Saturday, January 31, 2015

January in Review - A Month for the Buddy List

I knew I wasn't going to be able to spend as much time birding this January as I did last year, but I at least assumed I would have been able to get out more than three times in Illinois. The semester began with the pace of life accelerating from 0-60 in no time at all, with work and school keeping me from any sort of consistency in my birding life. This turned out to be alright actually, and I found myself really being able to appreciate getting out since I wasn't able to do so as often as I would have preferred.

I wound up taking three day trips, all of them with Andrew, which gave us a chance to work on the buddy list. We wound up with five new birds for the buddy list, and for my review of the month I will rank them in order.

1) Of course, the highlight of the month, and probably the year, and maybe the decade, was the Ivory Gull in Quincy that so many got to see at the beginning of the month. This was our milestone 275th buddy list bird!

2) The next highlight goes to this pair of Northern Saw-whet Owls. Andrew and I have both had the same individual bird on two occasions in Illinois, but never at the same time, so it was great to get this buddy list addition and get such fantastic views too! (Can't/won't divulge location)

The first one kept sleeping:

And the second one was watching us before we even saw it. I found a seat at a distance and watched this little guy quietly for a few minutes. The alert eyes slowly closed, then one pried open. It was a fantastic moment.

3) We were able to track down the Sand Ridge Red Crossbills, which is already the second bird I've seen this year that I didn't get for my Illinois Big Year - funny how that goes. We were working the section of road where they'd been reliable recently, and after about a half hour of waiting and trying for them, the flock of 15 appeared out of nowhere. We only got flyover views, but it was still an exciting add to the buddy list!

4) At long last, we finally ticked the Northern Shrike off our nemesis list. We haven't spent a great deal of time specifically targeting the species, but every time we had tried we came up empty. And, with the amount of time we've spent birding together the past two years, we really should have seen one by now. Ironically enough, it took a trip to central Illinois to get the job done, as the bird that's been reliably hanging out around Spring Lake recently cooperated nicely for us. We got nice views of the bird, though after just a few seconds of watching, it darted into a nearby bush and we weren't able to relocate it. We were reminded in that moment why we had missed this species on so many occasions. In my opinion, the Northern Shrike is probably the easiest bird to not find when specifically looking for it.

5) The Harlequin Duck is another case in which Andrew and I have both seen the exact same individuals (in Kane, Cook, and Lake), just not together. So, after one of our slower outings of the month, we picked this guy up in Elgin on the way home. Always a delight to see!

These five top birds of January have our buddy list at 279, which is nothing to complain about in less than two years!

Other fun sightings included this month included this gorgeous Rough-legged Hawk:

And another beautiful Red Fox:

In only three outings, my Illinois year list is up to 72. I managed 79 species in Washington in the first couple days of the year there, and between the two my ABA list is at 115. I'm excited to see what adventures February holds!

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Big Year of the Littlebirder - 2014 in Review

Where to begin?

2014 was quite the journey. Jen and I celebrated our third year of marriage, which I think techinically graduates us out of the newlywed era, but we're still loving life together like newlyweds, label or not. I also completed two more semesters of my second MA (only one more semester left!), and kept up a job at the college and my church. And along the way, I had my most extensive, intensely concentrated, and successful year of birding to date.

A year ago I laid out my goals, which included 300 for Illinois and 450 for the ABA area. The latter goal took an extra bump when a surprise trip to Florida fell in our laps and made 500 a possibility.

planned and planned. I executed. I studied. I chased. I documented almost all of it with my camera, mostly for my own sanity, but also to appease any skeptics who didn't know me or who (rightfully!) question the more obscure species on Big Year lists. You can see my 1500+ pics in an album on Flickr at this link (I think a couple got deleted accidentally along the way).

It was interesting balancing a state Big Year effort with significant time spent elsewhere in the country. My time in Illinois had to be focused because by the end of the year I had spent a total of six weeks out of the state! Add that to the two weeks I was out sick at the end, and it seems more like a Big 10 Months - and it makes 309 feel even a little bit better.

I'm really grateful to have had the opportunity to put so much work into an effort like this - having a supportive wife and flexible work schedule made the whole thing both possible and enjoyable. One of my biggest surprises was that I never really burned out. July was pretty slow and I took the chance to rest then when I could. The Fall was generally slower paced than the Spring because it was more about targeting specific species than accumulating as many as possible - and work was much busier in the Fall than the Spring, so the blog definitely took its biggest hit then. But at no point did I feel like throwing in the towel or seriously consider just coasting through to the end.

One of the most important aspects of the year, particularly in Illinois, was the strong start. It's not a necessity, but it sure does take the pressure off the closing months of the year. I was out several times a week and chased everything possible early on, and by the end of March I was already in really good shape for hitting my goal of 300.

I think one of the keys for anyone doing an Illinois Big Year is to plan a couple purposeful, seasonally-appropriate trips to the opposite end of the state in which they live, all the while understanding that a spontaneous chase to the other end will probably be necessary on a couple occasions too. As a northern Illinois resident, I got antsy and wound up taking a couple trips down south earlier in the year than I had anticipated due to winter's unrelenting grip on the northern reaches of the state, and on one of those I was able to pick up the Eurasian Wigeon on the way back. Seeing warblers and shorebirds a little bit earlier than usual was a huge jolt to the morale as well. These boosts were well timed in each case and kept my momentum at a high pace as May approached. One of those nerdy number things that I love - I had seen 215 species in Illinois by the end of April, and in May alone I saw 216 species, even with a one week trip to Arizona in the middle of it all.

