Monday, January 2, 2017

Sweet 2016

    "Sweet 2016" is over. It always amazes me how fast the years come and go. Although I didn't do very much birding compared to past years, I still saw some amazing species and had several wonderful adventures.
    I added 8 more species to my lifelist. These were: White-faced Storm-Petrel, White-tailed Tropicbird, Brown Booby, South Polar Skua, Parasitic Jaeger, Black-billed Cuckoo, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Northern Wheatear. (Click each to view a checklist with photos.) The first 5 were seen in North Carolina, and the latter 3 were found in Tennessee. My favorite of those was definitely the White-faced Storm-Petrel off North Carolina which had been one of several species I really wanted to see someday but never thought I'd be able to. I've already written about this in a recent post, but I don't think I mentioned that this was also a lifer for my great birding friend and mentor Chris Sloan, who was actually the one who got me hooked on pelagic birding in the first place! I never thought I'd live to see the day that Chris and I would both share a lifebird! Also, my favorite of the Tennessee lifers was the Northern Wheatear that we saw in November. It was a first state record, an extraordinarily cooperative individual, and a surprisingly beautiful bird!
    Most of my top birding moments of 2016 took place on the Stormy Petrel II. I logged 11 days (a set of 8 trips and a set of 3), which totaled over 110 hours, in the Gulf Stream. Obviously, the moment I saw my much-desired White-faced Storm-Petrel was the highlight, but spotting a light morph Trindade Petrel, seeing a European Storm-Petrel moments after chatting about Euros with fellow leader Jeff Lemons, laughing over a Pomarine Jaeger slamming into a fishing pole, and getting sprayed by several dozen gallons of salt water at the same time it was raining were just a few more unforgettable memories. Being on the boat is extremely uncomfortable, and sometimes I reach points where I just want to take a shower, go to bed, or die, but there are few places I'd rather be.
    Another favorite experience was doing a Christmas Bird Count in Humphreys County, TN. Christmas Bird Counts are the best, and Humphreys County is an exceptional area with brilliant habitat diversity and thus a wide variety of species. We covered much territory, and as with most CBCs, rather than seeing just a few of each species we saw massive numbers of each. At the end of the day, our group had 80-90 species, and all the groups combined found 117 species.
    The last highlight was recording our milestone 150th yard bird, a male Northern Pintail, and shortly after, finding our 151st yard bird, a flock of 19 Ring-necked Ducks! I plan to share our "history" of yard birding and what we've learned in a following post.
    Looking forward, I'm excited. I plan to do more thorough yard birding, and my brother Nolan and I hope to work on our county lists. Now that the new eBird profile page colors the counties you've visited, our goal is to have a "rainbow" across Tennessee. We'll see how long that takes!

    2016 ABA Year List: 269
    2016 TN Year List: 213
    2016 NC Year List: 157