Current 2012 year total of bird species:

211 (most recent addition: Dickcissel, June 2 2012)

Life bird total:

470 (most recent edition: Black Rail, June 2 2012)

2012 Black Bear count:


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

432, 288, what next

Its December 31st 2013 and here we are - New Years Eve is upon us again and it starts all over again.  Starts all over again?  A Non-birder might ask.  But, for a Birder, New Years Morning is one of the funnest mornings of the year.  The Year List starts all over again and every bird species becomes new, one time, until the following year.

Unless a Black Rail magically flies into the flooded creek below my house, and calls, my final count for 2013 will be 432 species, just 5 short of my 2011 record.  And my Year List for my own state of Virginia will be 288 - a number that put me in 3rd place for eBird in Virginia this year.

There are several rarities in my area right now, and tomorrow they become new again.  My Godmother Eve, my mom, and I will be spending the day tracking down these birds, hoping to "twitch" them onto our year lists - Snowy Owl, Brewer's Blackbird, Trumpeter Swan, and Greater White-fronted Goose are all birds I hope to get tomorrow, or very soon.  They're in the area, and great to get "out of the way" so early on.  Snowy Owl I didn't get 'till December this year, and had it not been an irruption year, I would've dipped it.  Brewer's Blackbird I got in Montana this year, and probably will again in 2014, but certainly would be nice to get it out of the way now, especially for Virginia!  Trumpeter Swan is never a sure thing anywhere, and I got it in Ohio in May this year.  Again, probably will again, but certainly nice to have it out of the way so early on, especially for Virginia!  As for Greater White-fronted Goose, it along with the Snowy Owl is the one I REALLY want to get tomorrow, it's do or die, now or nothing.  I could have easily missed it for 2013 (I did for 2012), and would be suuuuuuuuuuuuper nice to have it out of the way on the first day of the year for 2014!

I'll post my Day 1 of 365 2014 results tomorrow.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Why?  A non-birder might ask.  Why?  Why spend a day putting hundreds of miles on your car to travel to another state to see a certain bird species.  There are birds everywhere, they might argue.  I've been asked this question by many non-birders.  I explain that I want to see lots of birds, different kinds of birds, and the only way to do this is to travel abroad.  Some non-birders may walk away from that conversation like "I get that but I don't want to do it!" and others may not get it and just go try and find another birder to ask the same question of.  But something that even less non-birders might not understand is why put a hundred miles on your car and spend a day driving back and forth along roads in your own county, looking at 40 some species, most of which I can see in my backyard at one time or another?  Well, it's kinda hard to explain, I'll admit it, but birding is addictive, obsessive, a lost-your-only-mind passion, whatever it is, to a birder, it is FUN.

That's why I participate in Christmas Bird Count.  Not one Christmas Bird Count.  Not two, three, or four Christmas Bird Counts, but I signed up to participate in five different Christmas Bird Counts this year.  Non-birders that spend their life doing things like golfing, quilting, etc, might ask another question: What is a Christmas Bird Count?  A Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a citizen science project to get a sampling of birds in a 15-mile radius circle.  There are many (hundreds?  thousands?) count circles nationwide, and the "Count Circle Coordinator" gets to pick a date, between December 14 and January 5 to conduct the local CBC.  Then, the data gets submitted to Audubon and becomes part of the annual Christmas Bird Count.  Each Count Circle is divided into Sectors.  Once again the power is given to the Count Circle Coordinator and he or she gets to choose how many Sectors to divide the Count Circle into.  For the data set, it doesn't really mater as the data gets reported by Count Circle, not by Sector.  But it would be impossible for one birder, or one party of birders to thoroughly bird a 15-mile radius area.

Each Sector (Count Circle Coordinators generally choose to divide Circles into about 6-9 Sectors) has a Sector Leader.  As soon as the Count Circle Coordinator asks if someone is willing to be a Sector Leader, and the person agrees, the Sector Leader becomes responsible for managing their sector.  They coordinate with other people joining them, they choose their start time, their route within their sector, etc.  You have to be a good and respected birder to become a Sector Leader because you don't want Joe Blo off the street counting birds, and mis-identifying them.  If you are a new birder, I suggest you contact a Count Circle Coordinator and ask to be assigned as an assistant to a Sector Leader.