I also can't say enough about the importance of planning. This was all the more necessary for me as Illinois was still relatively new territory to me. My main source was eBird, though I also had plenty of interactions over email and phone with the outstanding community that is the Illinois birding world - and in a couple cases I know I missed birds because I didn't make an extra call. But planning helped me know at the end of each month whether or not I was on pace, and the all-knowing Google Doc always kept my needs in front of me (btw, this is something you can do now with eBird's brand new Target Species tool, which is endlessly enjoyable).

To be sure, I generally would not recommend spending so much time outside the state in which you're doing a Big Year, though it hardly cost me a bird and actually wound up being refreshing at times. I found that one of the biggest commitments of birding elsewhere was the prep time involved. With a week long route to prepare for in Arizona, I had a host of new birds to learn, particularly calls. I spent most of the Spring doing bits and pieces of that work along the way. Florida was a different beast because it fell into our laps last minute, and my time to go birding there was more limited, so I had to be ready for new species and condense them into short, efficient trips. Birding in Washington - especially the east side - always feels like returning to my native dialect, so the prep time was less essential in those cases.

All in all, the extra travel and attempt at 500 in the ABA was a reminder that a big list is as much about one's ability to travel as it is anything else. True, you have to know what you're doing to track down specialized stuff like Five-striped Sparrows and Antillean Nighthawks, but for the most part simply showing up in a new region will provide a significant bump to your list. As I reflect back on 2014, I'm grateful that all the trips lined up the way they did and that I was able to find so many tough and new species. In the process, my love and appreciation for traveling and birding locally both grew tremendously. I want to do both for the rest of my life.

And now, the lister in me needs to make some, well, lists:

First, my top 10 birds of 2014 (I'm going to cheat a do a couple ties just to add a couple to the list because I can't narrow it down!):

#1 is a tie between the Slaty-backed Gull and Fork-tailed Flycatcher, neither of which were even remotely on my radar coming into the year.

#2 goes to the Elegant Trogon, which was one of my most desired birds since childhood.

#3 is the Little Gull that Nathan found for me.

#4 is the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, which absolutely blew me away in Arizona.

#5 is the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, mainly because it made me work so hard and I wasn't sure I would find it, then it wound up being my favorite Florida lifer.

#6 is a tie between Five-striped Sparrow and Montezuma Quail, because of the one morning my dad took the wild adventure back to California Gulch and had stunning views of both.

#7 - you know it was a heck of a year when a Northern Hawk Owl gets relegated to a measly #7.

#8 is another tie, between White-eared Hummingbird and Spotted Owl, which again came together in the same spot.

#9 is the Buff-collared Nightjar, which is the coolest sounding bird ever!

#10 is the Hermit Warbler, which as a state lifer for both my dad and me, is the only bird from Washington making this list.

I'm tempted to load this post with all the amazing stuff that happened this year, but I'll restrain myself. It's all on the blog somewhere. Here's a few more remarkable memories that stand out:

With an unprecedented amount of the Great Lakes frozen over due to the Polar Vortex, the waterfowl situation was uncanny. The number of Long-tailed Ducks and Red-throated Loons I got to see in Illinois was truly remarkable.

Also, Red-necked Grebes in six counties was an unexpected accomplishment along the way - I'm an advocate of county listing now more than ever (made all those trips down south more worth it too)!

Finding a Golden Eagle and two White-faced Ibis was an absolute thrill - can't say enough good things about Mason and Fulton Counties.

Not just the quantity, but the high quality of birds Andrew and I tracked down together just this year is pretty incredible. Smith's Longspur, Mottled Duck, Red Phalarope, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher just start the list.

Breaking the Kane County Big Day record with Andrew and Scott with a whopping 145 in the middle of finals week probably encapsulates the craziness of a Big Year in one day as well as anything else.

The Spring soaked up most of the rarities and didn't leave much for the Fall, though the Lark Bunting at Montrose and the November Pomarine Jaeger were warmly welcomed additions!

Other highlights outside Illinois include point blank looks at Blue-throated Hummingbirds in Arizona...

all the Gray Kingbirds and Swallow-tailed Kites and Limpkins in Florida...

finally seeing Tufted Puffins again in Washington...

and my only day of birding all year spent in Indiana, which turned out to be one of my most incredible days of birding ever, with a highlight reel of Sabines Gulls, Parasitic Jaegers, and my lifer Pomarine Jaegers.

For all the amazing things I did see in 2014, there were still a couple misses that reminded me you just can't always get everything you hope for when it comes to birding. Here are my biggest misses:

Illinois - (these are just misses at the state level) Prairie Falcon, Hudsonian Godwit, and Black-throated Gray Warbler top the miss list because I was mere minutes from seeing each of them. Close competition for runner up includes Common Redpoll, which vertigo essentially prevented me from getting, and Barn Owl, which was a terrible miss, and Sabines Gull, because it was such a great year for them.

Arizona - Black Phoebe was a ridiculous miss, and no Greater Roadrunner stung too.

Florida - Brown-headed Nuthatch really should have happened in a couple different locations.

