largest for very many years. These magnificent birds never get boring and to be able to go out and see a lot is a treat to cherish while it lasts.
So that wraps up 2013. The snow is falling once again adding to what has been the snowiest December we’ve known in the 10.5 years we’ve been here. The notebook for 2014 is gently snoring on the table but will be ready for the January 1st start. We also have a trip to parts Texan to look forwards too and may well be getting out west again later in the year. In 2014 I might also finally get around to publishing the first of my ‘Just a Birder’ books, I hope so.
Happy New Year to everyone and I wish you great birding.