Well, that was an H of a lot of explaining about what is a CBC.  Now, the fun part, my experiences of Winter 2013-2014 CBC birding.  Here goes:

As I mentioned above, I signed up to participate as either a Sector Leader (3 or 4 counts) or an experienced assistant (1 or 2 counts) for a total of 5 counts, between December 14 and January 5.  I was going to participate in (all Virginia): Rockingham December 14 (Sector Leader), Augusta December 15 (experienced assistant to my good friend who was Sector Leader), Rockbridge December 22 (Sector Leader), Waynesboro January 4 (either Sector Leader or experienced assistant), and Lake Anna January 5 (Sector Leader).  Unfortunately Rockingam December 14 was postponed to January 4 due to snowy road conditions and since I had signed up as a Sector Leader, I had to drop out of participating in Wayneboro this year.  4 isn't too shabby though :).  Last Sunday, Sector Leader Vic, Rose (both good friends of mine), and I ran SE sector for Augusta count.  We had a fun, but in birding terms, rather uneventful day.

Yesterday my dad and I ran a sector on the north edge of the Count Circle for Rockbridge/Lexington Count.  My dad and I had a fabulous day in our sector logging in 53 species highlighted by a Merlin!  A Merlin (for anyone unaware) is a mid-sized, dark falcon, that usually only passes through this area in migration.  December 21st is bloody late for a migrant Merlin so this was either a rare over-wintering bird or a bird that missed the bus several times!  Showing how rare this Merlin was, this was the first Merlin recorded on the annual Lexington CBC since 1977!  Truly, a fantastiche bird.  Better yet, it posed in great light for us for over 10 minutes while eating breakfast, which, this day was an unfortunate Eastern Bluebird.

I'm looking forward to two more CBCs and I encourage any interested birder to participate in a CBC!  Happy Birding,

Merlin eating Breakfast (Eastern Bluebird)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Back Blogging - Review on 2013 (Part 1)

It's been over 1.5 years sense I wrote my last blog post for this blog - I simply lost the passion for writing for a while.  But I wanta get back into it!  In 2014 I plan to blog my wild adventures.  I'll start now.

Fall migration is over but fortunately wintertime is a good time to bird.  I've had a few surprising things happen for my birding life this year.  First, I managed to record 432 species (thus far, I may not get any more) and I am AMAZED.  My best year ever, my Junior Big Year ( in 2011 I logged 437.  It's unreal IMO that I came so freaking close to my "record"!  I was hoping, unsure if I could do it, that I would break my total from last year,  305.  Well, I smashed it!  Had I known early on (say, after July) that I had a real shot at breaking my Junior Big Year record, I would have put more effort into it.  A lot more effort into it.   I only started having the thought after I returned from a whirl-whind and amazingly productive trip to Montana, in late August.  After that, I think I sat somewhere right around 400-410.  I kinda thought I had a shot at breaking 2011 but didn't give much thought to it.  Another big "should have" in the life of a birder.  But I had my eyes set on my favorite birding event of the year - 3 months of Hawk Watching had just begun, and I was an official volunteer counter at my local site (Rockfish Gap, in Virginia).  I didn't give much thought to breaking 2011, even though I was only 25 birds away.  To be honest - I didn't want to repeat fall 2011 and miss out on a lot of hawk watching as well as bear and other wildlife watching, just to "twitch" some birds, that probably weren't even lifers.

It wasn't until late-October and I had 420+ "in the bag" that I was like, "Danget, I actually got a clear line-of-vision at the record".  I spent half a day (a very slow half a day at the hawk watch) number crunching in my head.  "Saltmarsh Sparrow 421.  Nelson's 422.  I could get a Sedge Wren at Back Bay, 423.  Probably can swing a Common Eider and Eurasian Wigeon, 425.  Oh, do I have Orange-crowned Warbler yet?  [Ten second pause] Oh danget yeah I remember that, with Vic at Back Bay." On and on.  Trying.  If all went right, and staying in Virginia, I thought I could hit 430-435.  I knew I'd be close.  And I knew that I would need to swing another trip out-of-state, to as far away as New Jersey, in order to set the record.  Which never happened.  So here I sit, watching the email listservs about Barnacle Goose in New Jersey, Thayer's Gull in Virginia Beach (where I was last week, just a little too early), Little Bunting in California, Rustic Bunting in Alaska, La Sagra's Flycatcher in Florida, and that Da'Gone Saltmarsh Sparrow ought to be somewhere on the VA Coast.  There, if I spent a few thousand dollars, I'd have my record.  But not this year.  I'll have to settle for being just a few short.