Washington - Clark's Nutcracker wouldn't cooperate though we tried and tried and tried.

ABA - in addition to these previous three, the Common Redpoll would probably be my worst miss of the year. I also should have seen a Burrowing Owl somewhere along the way.

Additionally, in Illinois, I would have thought that Spotted Towhee, Varied Thrush, Say's Phoebe, Whimbrel, California Gull, and Neotropic Cormorant would all be more likely than 8-10 of rarities I got instead - and that's what I love so much about birding, you just never know.

Here's a fun category I thought of along the way - birds of which I only encountered a single individual throughout the year. This shows just how narrow the margin can be; I could have easily missed 500 and 300, respectively. In addition to these, there's a another handful of species I only encountered once, but had two or more individuals in that lone encounter.

  1. Barn Owl - my very first bird of the year flew by on January 1 before dawn for my dad and me, and neither of us saw another one for the rest of the year.
  2. Northern Hawk Owl - also January 1, and not surprisingly my only individual of the year.
  3. Slaty-backed Gull - mega
  4. Fork-tailed Flycatcher - mega
  5. Little Gull - so awesome
  6. Lark Bunting - I shouldn't have encountered this bird at all last year
  7. LeConte's Sparrow - surprising on two accounts, it was a Spring bird, and I didn't see any in the Fall
  8. Red Knot - Montrose in the Fall
  9. Upland Sandpiper - only had the one at M&M
  10. Northern Saw-whet Owl - just one peep at the end of the year
  11. Harris's Hawk - surprised we didn't have more in Arizona
  12. Zone-tailed Hawk - a single flyby at Cave Creek
  13. Juniper Titmouse - Cave Creek
  14. Buff-collared Nightjar - ahhhhh
  15. Snowy Plover - Wilcox in Arizona
  16. Long-billed Curlew - Wilcox in Arizona
  17. Elegant Tern - real random bird in Arizona
  18. Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet - many syllables, just one individual
  19. Violet-crowned Hummingbird - Paton's place
  20. Black-capped Gnatcatcher - my dad's 650th ABA lifer
  21. Virginia's Warbler - lone, uncooperative bird, found thanks to our guide
  22. Black-chinned Sparrow - from the same spot as the Virginia's
  23. Buff-breasted Flycatcher - on a killer stretch of road in Garden Canyon, Arizona
  24. Mangrove Cuckoo - heard only unfortunately
  25. Roseate Tern - nice looks in not so nice light, such a sweet bird
  26. Shiny Cowbird - on that day in Florida I had Brown-headed and Bronzed too, crazy
  27. Snail Kite - distant, but awesome bird
  28. Dusky Grouse - flushed in front of the car on top of Mt. Salmo, Washington
  29. Gray-crowned Rosy-finch - last day out birding in Washington

For Illinois:

  1. Slaty-backed-gull
  2. Fork-tailed Flycatcher
  3. Lark Bunting
  4. Little Gull
  5. LeConte's Sparrow
  6. Upland Sandpiper
  7. Red Knot
  8. Northern Saw-whet Owl
  9. Pomarine Jaeger (only one in Illinois, several in Indiana)
  10. Eurasian Wigeon (only one in Illinois, many in Washington)
  11. Mottled Duck (only one in Illinois, many in Florida)
  12. Barrow's Goldeneye (only one in Illinois, many in Washington)
  13. Eared Grebe (only one in Illinois, many in Washington)
  14. Western Grebe (only one in Illinois, many in Washington)
  15. Glossy Ibis (only one in Illinois, many in Florida)
  16. Laughing Gull (only one in Illinois, many in Florida)
  17. Western Sandpiper (only one in Illinois, many in Washington)
  18. Curve-billed Thrasher (only one in Illinois, many in Arizona)
  19. Golden Eagle (only one in Illinois, several in Washington)
  20. Townsend's Solitaire (only one in Illinois, many in Washington)
  21. Bewick's Wren (only one in Illinois, many in Washington and Arizona)
Also, it would be remiss if I did not include some of the non-avian highlights from the year. One of the best parts of birding is that it gets you out into nature, where beauty abounds and anything could happen at any given moment. People generally think that birders are weird, and that's fair, because we are. But I don't think most realize that for the majority of us, birding is just an excuse to get outdoors, to connect with nature, to get away from the world of screens and meetings and contrived comforts, and instead breathe life from new buds and long trails and delicate intricacies that simply can't follow us back inside. In addition to the host of marvelous sunrises and sunsets that became the standard backdrop of my birding year, I think my favorite non-bird encounters were the baby Red Foxes Andrew and I got to see in the Spring, the Sonoran Kingsake in Arizona, a big softshell turtle in Illinois, all the turtles and tortoises and alligators in Florida, and the Sea Lions, River Otters, Long-tailed Weasel (so wish I could have photographed it!), and Moose I saw back in Washington.

