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



  1. That is an amazing year! My highlights would be lifers Parastic Jaeger, Sabine's Gull, Long-tailed Duck, and Long-eared Owls. I'm landlocked so the Jaeger and Gull are really cool to me. I also did a CBC (it is called Four Rivers CBC) and my group saw 80 species exactly. The count topping out at 114 with several records for the state. There was seven species of owls on the count which is absolutely crazy. Finally my group had to try to identify as many waterfowl as we could amongst over 100,000 Mallards.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Joseph! Parasitic Jaeger and Sabine's Gull are definitely great inland birds. Both were sighted in Tennessee during the fall of 2016, but they were one-day wonders. I don't think many CBCs can boast 7 species of owl...that's awesome. I don't even have that many on my life list! The Mallard numbers you mentioned were like ours. Our circled was centered on the Tennessee National Wildife Refuge--Duck River Unit, which is well managed and has incredible quantities of birds at all times of the year. The Mallard totals rolled in at 99,656 (estimating large groups, counting small flocks and singles, then combining the numbers), but obviously there was absolutely no way to come up with an exact number. If you're interested, a complete list with final totals from our CBC is here:,2. Good birding!

    2. Chloe,
      Thanks for your response, yes the Gull and Jaeger were really cool and I consider myself lucky enough to see them. There was actually around 6 individual Sabine's throughout September and October here in Kansas City but I only saw one so now the Townsend's Solitaire retains its spot as my nemesis bird. As for my CBC, I was put on a section on the Four Rivers Conservation Area (around 14,000 acres of state managed land), that was a lot ground to cover but there was a lot of birds. I didn't have it anywhere near as cold as Neil but it started out at 18F and ended about 25F with wind gust up to 20 MPH so the wind chill was in the single digits all day. Most definitely felt like my fingers and toes were frozen but not deathly cold by any means... unfortunately for me I missed out on almost all the owls. Barn owls by a couple minutes, Long-eared Owls by an hour, and what would have been my lifer (and 7th owl) Northern Saw-Whet Owl by a hundred feet! In total the count had Eastern Screech-Owls, Great-horned Owls, Barred Owls, Short-eared Owls, and those previous mentioned. Anyway that was a great day and next year I will get my own section to cover! I don't have a complete list (except for an email but that would be way too long), to share. Your day looked just as amazing! I would have to say CBC's are the best.

  2. Your comments about Christmas Bird Counts amused me - we did our Banff-Canmore (Alberta) count on Dec 17 in -25C (-13F) and stiff breezes. WE had our equal lowest species count (36 cf 40 year average of 43) with very low individual counts.

    Despite all this, we had a record number of participants, and a lot of (cold) fun.

    Maybe next year we'll be in warmer climes and get a taste of your experiences!

    Happy New Year, Chloe.

    1. Neil,

      Your comments about the Canadian weather just made me grateful for the 40F, steady rain showers, and 10mph breeze we had on our CBC!! I also can't imagine having that low of a species count, but I guess it wouldn't really be that much of a shock if you were used to a lower average. Thanks for sharing your experience...good birding!

  3. A good year! Wow...a Northern Wheatear, in Tennessee? Never would have guessed! But then again, it was a year ago this time where we had a Great Kiskadee miraculously show up South winter. Glad you had a good year, and ALWAYS fun to add new species!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Terry! I just searched the kiskadee on eBird - crazy find, but birds do odd things. Good birding, and have a great year!

  4. Hi Chloe, This has nothing to do with the post above but I could not find another way to contact you.
    I'm Oliver Burrus a fourteen-year-old birder from northern Illinois and founder of Whimbrel Birders Club. Our club is now expanding to other states and countries and I was wondering if you would like to start one in Tennessee? We have a post on the Eyrie (the ABA young birders blog) for more info and how to contact us.

    Oliver Burrus - founder of WBC