Thursday, October 24, 2013


Big Year Birding can be a dangerous sport. And today, I'm on one of the more risky adventures of the year. No - not stomping through Grizzly Bear-infested Alaskan tundra. Nor flying out in a twin-prop over a foggy Bering Sea. And not even trying the dessert at the Trident Fish Cannery in the Pribilofs. 

No. Today, I'm in St Louis wearing a Red Sox cap the day after the Cardinals lost game 1 of the World Series. By 7 runs. Ouch.

St Louis Airport. 
Apparently, they're taking this whole World Series thing quite seriously.

And why am I here? What ridiculous bird has made me venture into Missouri? Well, you can blame the Germans. Not the actual Germans. (Obviously.) But the German Sparrows.

The Eurasian Tree Sparrow is the last of the exotic introduced species for my Big Year. But it's nothing like the other exciting exotics - the brightly-colored parrots, or the sweet-singing Skylarks and Mynas. And these guys didn't accidentally escape either. Rather, some German immigrants to the Mid-West wanted to "enhance" the native North American avifauna. What? Enhance? Did they think Cardinals were too boring? Did they not see the Bluebirds? And Hummingbirds? Excuse me? And what was their choice for an additional bird to add to our country? Europe's full of colorful exciting birds from which to choose - Green Woodpeckers (ooh!), Pied Flycatchers (aah!), Nightingales (oh wow!) But no - they chose one of the brownest, dullest birds in all of Europe, and one that doesn't even have a proper song. They chose the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

One of the arguments for giving this otherwise boring bird a Green Card was that it might help the local agriculture by eating some of the (apparently) annoying insects of the Mid-West. There were only two problems with this idea: the sparrows

(i) don't eat insects 
(ii) do eat seeds [so many of them in fact that they soon became an agricultural pest.]

So - not such a great idea, then. Anyway, in 1870 12 birds were released into Lafayette Park in St. Louis. Since these birds came from Germany, they were colloquially called German Sparrows. Today's population of 15,000 all descend from those original 12. And despite being around for almost 150 years they haven't spread much beyond the city limits - except into neighboring Illinois and Iowa. Compare that to the familiar and ubiquitous House Sparrow - which from a similar small release in Brooklyn, NY, is now extremely common across the continent. Because the original House Sparrows came from England, they're also referred to as English sparrows. So, English Sparrows seem to have done extremely well. German Sparrows, not so much. (No comment.)

So - I'm stopping off in St. Louis on my way home from Texas. I'm in a neighborhood called Dogtown, which is only 5 miles from Lafayette Park, the original release site.

Dogtown. St. Louis, Missouri.

It's the middle of the day in Dogtown, and they're aren't many people around. And I'm not sure where all the eponymous dogs are hiding either. But there are birds - as soon as I step out of the car I can hear a flock of sparrows. They're chattering loudly from a heavily-overgrown yard.

A heavily overgrown yard!

At this point in the year, I'm no longer nervous about sticking my head into people's yards with binoculars and a camera. (Although the Red Sox cap was probably pushing my luck.) Within 2 minutes my rudeness is rewarded with a Eurasian Tree Sparrow. And then another! And another! In fact, while there are House Sparrows here, the majority of the flock is Tree Sparrows.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
Bright red-brown cap with a black spot in the middle of the white face. 

Unlike the House Sparrow, these guys show no sexual dimorphism (where the males and females look different.) At this point, it would probably be helpful for me to show a pic of a House Sparrow for comparison. In fact, I could show some from home (they make up roughly one half of my Cambridge yard list) - except since I haven't been home for weeks now, I can't. So - you'll just have to imagine them (where "imagine" now means "Google.")

Thanks for a great Sparrow, St. Louis. And thanks for showing respect to / not beating up a Red Sox fan. I'd like to think Boston would return the pleasure.

 St Louis - arch enemy of the Red Sox. 
(For this week, at least.)
+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 726 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)

NEW YEAR BIRDS (1): Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


It's Wednesday, so it must be Texas.

I flew in yesterday from LAX to San Antonio, followed by a 4 hour drive south to the Rio Grande Valley. I'm here for the Golden-crowned Warbler. This is a bird usually at home in Mexico and further south.  But very occasionally it ventures north of the border (at least 16 times to Texas, and once to New Mexico) - where it sometimes ends up wintering. John Vanderpoel was lucky enough to see one during his Big Year. And I was very excited to see the report of a bird during mine.
Frontera Audubon, Weslaco, Texas
A Golden-crowned Warbler has been here for 11 days.
(And hopefully a 12th!)

I stayed in nearby McAllen last night, where I discovered two things:

(i) Green Parakeets are a lot easier to find when you're not looking for them (and don't need them!)