By the numbers - here's the basic breakdown of the year:

ABA: 511
Illinois: 309
Washington: 241 (didn't see that coming!)
Arizona: 185
Florida: 126
Ohio: 67
Wisconsin: 56
Indiana: 45 (THREE of which were unique additions to the ABA year list at the time)
Idaho: 30 (contributed the hawk owl, though)
New Mexico: 13

ABA Lifers: 61 (not a typo, 61 freaking lifers in a single year! Safe to say I'll never do that again in the states.)
ABA Life list at the end of 2014: 590

Illinois Lifers: 27 (not bad! 5 of these were ABA lifers)
Illinois Life List at the end of 2014: 316

Counties with over 100 species: 20 (so my birding was deep, not just wide; i.e. I didn't just chase things then turn around and drive straight home)
   Illinois: 12 (including two over 200, Kane and Cook)
   Washington: 5
   Arizona: 3

If you're more of a visual person:

And at last, here's the lists, first ABA then Illinois:

  1. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
  2. Fulvous Whistling-Duck
  3. Greater White-fronted Goose
  4. Snow Goose
  5. Ross's Goose
  6. Brant
  7. Cackling Goose
  8. Canada Goose
  9. Mute Swan
  10. Trumpeter Swan
  11. Tundra Swan
  12. Muscovy Duck
  13. Wood Duck
  14. Gadwall
  15. Eurasian Wigeon
  16. American Wigeon
  17. American Black Duck
  18. Mallard
  19. Mottled Duck
  20. Blue-winged Teal
  21. Cinnamon Teal
  22. Northern Shoveler
  23. Northern Pintail
  24. Green-winged Teal
  25. Canvasback
  26. Redhead
  27. Ring-necked Duck
  28. Greater Scaup
  29. Lesser Scaup
  30. Harlequin Duck
  31. Surf Scoter
  32. White-winged Scoter
  33. Black Scoter
  34. Long-tailed Duck
  35. Bufflehead
  36. Common Goldeneye
  37. Barrow's Goldeneye
  38. Hooded Merganser
  39. Common Merganser
  40. Red-breasted Merganser
  41. Ruddy Duck
  42. Scaled Quail
  43. California Quail
  44. Gambel's Quail
  45. Northern Bobwhite
  46. Montezuma Quail
  47. Ring-necked Pheasant
  48. Ruffed Grouse
  49. Dusky Grouse
  50. Greater Prairie-Chicken
  51. Wild Turkey
  52. Red-throated Loon
  53. Pacific Loon
  54. Common Loon
  55. Pied-billed Grebe
  56. Horned Grebe
  57. Red-necked Grebe
  58. Eared Grebe
  59. Western Grebe
  60. Clark's Grebe
  61. Sooty Shearwater
  62. Wood Stork
  63. Magnificent Frigatebird
  64. Brandt's Cormorant
  65. Neotropic Cormorant
  66. Double-crested Cormorant
  67. Pelagic Cormorant
  68. Anhinga
  69. American White Pelican
  70. Brown Pelican
  71. American Bittern
  72. Least Bittern
  73. Great Blue Heron
  74. Great Egret
  75. Snowy Egret
  76. Little Blue Heron
  77. Tricolored Heron
  78. Reddish Egret
  79. Cattle Egret
  80. Green Heron
  81. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  82. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
  83. White Ibis
  84. Glossy Ibis
  85. White-faced Ibis
  86. Roseate Spoonbill
  87. Black Vulture
  88. Turkey Vulture
  89. Osprey
  90. Snail Kite
  91. Swallow-tailed Kite
  92. Mississippi Kite
  93. Bald Eagle
  94. Northern Harrier
  95. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  96. Cooper's Hawk
  97. Harris's Hawk
  98. Red-shouldered Hawk
  99. Broad-winged Hawk
  100. Gray Hawk
  101. Swainson's Hawk
  102. Zone-tailed Hawk
  103. Red-tailed Hawk
  104. Rough-legged Hawk
  105. Golden Eagle
  106. Clapper Rail
  107. King Rail
  108. Virginia Rail
  109. Sora
  110. Purple Gallinule
  111. Common Gallinule
  112. American Coot
  113. Limpkin
  114. Sandhill Crane
  115. Black-necked Stilt
  116. American Avocet
  117. American Oystercatcher
  118. Black Oystercatcher
  119. Black-bellied Plover
  120. American Golden-Plover
  121. Snowy Plover
  122. Wilson's Plover
  123. Semipalmated Plover
  124. Piping Plover
  125. Killdeer
  126. Spotted Sandpiper
  127. Solitary Sandpiper
  128. Greater Yellowlegs
  129. Willet
  130. Lesser Yellowlegs
  131. Upland Sandpiper
  132. Whimbrel
  133. Long-billed Curlew
  134. Marbled Godwit
  135. Black Turnstone
  136. Ruddy Turnstone
  137. Red Knot
  138. Stilt Sandpiper
  139. Sanderling
  140. Dunlin
  141. Baird's Sandpiper
  142. Least Sandpiper
  143. White-rumped Sandpiper
  144. Buff-breasted Sandpiper
  145. Pectoral Sandpiper
  146. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  147. Western Sandpiper
  148. Short-billed Dowitcher
  149. Long-billed Dowitcher
  150. Wilson's Snipe
  151. American Woodcock
  152. Wilson's Phalarope
  153. Red-necked Phalarope
  154. Red Phalarope
  155. Pomarine Jaeger
  156. Parasitic Jaeger
  157. Common Murre
  158. Pigeon Guillemot
  159. Marbled Murrelet
  160. Ancient Murrelet
  161. Rhinoceros Auklet
  162. Tufted Puffin
  163. Sabine's Gull
  164. Bonaparte's Gull
  165. Little Gull
