A Very Birdy Year

My goodness, it has been awhile since I have written a blog post! Excuses, excuses, excuses….but no sooner was I back to birding (with a Varied Thrush) than I was sidelined again! A shoulder surgery had me down and out for quite some time; by the end of the first month post-surgery I was managing some one-armed binocular action, but it has taken awhile to build up the strength to hold up my camera. With all that said, I am excited to catch up on some recent adventures and share some of my closer-to-home explorations (5MR birding!).

But, first, I am just not ready to let 2018 slip away entirely without a bit of reflection. If you’ve been following along (hi mom and Samantha!), you know that 2018 was an epic year for me, and one that will be hard to replicate for some time. My sabbatical afforded me the opportunity to travel, explore, and wander and all at a pace that allowed me to really soak it all in. Reflecting on the birds I saw throughout the year is a convenient way to take me back to the very best moments  –  where I was, what beautiful view I was enjoying, what I was learning, or who I was sharing the experience with.

So, in 2018:

  • I observed 838 species of birds (to put this in perspective, I saw 337 birds in 2017)
  • Of those 838 species, 430 were in the US, 409 in South Africa, and 32 in Lesotho
  • 323 species were observed in California
  • When I returned from South Africa in February, my “Eastern Hemisphere” list was greater than my hometown “Western Hemisphere” list, so I vowed to remedy that situation as soon as possible
  • I submitted 499 checklists to eBird
  • Using eBird, I recorded observations for 46,353 individual birds!!!
  • I added a lot of new California counties and new states to my eBird map
  • February was my birdiest month, with 493 species observed (in South Africa, Lesotho, New York, Orange County, San Diego County, Anza-Borrego SP, etc)
  • My Life List, at the end of 2018, sat at 867 species (I have since added two lifers)
  • My first bird of 2018 was a Loggerhead Shrike (it doesn’t get much better than that).
  • My first new life bird of 2018 was a Common Ground-Dove on January 1 at the Salton Sea NWR Visitor Center.
  • My final life bird of 2018 was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • My final checklist of 2018 included Hermit Thrush, White-breasted Nuthatch, and American Robin.

I have tried, and failed, to organize my favorite photos of the year and it is too daunting of a task. So, in the interest of moving on I am just going to leave a few of my favorite birds of 2018 here!

I saw an incredible diversity of birds in South Africa (and Lesotho)! Although I can’t possible sum up that experience here, I wrote quite a few posts about my travels (here and here and here and here, to name just a few).

Back in California, I enjoyed getting reacquainted with some more familiar birds!

Black-crowned Night Heron in San Diego County (Feb 2018)
Cassin’s Kingbird in San Diego County

I spent much of February exploring Southern California – San Diego County, Anza-Borrego State Park, etc. This pair of Nazca Boobies was a nice surprise!

Nazca Booby pair, San Diego (Feb 2018)

A few more of my favorite desert birds, from Anza-Borrego State Park, Joshua Tree NP, and surrounding areas.

A trip to Southeast Arizona was one of my highlights of the year. It was my first time exploring the Santa Rita Mountains, Huachucas, and Chiricahuas – and to get to do that with two of my best girls made it all the better! What a unique and fascinating part of the US…I think I will need to make a yearly pilgrimage from this point on to further explore the Sky Islands.

Leaving the Chiricahuas, we had a spectacular encounter with this Swainson’s Hawk, not far from its nest.

Swainson’s Hawk (SE Arizona, March 2018)

After a bit more exploring of the Mountains of California, I left northern California bound for Ohio. Thinking about it now, my bones ache for the open road! So many highlights along the way, including the juvenile Bald Eagle spotted from the tall grass prairie of Nebraska.


There is not much more I can say about the incredible experience I had birding Magee Marsh for the first time. Instead, I’ll repost my favorite Warblers!

Of course, it wasn’t all about Warblers (though they were mighty distracting)!

Veery, Magee Marsh, May 2018
American Woodcock, Magee Marsh (May 2018)
Horned Grebe (May 2018)

The drive back to California wasn’t so bad either…my lifer Pileated Woodpecker in Indiana and lifer Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Arkansas, and a whole lot of beauty in between.

Pileated Woodpecker (Indiana, May 2018)
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Arkansas, May 2018)

After arriving back in California, I made my way to the Sedgwick Reserve where I was fortunate to spend some time in the company of Tricolored Blackbirds, Yellow-billed Magpies, and Virginia Rails. A quick stop on Santa Cruz Island followed…

Northern Saw-whet Owl, Santa Cruz Island, June 2018
Island Scrub-Jay, Santa Cruz Island, June 2018

I spent the remainder in of the summer exploring the Sierra Nevada (eastern Sierra, Mammoth Lakes, foothills of the west slope), the north coast (Humboldt and Del Norte County), Lassen Volcanic NP, and Modoc Plateau (where I was lucky to see the first California Record of Eastern Meadowlark!). In the vicinity or Truckee, I was treated to one of my favorite birds of the year, the Northern Goshawk. Then it was back home and back to work.

A distant, but thrilling, Northern Goshawk at the Sagehen Creek Field Station (July 2018)

Although I am back to work, I am trying my hardest to incorporate “mini-sabbaticals” as often as possible. I certainly don’t have the same level of freedom that 2018 brought, but am squeezing as much adventure in as possible. Planning camping trips to take advantage of what promises to be spectacular spring, heading to Honduras in March, hitting the road for a couple months over the summer, and meeting up with friends in Tofino in July. A few final birds to round out the year….in no particular order.





6 thoughts on “A Very Birdy Year

Add yours

  1. Wow 2018 sure was an epic year for you! So many great birds and lovely photos too!

    I hope your shoulder is better soon and I look forward to seeing what you find in 2019! Happy New Year 🙂


  2. These photos!! The biodiversity!! This post was so much fun to read and look at. Thank you for sharing, and I can’t wait to see what else you’ve got!


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