I stopped on 10th St after hearing the screeching calls, and ended up seeing over 300 birds, including this pair of yellow birds (lutino mutants which lack the dark melanin.) 
I put many hours in during the spring trying to find these guys.

(ii) there's a very good coffee shop in South Texas:


OK. I know - enough with the coffee. What about the Golden-crowned Warbler?

Well, I spent 5 hours at Frontera, most of it staring into the deep thicket around which the main path winds

Dense thicket.

And in all that time I managed to find the bird once, and watch it for about 10 seconds - half of which the bird spent eating a caterpillar! This was a life bird for me, and after recovering from the initial excitement, I was surprised just how yellow the underparts were (very lemony) and how bright the central crown stripe was. It was extremely skulking, and like most observers here, I failed to get a picture. And while I'd love to have seen the bird for longer, I was very happy that I did see it; many birders have tried here and missed.

While waiting for the warbler, I did manage to enjoy some of the other wildlife here, including some of the (very many) butterflies feeding and flitting about in the shafts of sunlight

Queen Butterfly - underwing

Queen Butterfly upperwing - related to the Monarch Butterfly

as well as a Buff-bellied Hummingbird coming to a feeder

Buff-bellied Hummingbird - a resident hummer of the Rio Grande Valley.

After coming up short on the recent Bodega Bay trip, and missing the Bean Goose at the Salton Sea, I was happy to finally get a new bird for the year. And tomorrow - I'm hoping to add another. My trip home takes me via St. Louis. Any guesses as to what avian excitement awaits me there??

+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 725 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)

NEW YEAR BIRDS (1): Golden-crowned Warbler

Monday, October 21, 2013


Despite what you might expect, a Big Year's not all jet-setting, gin and tonics, fine dining and glamor. There's actually a lot of standing around and waiting involved. And it's not like you can read a book while you're waiting. Or catch up on the latest Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me. But maybe it's made me a more calm and patient person? (Hmmm. No. I really don't think it has.) 

Today was a bit of a wild goose chase. No, wait, today was an *actual* wild goose chase! A Bean Goose chase. Or more of a Bean Goose wait. Nine hours of waiting for a bird that never turned up (there - I've given away the plot at the start!) I'm here with Chris Hitt, who's been birding CA and AZ recently, and who's making the wait more enjoyable. (Although an actual Bean Goose would have made it even more enjoyable.)

I'd flown home from California to Boston on Saturday after being away from home for almost a month. After Alaska and several pelagics in CA (including Bodega Bay - described below) I was ready for a long weekend of sleep, coffee, watching the Red Sox, sleep, enjoying what's left of the New England fall, sleep and spending time with Gerri and the cats. But mostly sleeping. But my R&R plans were ruined as soon as I landed and turned on my stupid phone: Bean Goose at the Salton Sea! That's a good bird. It's a goose - so could possibly stay all winter (one did back in 2010-11.) But I couldn't relax this weekend knowing it was out there. [Actually - there's also a Golden-crowned Warbler in Texas that gave me even less reason to let up and rest this weekend.) Reluctantly, I booked pretty much the next flight back out west.

And so, I'm back at the Salton Sea - which thankfully isn't as stupidly hot as it was back in the summer. (But "less than stupidly hot" is still hot!) There are lots of geese around. But apart from one Cackling Goose, they're all white - Snow Geese and Ross's Geese.

 Field of Geese (Snow and Ross's)

But despite the 9 hour vigil, the Bean Goose never appears. It wasn't seen yesterday either. It's probably in Mexico by now, knocking back Margaritas. 

Despite the disappointing goose no show, we did have time to see the now famous Blue-footed Boobies at nearby Obsidian Butte.

 Blue-footed Boobies (7 juveniles)
Part of the recent invasion of this species from Mexico.

Other highlights were American Bittern, Roadrunner (which apparently forgot how to make the "meep meep" call that of course all Roadrunners make) and the resident Barn Owl at the Sonny Bono visitor center. Oh - and lot's of honking Sandhill Cranes, newly arrived for the winter.

Sandhill Cranes - flying into the sunset

Last week, before the brief trip home, was also a bit of a wild goose chase - the goose was a Cackling Goose, and the chase a pelagic trip with Debi Shearwater out of Bodega Bay.

Cackling Goose - on the Cordell Bank, more than 25 miles out to sea.

Bodega Bay, in northern California, has more records of rare seabirds than any other US port - and so this was one trip I didn't want to miss. Jay Lehman joined me, as well as Brian Patteson and Kate Sutherland who run the pelagic trips out of Hatteras, North Carolina.