  166. Laughing Gull
  167. Franklin's Gull
  168. Heermann's Gull
  169. Mew Gull
  170. Ring-billed Gull
  171. Western Gull
  172. California Gull
  173. Herring Gull
  174. Thayer's Gull
  175. Iceland Gull
  176. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  177. Slaty-backed Gull
  178. Glaucous-winged Gull
  179. Glaucous Gull
  180. Great Black-backed Gull
  181. Least Tern
  182. Black Tern
  183. Roseate Tern
  184. Elegant Tern
  185. Common Tern
  186. Forster's Tern
  187. Caspian Tern
  188. Royal Tern
  189. Sandwich Tern
  190. Black Skimmer
  191. Rock Pigeon
  192. White-crowned Pigeon
  193. Band-tailed Pigeon
  194. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  195. White-winged Dove
  196. Mourning Dove
  197. Inca Dove
  198. Common Ground-Dove
  199. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  200. Mangrove Cuckoo
  201. Black-billed Cuckoo
  202. Barn Owl
  203. Western Screech-Owl
  204. Eastern Screech-Owl
  205. Whiskered Screech-Owl
  206. Great Horned Owl
  207. Snowy Owl
  208. Northern Hawk Owl
  209. Northern Pygmy-Owl
  210. Elf Owl
  211. Spotted Owl
  212. Barred Owl
  213. Long-eared Owl
  214. Short-eared Owl
  215. Northern Saw-whet Owl
  216. Lesser Nighthawk
  217. Common Nighthawk
  218. Antillean Nighthawk
  219. Common Poorwill
  220. Chuck-will's-widow
  221. Buff-collared Nightjar
  222. Eastern Whip-poor-will
  223. Mexican Whip-poor-will
  224. Chimney Swift
  225. Vaux's Swift
  226. White-throated Swift
  227. Magnificent Hummingbird
  228. Blue-throated Hummingbird
  229. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  230. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  231. Anna's Hummingbird
  232. Costa's Hummingbird
  233. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
  234. Rufous Hummingbird
  235. Calliope Hummingbird
  236. Broad-billed Hummingbird
  237. Violet-crowned Hummingbird
  238. White-eared Hummingbird
  239. Elegant Trogon
  240. Belted Kingfisher
  241. Lewis's Woodpecker
  242. Red-headed Woodpecker
  243. Acorn Woodpecker
  244. Gila Woodpecker
  245. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  246. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  247. Red-naped Sapsucker
  248. Red-breasted Sapsucker
  249. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  250. Downy Woodpecker
  251. Hairy Woodpecker
  252. Arizona Woodpecker
  253. Red-cockaded Woodpecker
  254. White-headed Woodpecker
  255. American Three-toed Woodpecker
  256. Black-backed Woodpecker
  257. Northern Flicker
  258. Pileated Woodpecker
  259. American Kestrel
  260. Merlin
  261. Peregrine Falcon
  262. Prairie Falcon
  263. Monk Parakeet
  264. Nanday Parakeet
  265. Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
  266. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  267. Greater Pewee
  268. Western Wood-Pewee
  269. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  270. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  271. Acadian Flycatcher
  272. Alder Flycatcher
  273. Willow Flycatcher
  274. Least Flycatcher
  275. Hammond's Flycatcher
  276. Gray Flycatcher
  277. Dusky Flycatcher
  278. Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  279. Cordilleran Flycatcher
  280. Buff-breasted Flycatcher
  281. Eastern Phoebe
  282. Say's Phoebe
  283. Vermilion Flycatcher
  284. Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  285. Ash-throated Flycatcher
  286. Great Crested Flycatcher
  287. Brown-crested Flycatcher
  288. Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
  289. Tropical Kingbird
  290. Cassin's Kingbird
  291. Thick-billed Kingbird
  292. Western Kingbird
  293. Eastern Kingbird
  294. Gray Kingbird
  295. Fork-tailed Flycatcher
  296. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  297. Loggerhead Shrike
  298. Northern Shrike
  299. White-eyed Vireo
  300. Bell's Vireo
  301. Yellow-throated Vireo
  302. Plumbeous Vireo
  303. Cassin's Vireo
  304. Blue-headed Vireo
  305. Hutton's Vireo
  306. Warbling Vireo
  307. Philadelphia Vireo
  308. Red-eyed Vireo
  309. Black-whiskered Vireo
  310. Gray Jay
  311. Steller's Jay
  312. Blue Jay
  313. Florida Scrub-Jay
  314. Western Scrub-Jay
  315. Mexican Jay
  316. Black-billed Magpie
  317. American Crow
  318. Northwestern Crow
  319. Fish Crow
  320. Chihuahuan Raven
  321. Common Raven
  322. Horned Lark
  323. Purple Martin
  324. Tree Swallow
  325. Violet-green Swallow
  326. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  327. Bank Swallow
  328. Cliff Swallow
  329. Barn Swallow
  330. Carolina Chickadee
  331. Black-capped Chickadee
  332. Mountain Chickadee
