Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Life Birds from 2005

In the two-and-a-half years that I have been birding - or at least in the two-and-a-half years that I have been keeping lists of birds that I see - it has become increasingly difficult to see birds I have not seen before, or life birds. At this point, if I want to see many new life birds, I probably need to travel outside of the mid-Atlantic region. But I still saw a few new species during the past year. Here they are, in chronological order.

1. Ring-necked Pheasant, Bombay Hook NWR, 5/14/05

This bird and the following one were both sighted on a DC Audubon field trip to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. The pheasant played hard-to-get, but eventually showed enough of itself for us to identify it. Pheasants are grassland birds, and more at home in a place like Bombay Hook than in urban areas, but can show up anywhere.

2. Red Knot, Bombay Hook NWR, 5/14/05

A little south of Bombay Hook there is an accessible "beach" called Port Mahon. One red knot was among a group of other peeps there. The red knot is on the verge of extinction if current trends remain unchecked. I was happy to see it while the species still exists.

3. Alder Flycatcher, Great Swamp NWR, 5/21/05

This and the next species were both at the "heronry" overlook portion of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. This flycatcher first made its presence known by its sneezy call, then appeared atop a shrub.

4. King Rail, Great Swamp NWR, 5/21/05

The king rail, like the flycatcher, made its presence known by its hammer-like call. Unfortunately it did not show itself; one day I will actually see one.

5. Barred Owl, Radnor Lake Park, Nashville, 6/4/05

Since I began birding, there were repeated occasions when other birders would point out a barred owl call, but I would fail to hear it. This time, the barred owl made its appearance obvious by sitting next to a busy trail in broad daylight. More on my barred owl experiences here.

6. Mississippi Kite, Meeman Shelby Forest State Park, near Memphis, 6/6/05

June 6 was a hot and humid day in Memphis, made worse by a sudden downpour in the middle of the day. This Mississippi kite made the day much more pleasant.

7. Willow Flycatcher, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, 6/21/05

I rounded out the local empidonax species with a willow flycatcher at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. More on that day here.

8. Yellow-breasted Chat, National Arboretum, 6/26/05

This sighting was a bit of a surprise, since Washington, D.C., does not provide much ideal habitat for yellow-breasted chats. However, the species did make an appearance in the National Arboretum, and I was there to see it. More on the sighting here.

9. Piping Plover, Sandy Hook, 7/30/05

In the first few months after I started this blog, the status of piping plovers - as well as red knots - was a bit of a hobbyhorse. I finally got to see one at the end of July at Sandy Hook, one of the few places where the species breeds in New Jersey. More on the sighting here.

10. Northern Waterthrush, Sandy Hook, 10/1/05

This northern waterthrush was seen on one of the wooded trails through the middle of Sandy Hook. Unfortunately another birder scared it away with too much pishing. My report of that day at the Hook is here.

11. American Woodcock, Point Lookout, Maryland, 10/15/05

Woodcocks can be very difficult to see because of their cryptic coloration and their habit of skulking in the underbrush. This bird, seen on a DC Audubon field trip to Point Lookout, strutted in open woods and allowed the whole group to watch it for a long time. Coincidentally, my bird-of-the-day calendar showed a woodcock the day before. [link DCA report if posted]

12. Vesper Sparrow, Blackwater NWR, 11/19/05

This was another life bird seen on a DC Audubon field trip, this time to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. And, like the woodcock, this bird sat out in the open so that we had plenty of time to view it and to hash out the identification. That trip demonstrated one of the great things about birding: you never know what you will see. We went out expecting waterfowl, but instead had a sparrow bonanza.

Meanwhile, I still have not seen that cerulean warbler. Will I see one next year? I will report it here, if I do.