Despite the rarity history of this place, the Cackling Goose was the rarest bird we could pull out of the proverbial hat. (Debi thinks this is the first Cackling Goose she's ever had on a pelagic trip in over 30 years!) One nice surprise was a Brown Booby (adult) that flew over the boat several times,

 Brown Booby (adult) - my first for California.

as well as two Flesh-footed Shearwaters, and great looks at Short-tailed Shearwater on the water - a bird I've previously seen flying in the Bering Sea

Short-tailed Shearwater - previously called Slender-billed Shearwater

And another Laysan Albatross - a bird I've had on almost all of Debi's boats this year

Laysan Albatross. Individuals can be recognized by 
the unique black-and-white underwing patterns.

So new birds in Bodega, but still a fun trip.

After the Bean Goose chase today, I'm heading to Texas tomorrow for the Golden-crowned Warbler in the Rio Grande Valley. It's a very rare Mexican warbler (code 4)  that could well spend the winter here - but I'm not going to risk waiting any longer. Will I get the bird? Since I'm actually writing this post after getting back from Texas I could tell you know that I...Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!

+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 724 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)


Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I have a couple of days free this week after the San Diego pelagics and the Bodega Bay trip on Friday. So - rather than catch up on my blog and actually update my readers (both of them) on what I've been doing, I decided to head out instead and do some "fun" birding. Wait - hasn't all this birding been fun? Well, yes, that's kind of the point of the year - but it's a lot more relaxing if I don't have important year targets to chase (and potentially miss.) Yeah, Big Year birding can get pretty stressful.

One of the birds I wanted to spend more time with was Bell's Sparrow - and San Diego is a great place to find them. Bell's Sparrow is a product of the recent (2013) split of Sage Sparrow into two (new) species - Bell's Sparrow (breeding in coastal and inland California) and Sagebrush Sparrow (breeding in the Great Basin - Nevada, Utah etc.)

Splits are great for birders - it's an opportunity to get an extra life bird on your list. And, even better, if you've already seen the subspecies that are now elevated to the species level, you can get an "armchair tick" - a new life bird without even having to leave home (or your proverbial, or actual, armchair.) [The opposite is the dreaded "lump", when birds you've already seen are combined into a single species, resulting in a diminution of your life list, and spending time in your actual armchair with a stiff drink.]

But for many birders the split of Sage Sparrow has been a head scratcher. The old Sage Sparrow had 3 main subspecies in the US:

(i)   bellia very dark-headed bird with no streaks on the back
(ii)  canescens - a pale bird with little or no streaks on the back
(ii)  nevadensis - a pale bird with some streaks on the back

The belli subspecies is extremely obvious because of the dark head, while the latter two are either (at best) very difficult to tell apart visually, or impossible to tell apart! So, it was rather surprising to most birders that Sage Sparrow was split into 2 species as follows:

(a) Bell's Sparrow - belli and canescens
(b) Sagebrush Sparrow - nevadensis

And while the summer breeding ranges are quite distinct, canescens and nevadensis do overlap in the winter, with the former ranging as far east as Phoenix. So - my pre-split winter "Sage Sparrows" at Buckeye Road, Phoenix, could have been either of the new species. So - I've taken that off my list, and added the canescens I saw in Kern County, CA this summer as the new Bell's. I'll have to track down Sagebrush this winter, but I'd also like to get a solid Bell's Sparrow - the distinctive dark-headed belli form - while I'm in San Diego.

Dan King, whom I met on one of the San Diego boats, suggested I try the Otay Lakes, just east of the city (this is the same Dan King who told me of Whitney Portal the fantastic Sooty Grouse location - thanks again Dan!) The Bell's Sparrow spot is a fairly easy place to find - just look for the giant graffiti-covered dam:

Giant graffiti-covered dam - 
Otay Lakes, San Diego

And after climbing up the dry sage- and laurel sumac-covered slopes I was rewarded with some great views of the tiny Bell's Sparrow:
 Bell's Sparrow - the subspecies belli.
Dark head, strong malar stripe and unstreaked back.

Now I just need to track down the Sagebrush Sparrow - probably in eastern AZ this winter (they range much further east than canescens Bell's.) Or try the Buckeye spot again - and try to separate the canescens from the nevadensis. David Vander Pluym posted an excellent article discussing field marks (especially malar stripe) that could be useful in separating the two. This is supported by photos by Tommy DeBardeleben of sparrows at the Buckeye location (he found and photographed both species there, with Sagebrush by far the more common, as expected.)

Anyway - back to California and the "fun birding." Another bird I really wanted to see while I was out here was Red-throated Pipit. In southern California they can be found on sod farms strutting around in full view - i.e. not like the shy, skulking birds I saw in Alaska this fall, where I'd only see them flying away after flushing them.