  333. Mexican Chickadee
  334. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  335. Boreal Chickadee
  336. Bridled Titmouse
  337. Juniper Titmouse
  338. Tufted Titmouse
  339. Verdin
  340. Bushtit
  341. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  342. White-breasted Nuthatch
  343. Pygmy Nuthatch
  344. Brown Creeper
  345. Rock Wren
  346. Canyon Wren
  347. House Wren
  348. Pacific Wren
  349. Winter Wren
  350. Sedge Wren
  351. Marsh Wren
  352. Carolina Wren
  353. Bewick's Wren
  354. Cactus Wren
  355. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  356. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
  357. Black-capped Gnatcatcher
  358. American Dipper
  359. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  360. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  361. Eastern Bluebird
  362. Western Bluebird
  363. Mountain Bluebird
  364. Townsend's Solitaire
  365. Veery
  366. Gray-cheeked Thrush
  367. Swainson's Thrush
  368. Hermit Thrush
  369. Wood Thrush
  370. American Robin
  371. Varied Thrush
  372. Gray Catbird
  373. Curve-billed Thrasher
  374. Brown Thrasher
  375. Sage Thrasher
  376. Northern Mockingbird
  377. European Starling
  378. Common Myna
  379. American Pipit
  380. Bohemian Waxwing
  381. Cedar Waxwing
  382. Phainopepla
  383. Olive Warbler
  384. Lapland Longspur
  385. Smith's Longspur
  386. Snow Bunting
  387. Ovenbird
  388. Worm-eating Warbler
  389. Louisiana Waterthrush
  390. Northern Waterthrush
  391. Golden-winged Warbler
  392. Blue-winged Warbler
  393. Black-and-white Warbler
  394. Prothonotary Warbler
  395. Tennessee Warbler
  396. Orange-crowned Warbler
  397. Lucy's Warbler
  398. Nashville Warbler
  399. Virginia's Warbler
  400. Connecticut Warbler
  401. MacGillivray's Warbler
  402. Mourning Warbler
  403. Kentucky Warbler
  404. Common Yellowthroat
  405. Hooded Warbler
  406. American Redstart
  407. Cape May Warbler
  408. Cerulean Warbler
  409. Northern Parula
  410. Magnolia Warbler
  411. Bay-breasted Warbler
  412. Blackburnian Warbler
  413. Yellow Warbler
  414. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  415. Blackpoll Warbler
  416. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  417. Palm Warbler
  418. Pine Warbler
  419. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  420. Yellow-throated Warbler
  421. Prairie Warbler
  422. Grace's Warbler
  423. Black-throated Gray Warbler
  424. Townsend's Warbler
  425. Hermit Warbler
  426. Black-throated Green Warbler
  427. Rufous-capped Warbler
  428. Canada Warbler
  429. Wilson's Warbler
  430. Red-faced Warbler
  431. Painted Redstart
  432. Yellow-breasted Chat
  433. Green-tailed Towhee
  434. Spotted Towhee
  435. Eastern Towhee
  436. Rufous-crowned Sparrow
  437. Canyon Towhee
  438. Abert's Towhee
  439. Rufous-winged Sparrow
  440. Botteri's Sparrow
  441. Bachman's Sparrow
  442. American Tree Sparrow
  443. Chipping Sparrow
  444. Clay-colored Sparrow
  445. Brewer's Sparrow
  446. Field Sparrow
  447. Black-chinned Sparrow
  448. Vesper Sparrow
  449. Lark Sparrow
  450. Five-striped Sparrow
  451. Black-throated Sparrow
  452. Lark Bunting
  453. Savannah Sparrow
  454. Grasshopper Sparrow
  455. Henslow's Sparrow
  456. Le Conte's Sparrow
  457. Nelson's Sparrow
  458. Seaside Sparrow
  459. Fox Sparrow
  460. Song Sparrow
  461. Lincoln's Sparrow
  462. Swamp Sparrow
  463. White-throated Sparrow
  464. Harris's Sparrow
  465. White-crowned Sparrow
  466. Golden-crowned Sparrow
  467. Dark-eyed Junco
  468. Yellow-eyed Junco
  469. Hepatic Tanager
  470. Summer Tanager
  471. Scarlet Tanager
  472. Western Tanager
  473. Northern Cardinal
  474. Pyrrhuloxia
  475. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  476. Black-headed Grosbeak
  477. Blue Grosbeak
  478. Lazuli Bunting
  479. Indigo Bunting
  480. Varied Bunting
  481. Dickcissel
  482. Bobolink
  483. Red-winged Blackbird
  484. Eastern Meadowlark
  485. Western Meadowlark
  486. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  487. Rusty Blackbird
  488. Brewer's Blackbird
  489. Common Grackle
  490. Boat-tailed Grackle
  491. Great-tailed Grackle
  492. Bronzed Cowbird
  493. Brown-headed Cowbird
  494. Shiny Cowbird
  495. Orchard Oriole
  496. Hooded Oriole
  497. Bullock's Oriole
  498. Baltimore Oriole
  499. Scott's Oriole
  500. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
  501. Pine Grosbeak
  502. House Finch
  503. Purple Finch
  504. Cassin's Finch
  505. Red Crossbill
  506. Pine Siskin
  507. Lesser Goldfinch
  508. American Goldfinch
  509. Evening Grosbeak
  510. House Sparrow
  511. Eurasian Tree Sparrow

