06 January 2010

Farewell 2009

"...Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end..." - Closing Time by Semisonic

A high pitched twitter announced it's presence. The imposing sandstone walls echoed with call, as my friend David Bell and I walked through the snow of Arches National Park. Ahead of me, the shape of a sparrow darted out towards the Dark Angel Trail parking lot, disappearing into the thick fog that had fallen over the plateau. Shortly thereafter, the small sparrow reappeared, flying up onto an overhead ledge, revealing it's identity as an 'Oregon' Dark-eyed Junco. As I watched the bird fly against the dark sky I realized that it was probably my last bird of the year, and I was right. As we walked out of the labyrinth of stone we failed to find a single other bird, and so my birding year came to an end. What had started with the chip of a Rufous-winged Sparrow had come to a close 467 species later in Utah. All in all, it was an excellent year. Below are some of my favorite birds of the year:

Black-vented Shearwater: my first pelagic lifer of all time was seen off of Santa Cruz Island
Magnificent Frigatebird: my lifer flew almost directly overhead on Elmer's Island in front of a coming storm
Neotropic Cormorants: a flock of several hundred (dare I say, thousands) was in Cameron Parish on the telephone wires
Wood Stork: a flock of 400 made the sky white with birds along the Mississippi river one day
Whooper Swan: I was privileged enough to get excellent looks at this beautiful Eurasian swan in Hagerman, Idaho in January
California Condor: seeing over a dozen of these imposing birds was simply incredible
Common Black-Hawk: I finally caught up with this nemesis near Sunflower, AZ; thanks Tyler!
White-rumped Sandpiper: the largest flock of these ever in AZ was one of my SE AZ highlights
Pomarine Jaeger: my lifer jaeger was spotted on the boat to Santa Cruz
Elegant Tern: seeing two of these awesome terns in Tucson was very cool
Buff-collared Nightjar: excellent views of this bird are something I will not soon forget
Sinaloa Wren: My first lifer of the year was this incredible Mexican endemic, the first ABA record
Gnatcatchers: seeing all four in a week was awesome
Varied Thrush: finally got to see this majestic bird in Tumacacori, Arizona
Olive Warbler: a bird in full sun near Williams, Arizona was one of my summer highlights
Day of the Ammodrammus sparrows: birding along the LA coast, we had a flock of several dozen Seaside Sparrows and Nelson's [Sharp-tailed] Sparrows

At the end of the day, it is hard to say any bird or any birding trip was better than any other though. To all of you who birded with me in the past year: I wish you a great new year, and look forward to what the future brings!

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