2009 was a good year for birds: I added twelve new species to my life list, give or take one or two that I'm probably making up or remembering wrong.
I don't believe that increasing one's life list has anything much to do with skill; in fact, I've found that over the years as my skills have improved, I've whittled my list down by quite a few birds that were questionable in my memory. Did I really see that Baird's Sandpiper or was I just part of a group that did? Would I know it when I saw it again?
Most certainly not.
So I don't count the Goshawk that flew over our van in the Adirondacks years ago or half of the gulls I could. I've seen them, yeah, but I recognize now that I still don't know them. I was probably a little too generous with myself as a beginner and my life list reflected that.
As it stands, the number hovers a few over 300, which is respectable, I think, considering that I hadn't traveled much to see birds until this past year. Adding new life birds at this point is about money and travel and getting up the courage to do a pelagic trip. Considering how close I am to the ocean, it's almost shameful that I don't know shorebirds well or have many seabirds. Gulls are still beyond me and that's still a point of pride that I'm not prepared to surrender, yet.
My first life bird of 2009 was close to home; a sweet Orange-Crowned Warbler that I saw with a sweet friend at Sandy Hook in January.
April's trip with The Flock to the New River Birding and Nature Festival netted me three warblers: Swainson's, Cerulean and Yellow-Throated. I most wanted Cerulean on that trip and was glad to get it, though the light was horrible and rainy and I still hope to see one whose color matches the sky like they say it does.
Late June found me, on a whim, in Michigan for Kirtland's Warbler. Most would consider this a once-in-a-lifetime bird and I was lucky enough to stand among a small group of them singing and feeding young on a summer day.
October at the Colonial Coast Birding Festival brought many wonders and six new birds.
Huge pink birds with ridiculously-shaped bills... just crazy.
Mind you, there was a Spoonbill here in NJ at about the same time, but nothing could've compared to the sight of groups of them, mixed with Wood Storks and White Ibis floating over in the unbearable heat.
The Brown Pelicans on that trip nearly drove me to distraction, too. And fits of uncontrollable laughter.
There was also a less-than-satisfying look at a Loggerhead Shrike and what I remember to be a Common Moorhen.
Probably I'm making that last one up, though I do somehow remember a purplish bird that reminded me of a chicken.
Probably I shouldn't count that one yet, right?
The last life bird of the year was sort of a nemesis bird for me: a Golden Eagle. There'd been a couple speck sightings of them through the years, mostly at the hawkwatch at Cape May, but nothing I ever felt really comfortable counting. This one, flying over the road in late October I'll count for now, until I spot one out west somewhere, perched close enough that I can see the wash of gold across its shoulders.
So... what birds did you add to your life list last year? Which are you hoping to add in 2010?
a return Visit
1 year ago