  1. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
  2. Greater White-fronted Goose
  3. Snow Goose
  4. Ross's Goose
  5. Cackling Goose
  6. Canada Goose
  7. Mute Swan
  8. Trumpeter Swan
  9. Tundra Swan
  10. Wood Duck
  11. Gadwall
  12. Eurasian Wigeon
  13. American Wigeon
  14. American Black Duck
  15. Mallard
  16. Mottled Duck
  17. Blue-winged Teal
  18. Northern Shoveler
  19. Northern Pintail
  20. Green-winged Teal
  21. Canvasback
  22. Redhead
  23. Ring-necked Duck
  24. Greater Scaup
  25. Lesser Scaup
  26. Harlequin Duck
  27. Surf Scoter
  28. White-winged Scoter
  29. Black Scoter
  30. Long-tailed Duck
  31. Bufflehead
  32. Common Goldeneye
  33. Barrow's Goldeneye
  34. Hooded Merganser
  35. Common Merganser
  36. Red-breasted Merganser
  37. Ruddy Duck
  38. Northern Bobwhite
  39. Ring-necked Pheasant
  40. Greater Prairie-Chicken
  41. Wild Turkey
  42. Red-throated Loon
  43. Common Loon
  44. Pied-billed Grebe
  45. Horned Grebe
  46. Red-necked Grebe
  47. Eared Grebe
  48. Western Grebe
  49. Double-crested Cormorant
  50. American White Pelican
  51. American Bittern
  52. Least Bittern
  53. Great Blue Heron
  54. Great Egret
  55. Snowy Egret
  56. Little Blue Heron
  57. Cattle Egret
  58. Green Heron
  59. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  60. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
  61. Glossy Ibis
  62. White-faced Ibis
  63. Black Vulture
  64. Turkey Vulture
  65. Osprey
  66. Mississippi Kite
  67. Bald Eagle
  68. Northern Harrier
  69. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  70. Cooper's Hawk
  71. Red-shouldered Hawk
  72. Broad-winged Hawk
  73. Swainson's Hawk
  74. Red-tailed Hawk
  75. Rough-legged Hawk
  76. Golden Eagle
  77. King Rail
  78. Virginia Rail
  79. Sora
  80. Common Gallinule
  81. American Coot
  82. Sandhill Crane
  83. Black-necked Stilt
  84. American Avocet
  85. Black-bellied Plover
  86. American Golden-Plover
  87. Semipalmated Plover
  88. Piping Plover
  89. Killdeer
  90. Spotted Sandpiper
  91. Solitary Sandpiper
  92. Greater Yellowlegs
  93. Willet
  94. Lesser Yellowlegs
  95. Upland Sandpiper
  96. Marbled Godwit
  97. Ruddy Turnstone
  98. Red Knot
  99. Stilt Sandpiper
  100. Sanderling
  101. Dunlin
  102. Baird's Sandpiper
  103. Least Sandpiper
  104. White-rumped Sandpiper
  105. Buff-breasted Sandpiper
  106. Pectoral Sandpiper
  107. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  108. Western Sandpiper
  109. Short-billed Dowitcher
  110. Long-billed Dowitcher
  111. Wilson's Snipe
  112. American Woodcock
  113. Wilson's Phalarope
  114. Red-necked Phalarope
  115. Red Phalarope
  116. Pomarine Jaeger
  117. Bonaparte's Gull
  118. Little Gull
  119. Laughing Gull
  120. Franklin's Gull
  121. Ring-billed Gull
  122. Herring Gull
  123. Thayer's Gull
  124. Iceland Gull
  125. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  126. Slaty-backed Gull
  127. Glaucous Gull
  128. Great Black-backed Gull
  129. Least Tern
  130. Black Tern
  131. Common Tern
  132. Forster's Tern
  133. Caspian Tern
  134. Rock Pigeon
  135. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  136. Mourning Dove
  137. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  138. Black-billed Cuckoo
  139. Eastern Screech-Owl
  140. Great Horned Owl
  141. Snowy Owl
  142. Barred Owl
  143. Long-eared Owl
  144. Short-eared Owl
  145. Northern Saw-whet Owl
  146. Common Nighthawk
  147. Chuck-will's-widow
  148. Eastern Whip-poor-will
  149. Chimney Swift
  150. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  151. Rufous Hummingbird
  152. Belted Kingfisher
  153. Red-headed Woodpecker
  154. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  155. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  156. Downy Woodpecker
  157. Hairy Woodpecker
  158. Northern Flicker
  159. Pileated Woodpecker
  160. American Kestrel
  161. Merlin
  162. Peregrine Falcon
  163. Monk Parakeet
  164. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  165. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  166. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  167. Acadian Flycatcher
  168. Alder Flycatcher
  169. Willow Flycatcher
  170. Least Flycatcher
  171. Eastern Phoebe
  172. Great Crested Flycatcher
  173. Western Kingbird
  174. Eastern Kingbird
  175. Fork-tailed Flycatcher
  176. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  177. Loggerhead Shrike
  178. Northern Shrike
  179. White-eyed Vireo
  180. Bell's Vireo
  181. Yellow-throated Vireo
  182. Blue-headed Vireo
  183. Warbling Vireo
  184. Philadelphia Vireo
  185. Red-eyed Vireo
  186. Blue Jay
  187. American Crow
  188. Fish Crow
  189. Horned Lark
  190. Purple Martin
  191. Tree Swallow
  192. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  193. Bank Swallow
  194. Cliff Swallow
  195. Barn Swallow
  196. Carolina Chickadee
  197. Black-capped Chickadee
  198. Tufted Titmouse
  199. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  200. White-breasted Nuthatch
  201. Brown Creeper
  202. House Wren
  203. Winter Wren
  204. Sedge Wren
  205. Marsh Wren
  206. Carolina Wren
  207. Bewick's Wren
  208. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  209. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  210. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  211. Eastern Bluebird
  212. Townsend's Solitaire
  213. Veery
  214. Gray-cheeked Thrush
  215. Swainson's Thrush
  216. Hermit Thrush
  217. Wood Thrush
  218. American Robin
  219. Gray Catbird
  220. Curve-billed Thrasher
  221. Brown Thrasher
  222. Northern Mockingbird
  223. European Starling
  224. American Pipit
  225. Cedar Waxwing
  226. Lapland Longspur
  227. Smith's Longspur
  228. Snow Bunting
  229. Ovenbird
  230. Worm-eating Warbler
  231. Louisiana Waterthrush
  232. Northern Waterthrush
  233. Golden-winged Warbler
  234. Blue-winged Warbler
  235. Black-and-white Warbler
  236. Prothonotary Warbler
  237. Tennessee Warbler
  238. Orange-crowned Warbler
  239. Nashville Warbler
  240. Connecticut Warbler
  241. Mourning Warbler
  242. Kentucky Warbler
  243. Common Yellowthroat
  244. Hooded Warbler
  245. American Redstart
  246. Cape May Warbler
  247. Cerulean Warbler
  248. Northern Parula
  249. Magnolia Warbler
  250. Bay-breasted Warbler
  251. Blackburnian Warbler
  252. Yellow Warbler
  253. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  254. Blackpoll Warbler
  255. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  256. Palm Warbler
  257. Pine Warbler
  258. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  259. Yellow-throated Warbler
  260. Prairie Warbler
  261. Black-throated Green Warbler
  262. Canada Warbler
  263. Wilson's Warbler
  264. Yellow-breasted Chat
  265. Eastern Towhee
  266. American Tree Sparrow
  267. Chipping Sparrow
  268. Clay-colored Sparrow
  269. Field Sparrow
  270. Vesper Sparrow
  271. Lark Sparrow
  272. Lark Bunting
  273. Savannah Sparrow
  274. Grasshopper Sparrow
  275. Henslow's Sparrow
  276. Le Conte's Sparrow
  277. Nelson's Sparrow
  278. Fox Sparrow
  279. Song Sparrow
  280. Lincoln's Sparrow
  281. Swamp Sparrow
  282. White-throated Sparrow
  283. Harris's Sparrow
  284. White-crowned Sparrow
  285. Dark-eyed Junco
  286. Summer Tanager
  287. Scarlet Tanager
  288. Northern Cardinal
  289. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  290. Blue Grosbeak
  291. Indigo Bunting
  292. Dickcissel
  293. Bobolink
  294. Red-winged Blackbird
  295. Eastern Meadowlark
  296. Western Meadowlark
  297. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  298. Rusty Blackbird
  299. Brewer's Blackbird
  300. Common Grackle
  301. Brown-headed Cowbird
  302. Orchard Oriole
  303. Baltimore Oriole
  304. House Finch
  305. Purple Finch
  306. Pine Siskin
  307. American Goldfinch
  308. House Sparrow
  309. Eurasian Tree Sparrow

