Friday, January 16, 2009

Looking Back

Last year was a wonderful year of birding (yeah, I saw a ton of coots.) I was originally planning to do one of these pointless "Looking Back at Last Year" or "Top Ten Experiences of 2008" at the end of December, but I easily found more worthwhile wastes of time. So, now that January is half over, I thought I'd dive back into the past.

I took several exotic or semi-exotic birding trips last year - South Texas (awesome!), San Francisco, Humboldt County, and Minnesota. I also made too many short but memorable trips to remember. However, in this post I'd like to concentrate on a more local subject: my Bigbying adventures of 2008.

I spent lots of time last year working on my Bigby list, and all that time paid off: I found two hundred and thirty-six species. In reality, this isn't that long of a list - I saw nearly as many species in five days in Texas - but every single one of those species was found in Orange County by biking or walking from my house. At the start of the year, I was hoping for one hundred fifty tops. Then, in February, I discovered the joy of long-distance Bigbying; I easily skimmed past the two hundred mark in late May with several rides to the coast. Over the year, I rode to distant places such as San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Upper Newport Bay, Bolsa Chica, and Crystal Cove State Park.

Despite my hard work, a few species stubbornly refused to be added to my Bigby list. A few in particular stand out. Here are the top ten "misses" on my 2008 Bigby list:

1. Pectoral Sandpiper (ugh - present most of the fall at San Joaquin!)
2. Lawrence's Goldfinch (ouch)
3. Black Tern
4. Greater White-fronted Goose (seen at Upper Newport Bay the day before I rode there in November)
5. Black-chinned Sparrow (I undoubtedly could have found this one if I had taken some long hikes in the hills above Irvine Regional Park)
6. Baird's Sandpiper
7. Mew Gull
8. Reddish Egret
9. Jaegers of any flavor
10. Vagrant warblers of any flavor apart from Chestnut-sided and Pine

Now, because that was so depressing, here are my best ten Bigby finds of 2008:

1. Tropical Kingbird (San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine)
2. Pine Warbler (Estancia Park, Costa Mesa)
3. Chestnut-sided Warbler (Irvine Regional Park, Orange)
4. Baltimore Oriole (My neighborhood, Orange)
5. Yellow-headed Blackbird (Peters Canyon Regional Park, Orange)
6. Cackling Goose (North Lake, Irvine)
7. Gull-billed Tern (San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine)
8. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Santiago Oaks Regional Park, Orange)
9. Varied Thrush (Irvine Regional Park, Orange)
10. Gray Flycatcher (Peters Canyon Regional Park, Orange)

Of course, I'm keeping a Bigby list again this year. Currently it is at one thirty-two. Last year's number will be difficult to beat - I'm not sure I'll be able to pull it off. However, I'll do my best! Tomorrow I am planning on chasing by bike a couple difficult species for Orange County, Vermilion Flycatcher and Ferruginous Hawk. A lot of common species, like this Barn Owl, also are not on my new Bigby list... yet.

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