I know it's been a while since I've updated my blog but I wanted to give an update.
As you know, my year record is 437 species in 2011 when I completed my Junior Big Year. However, this year, by no act of trying, I have landed myself amazingly close to that record. My current year list hovers at an impeccable 434 species.
This year has been a fun year. Quite fun. My trips have been versed --- Northern California in January, Ohio in May, Maine in June, Montana in August, Texas in November plus all around my local state of Virginia.
I have landed an exciting 28 life birds this year. Frankly, I am a little surprising that I keep racking up lifers after birding so hard from 2010-2012, especially in my Big Year in 2011.
My most productive trip lifer wise was California. I haven't birded there since I was a beginning birder in the beginning of my 2011 Junior Big Year. 3 years later, I was an astonishingly better birder. I had many highlights with 14 lifers but a few of my favorites were Mountain Quail, Spotted Owl, and Harris's Sparrow.
In Ohio, given that this was my 3rd trip there, and it isn't too far away from my home, I didn't land all that many lifers. In fact, I only had one, but it was a good one. It was one of the rarest birds I've ever seen (not for the area, but in terms of world population). There are only a few thousand Kirtland's Warblers in the world!
In Maine I scored 3 lifers. I went to a Teen Birding Camp on Hog Island which was an amazing experience. I got the "iconic" bird, the Atlantic Puffin, but I think Black Guillemot was my favorite lifer there. The other one, Roseate Tern, was also awesome.
In Montana, given that this was my 5th trip there to Glacier National Park, an amazing place and my family's favorite vacation spot, I only got one lifer as well. It was a good one, Black Swift!
Texas was excellent for lifers! Even though this was my third trip there, I got 7 lifers! I attended the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and the trips there helped me get some specialty birds. My lifers were Zone-tailed Hawk, White-collared Seedeater, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Tropical Parula, Scaled Quail, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and Groove-billed Ani!
In addition, despite the fact that I bird here so much, I got 2 lifers in my home state of Virginia this year. Both were fairly rare. The first was an Iceland Gull in January near Richmond, VA. They show up around the state from time to time but this was my first time catching up with one. The other was a Red Phalarope that showed up here in Rockingham County of the Shenandoah Valley in October. Red Phalaropes are fairly common offshore Virginia, but given that I've never gone offshore, I was so happy my lifer showed up right near home!
The interesting thing about this year is that I have hardly done any chasing. There were birds I could have, should have chased. There was a Sabine's Gull just 3 hours away that I really should have chased. Even the Whiskered Tern up at Cape May was SUCH a good bird and not THAT far away, I should have chased it. Hawk watching which is one of my, if not my very favorite kind of birding, got the best of me. I was tied up counting hawks. I should have chased these 2 birds, though! It's as simple as that!
So, if you read back on my most recent blog post before today, you will read that last year I was also close to my year record of 437, but I didn't go all out for it at the end of last year. So you may ask, am I going to this year? YES! I can't stand being in the 430s but not 438 two years in a row! I am going all out! I figure that with one trip to the shore I can at least tie my record with Saltmarsh Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow, and King Rail. It is also quite possible that I can score one more bird while down there (anything rare that shows up... Like a King Eider or Eurasian Wigeon that are down there now, if they stick around). If not, there is a Black-headed Gull returning for ANOTHER winter (I got it there in 2011!) at a place in Maryland that I can drive up and chase.
So, with any luck, I should be able to reach 438 and break my Junior Big Year record! For the remainder of the year, because I am attempting to break my 2011 Junior Big Year record, I will post here if I get year birds! Stay tuned and wish me luck!