Here are my top birding moments of 2011.
Number 1 : Hurricane Irene Birding, which produced probably an unprecedented number of gulf stream birds in our region. I missed an opportunity on doing a blog post of this spectacular event, but this was undoubtedly the top birding event of the year for me. Looks from Jones Inlet of Bridled and Sooty Terns, Leach's Storm Petrel and the most stunning sight of all a Band-rumped Storm Petrel will be hard to repeat. Sharing these sightings with friends Shai Mitra, Patricia Lindsay, Doug Futuyma, Steve Walter, Tom Burke, Gail Benson, Andy Guthrie, Seth Asubel and C. Finger made it all the more special.
Number 2: Gray-hooded Gull at Coney Island Beach was the summer hit in Brooklyn. Stunning find by a couple of birders who made an incorrect ID, but all was not lost thanks to the birders taking a photo and an alert region eBird reviewer. The reviewer questioning the timing of a Black-headed Gull report, requested a photo and all hell broke loose once the correct ID was determined. Birders traveled far and wide for this one. Read about it here.
Number 3: LeConte Sparrow found by Tom Burke and Gail Benson on January 8th. It takes serious talent to pick out a bird while driving and even though it was at a crawl, Tom Burke and Gail Benson show cased their skills in pulling out a LeConte Sparrow at the Calverton Grasslands on LI while driving on an icy runway. Read about it here.
Number 4: My life Crossbills at President Park New Jersey on January 24th. Having neither of the species, I pulled off seeing both White-winged and Red-winged Crossbills with friends Seth Asubel and Isaac Grant. Not only did I get outstanding looks, I also managed to get great photos of these cool birds. I am hoping to add them to my NY state list in 2012. Read about it here.
Number 5: Joe Giunta and I made our second on what is now our annual Adirondack trip from March 4th to the 7th and had a spectacular time. I added Hoary Redpoll, Bohemian Waxwings and Gray Jays to my life and state list with great looks. We even had Gray Jays eating out of our hands. Read about it here.
Number 6: 1st Summer Artic Tern on LI. While neither a life or state bird, this was a special day for me as I was able to study and engage in a lively ID discussion led by the ternmeister Shai Mitra. Shai, Patricia Lindsay, Tom Burke, Gail Benson, Doug Futuyma along with a few other birders spent some time with this bird enjoying the looks and opportunity to study the subject. Read about it here.
Number 7: The very next day, I went back out to LI and found my own Sandwich Tern. Unfortunately this bird did not stick around too long for studies, but I was lucky to get flight shots for proper documentation. Read about it here.
Number 8: Picking out my own life and state, Thayer's Gull - I spent a lot of study time in the field, especially on Gulls and was rewarded with finding my own Thayer's Gull in the presence of gullmeister Willie D'Anna while on a Buffalo run with Joe Giunta.
Number 9: Mountain Bluebird under duress. When this bird was reported I had no method of getting to the location as my mode of transportation was in the mechanic shop. Anxiously watching the time, as soon as the car was off the lift, I raced out to LI and got my life Mountain Bluebird just before the rain came.
Number 10: There are many moments that could make number ten, but the love I have for my backyard and the species I have been lucky to record makes this one a special mention. Yellow-breasted Chat in the backyard, not one but two, making this the second time I have noted 2 Yellow-breasted Chats in my yard. I was lucky to get good photos of this bird. See here.
A recap of my top ten birding moments for 2011 would not be complete without an acknowledgment to many of the birders, naturalists and photographers who were willing to share their knowledge and time with me. Thank you, thank you!!! Many are considered friends and being in the field with them makes the moments even more enjoyable. Special thank you to some of the folks I spent time in the field with - Joe Giunta, Tom Burke, Gail Benson, Shai Mitra, Patricia Lindsay, Joan Quinlan, Eric Miller, Doug Futuyma, Willie D'Anna, Betsy Potter, John Hass, Jeff Bolsinger, Frank Donovan, Rich Kelly, Bobby Kurtz, Bob Adamo, Don Riepe, Steve Walter, Seth Asubel, Isaac Grant, Corey Finger and Ken Thompson.
Tags: Hurricane Irene, Sooty Tern, Bridled Tern, Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern, LeConte Sparrow