Saturday, 21 December 2013

2013 Year in Review

After doing the “Fur and Feathers 500” Canada big year in 2012, birding this year was focused closer to home. In that regard, it was successful as I added six birds to my Alberta list:  Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Arctic Tern, Purple Sandpiper, Piping Plover, Whooping Crane and Parasitic Jaeger.  None of these birds got me closer to my long-term goal of 5000 birds and mammals but, thanks to trips to Argentina and Colombia, I did make some progress.  I started the year with 4058 bird and mammal species and will finish at 4299. 

January – winter birding in Alberta … what could be more fun?  I did a January big day with Phil Cram, birding from Waterton to Calgary recording 44 species. With not many species around, most of which I’ve photographed many times, it is always a challenge to get a decent flight shot of the winter birds.  As you can see from my Gyrfalcon photo, there is lots of room for improvement.

February, March – seven weeks in Argentina with my wife and two other couples.  While not a birding trip, birding opportunities did present themselves along the way.  I’ve already posted pictures of most of the highlight birds so will take this opportunity to share a few others, including some flight shots.
Chimanga Caracara - El Calafate 

Dark-bellied Cinclodes - Ushuaia

Imperial Cormorant - Ushaia

Magellanic Woodpecker (female) - El Chalten

Plush-crested Jay - Iguazu Falls

Swallow-tailed Hummingbird - Iguazu
Spring Alberta – it was still winter when I returned to Canada and I did a fair bit of birding as the birds straggled north.  A visit by Alistair and Sveta Peterson late in April included a delightful trip to Jasper … the scenery is fantastic but we were a bit early to see the bears and any returning migrants.
Ferruginous Hawk

Northern Goshawk (immature)

Pacific Wren - Jasper NP
Common Raven babies - candidates for the ugliest baby?
Early in May, Alberta’s first Purple Sandpiper was found at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary in Calgary.
Purple Sandpiper
June – Ray Woods and I made a one week trip to central Alberta and Saskatchewan, focusing on the Cold Lake region.  This is the place for warblers in Alberta and we recorded 14 species plus a few other good birds.
Cape May Warbler

Black-backed Woodpecker - Meadow Lake PP, SK
Mid-month, Isaac Sanchez from Texas came to the province as part of his photographic big year.  I spent a day and a half with him and we found a number of the common species but missed a couple that I thought we would get.
Chestnut-collared Longspur
Summer birding – pretty quiet but I spent some time looking to upgrade my photos for a few species.  I finally got a picture of an American Kestrel that I'm happy with – a common bird that rarely lets me get close enough.
American Kestrel
Fall birding – family events took precedence over birding but I did chase some local rarities such as Ruff, Parasitic Jaeger, Sabine's Gull and Anna's Hummingbird. 
Sabine's Gull (immature) - Glenmore Reservoir, Calgary
Anna's Hummingbird (immature male)
November – Phil Cram and I went to Colombia on a Rockjumper “Colombia Highlights” trip.  The 2 1/2 week trip focused on the three Andean ranges and the two valleys separating them.  In the coming weeks, I will do an in-depth post or two on this trip.  We saw lots of birds though conditions for photography were not great.  Highlights for me were Andean Cock of the Rock and numerous hummingbirds.  Here are a few of the birds we came across.
Andean Cock of the Rock

Bearded Helmetcrest

Blue-headed Parrot

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta

Collared Inca

Moustached Puffbird

White-bellied Woodstar

Yellow-vented Woodpecker
December – winter birding again!  Isaac returned for a second visit, this time chasing a revised goal of 600 species photographed.  It was pretty cold for his visit with temps hitting -38 C one morning.  We persevered and he managed to get 8 of his targets including this Northern Shrike.
Northern Shrike
Of course, shortly after he left, a few more of his other targets appeared in the area including Northern Hawk Owl, Gyrfalcon and Long-eared Owl.
Long-eared Owl
Looking ahead to 2014, I should be doing posts from southern California and Ontario with perhaps one from Texas.  I plan to do one international trip in the fall to somewhere in the southern hemisphere so hopefully will surpass 4500 species and 4000 birds.

Hope you all enjoy the Christmas season and have a very birdy new year!