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My 2005 ‘Birdies’

January 12, 2006

I promise that this will be my last self-indulgent retrospective posting on my 2005 year. But I had this idea while on a hike last weekend, and thought that I need to do it now if I’m going to do it at all.

Maybe someone else has already done this kind of thing, but regardless, I want to highlight some of my bird observations in the past year with these “awards”:

Most Productive Birding Spot, Colorado: A virtual 3-way tie between Fossil Creek/Duck Lake, Lake Loveland, and Dixon Reservoir

Luckiest Sighting. To qualify for this, it had to be a bird that is considered fairly rare or unusual, yet required only the absolute minimum of effort for me to see it. The one that jumps out at me has to be my Life-Bird Glaucous Gull on Horsetooth Reservoir from Jan 2, where I was simply a passenger in our CBC car, and we happened upon a 2nd-year immature after just a half-minute searching some gulls in a scope.

Most Hard-earned Bird: What bird did I try hardest to see, with eventual success? Curiously it was the Lesser Black-backed Gull I saw on the very last day of the year. I had been around some other Lessers (ID’ed by other birders) during the year, but never had good looks at them, certainly not enough for me to feel like I knew for sure that’s what they were. It took a rather obvious adult at Lake Loveland to clinch a full year of frustration.

Biggest Failure: A negative category, but should reflect an unsuccessful attempt at a great bird. This would have to be my disastrous attempt to find the Yellow-billed Loon last November on Chatfield Reservoir. I couldn’t have picked a crappier weather day to look for it. Luckily I called off the search before I froze away my fingers.

Best Naked-eye Bird: This has to be the Hoatzin in Peru in May. We got such great close-up looks at it. If only I’d had my good camera back then, the pics I could have had. Oh well. I still feel privileged to have been as close to them as I was.

Best Bird Photographed: This isn’t the same thing as the best bird photograph, it’s just the best bird I got a picture of. My fave is my somewhat fuzzy but still recognizable shot of a Black-throated Trogon in Costa Rica. What a gorgeous bird that was.

Most Common Bird That’s Still A Joy to See: Northern Flicker. I just think they’re such beautiful birds. I love ’em.

Largest Bird: This is easy. Andean Condor, hands down.

Smallest Bird: Hmmm. Not sure who’s smallest, but I think Allen’s Hummingbird may qualify.

Best ‘Comeback’ Bird: This is for a bird that I’d seen before, but perhaps only once before many years ago. I actually had several second-time sightings of birds this year, but my favorite had to be Macgillivray’s Warbler at Rocky Mountain NP last June.

Best Colorado Bird: This is a two-way tie for me, between two perhaps unlikely candidates: Cassin’s Kingbird and White-tailed Ptarmigan. I picked the Cassin’s because this was a bird I saw some years ago in Arizona (may also qualify as a comeback bird), and had expressly hoped to see one again after taking the time to re-study what makes the Cassin’s distinct from a Western. It was just a gratifying sighting. And the Ptarmigan, well, I liked it because it was 1) a Lifer, and 2) I had a Zen experience in seeing it. The more I tried to find one, by making it a target bird on trips to Rocky Mountain, the more impossible it was to find. Only by not trying to find the bird, and just spending time hiking in the high country did they come out and make themselves so easily seen for me. On two separate occasions, no less!

Best ABA Bird: I got to make 3 trips to Florida this year. My favorite bird in ABA-land has to be the Roseate Spoonbill. If seeing a bird takes your breath away like that one did, then it almost has to be a best-bird-of-the-year candidate.

Best Tropical Bird: Hmmm, Peru and Costa Rica. Lots of cool birds to choose from there. Way too many. Peru’s candidates were Paradise Tanager, Cock-of-the-Rock, Hoatzin, Horned Screamer, and Spangled Cotinga. Costa Rica’s candidates included Shining Honeycreeper, Scarlet-Thighed Dacnis, White Hawk, and even the Bay Wren, which I found utterly enchanting. Even these lists leave off other possibilities. But I think the best one of all was Peru’s Scaly-breasted Woodpecker. It’s a Celeus woodpecker, somewhat resembling its Dryocupus cousins like Pileated, but with a stunning cinnamon full-body coloration, and a bold ivory bill. Just f’in awesome.

Least Likely Bird: Maybe this is the same as rarest bird? I have to think about that. In any case, it would have to be the mind-blowing Tropical Parula that showed up in the Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins last June, just a mile from my house. It made quite a scene (being only the second state record), and I saw the bird with about 30 other people that morning, all of us suspiciously wandering about the graveyard with our binocs, scopes and cameras.

So there you go. In future years I may have more or different categories. These were just whatever I could think of off the top of my head. If you have any ideas for other categories feel free to pass them on.

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