My concluding thoughts: I highly recommend a Big Year effort, particularly at the state level. I think it's great to take a year and really go after a lofty goal. I did so without the desire to break any records, which really took the pressure off and allowed me to enjoy myself all along the way. I learned a lot in the process, both about birds and myself, which definitely made it a worthwhile venture.

If you a do a Big Year, do a Big Year. Don't apologize for it or cower when the people around you start looking at you funny when you've been up at 4am three times this week before going into work. I actually found that most of my friends, while thinking (rightly) that I was a crazy person, thought that the whole thing was actually kinda cool. The people who truly don't get it are the same people who were probably never taught that nature and the outdoors are a gift to enjoy, not a threat to avoid or burden to endure. Who knows, maybe your steady love for nature will eventually rub off on them. (On this note, I recently found this article rather encouraging.)

And now, what's in the works for this year? Well, it's hard to say. My degree and job both end half way through the year, at which point Jen and I would love to return to our homeland back in the Pacific Northwest (anyone hiring a birder out there???). So, there's really no point in setting any state year goals, though 400 for the ABA seems like a reasonable possibility. I will probably focus mostly on bolstering local county and patch lists, though the latter will be frustrating if I have to wait till May to get open water again. I'd really like to spend a little time in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan just to see some new territory and work on those respective lists before likely leaving the Midwest. I'll also be spending more time reading and studying.

With my ABA life list now at 591, I would really love to hit the 600 mark soon. And I'd really like to do it before doing a major pelagic trip off either coast. The main locations that could help me get there would be the north Atlantic Coast, Colorado, and southern California. If an opportunity to go to any of these regions presents itself, I may just have to jump on it. We'll see. As a general rule of thumb, any year that begins with an Ivory Gull is going to be a fantastic year!

Thanks to all who made this last year possible! I look forward to seeing you out in the field in 2015!

Good birding!