So, on my way back north I stopped at Arnold Road, Oxnard - the same place where I saw Tricolored Blackbird this summer. 

Arnold Road, Oxnard - a magnet for migrating and hungry pipits

It wasn't long before I located the pipit flock - with some great views of American Pipits

American Pipit (subspecies rubescens)
Unstreaked back and dark legs

While I'm sorting through the pipits, birds of prey would continually parade through the fields, hoping for an easy meal. 

 American Kestrel (female)

White-tailed Kite (adult)

And with each passing raptor, the flock would lift off, circle round calling, and then eventually resettle, reshuffled into new positions. And among the American Pipits I found two odd-looking birds with striped backs and bright pale legs - Red-throated Pipits:

Red-throated Pipit (in summer they really do have red throats!)
A breeder of the Russian Far East and western Alaska

It would be slightly ridiculous leaving California without trying to see at least one of the (many) Blue-footed Boobies that have invaded the state this year in unprecedented numbers. So - on the way to Los Angeles airport I stopped off at Playa del Rey to check out the breakwater, which has been hosting 3 Boobies this fall.

The Playa del Rey breakwater is popular with people fishing, walking and biking. And even the birds seem to like it.

Black Oystercatcher

Willet (Western)

And at the very end - I find the Boobies, hanging out...

Blue-footed Boobies (juveniles) - less than 5 miles from LAX! 
Two of 3 birds currently roosting here.

OK - that's it for the fun birds. Back to the hard core grind that is the Big Year. Friday I'm on a pelagic out of Bodega Bay, and then either I'm going home or off to Texas for the recently-found, and very rare, Golden-crowned Warbler. 

+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 724 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)


Tuesday, October 15, 2013


California, with its warmth, trees and readily-available lattes, is a welcome break from the remoteness of Alaska. But as I'm sitting in traffic in Los Angeles, going nowhere quickly and surrounded by dufuses honking their horns, the novelty of civilization quickly wears off.

I'm here for a week of birding - a pelagic out of San Diego on Sunday, with a potential back-up mid-week with the ABA rally to the same waters. I'm hoping for Craveri's Murrelet - a diminutive alcid that breeds south of the border. In many years, this bird goes unrecorded in our waters - only rarely ranging as far north as southern California. But this year is, apparently, the best in 10 years for them. But it's getting late - if they're here, they're usually gone by early October. I'm also hoping for Least Storm-petrel, which are relatively common here - that is, if you can find the raft of roosting birds. And then on Friday I have a pelagic out of Bodega Bay, northern California - the premier port for sightings of rare seabirds.

There's a crisp autumnal feel in the air as I walk over to the boat at 5am on Sunday. And it's not without a huge sigh of relief that I find the dock populated by binocular-toting folks - a scene notably absent from the August pelagic on the same boat (Grande), which was cancelled without me knowing.

Our leader for the day is Paul Lehman, who's also just back from Alaska. After I left Paul in Gambell in mid-Sept, he had a pretty amazing end to the month - Siberian Chiffchaff, Lanceolated Warbler, Siberian Accentor, Ross's Full and McKay's Bunting.

What 5:30am looks like in San Diego!
Paul Lehman introducing us to the boat.

Despite the calm seas (1-2 ft waves) and good viewing conditions, the birds are fewer this time of year. One of the more common birds is Pomarine Jaeger, which seem to come and go continually throughout the day.

Pomarine Jaeger - showing the diagnostic long spoon-shaped tail feathers

as well as a real rarity for San Diego at this time of year - a Black-footed Albatross:

"Large white bird on the water at 12 o'clock!" As we approach, a Red-billed Tropicbird lifts off the water, instantly harassed by a Parasitic Jaeger.

 Red-billed Tropicbird (bottom) chased by Parasitic Jaeger (top)

Red-billed Tropicbird - showing the incredibly long tail

It's a year bird for fellow big year birder, Jay Lehman, and a pacific ocean tick for me - having seen one off Maine earlier in the year.

But still no shout of Craveri's.

We're heading east, to two underwater ridges or uprisings - the 9 mile bank and 30 mile bank. As we approach the latter, we start seeing single storm-petrels. We follow them until they coalesce into a roosting flock, or raft. There's a mix of Least and Black. Leasts are a year tick for me, and easily picked out from the much larger and longer winged Black Storm-petrels. Leasts look like little, fluttery bats, a similarity reinforced by their lack of an obvious tail.

Raft of Storm-petrels - a mix of Black and Least

As we're heading back, we start running into more shearwaters. Among a large flock of Pink-footed, we find a single Flesh-footed - a lovely chocolate-brown bird with pink base to the bill:

That's a pretty exciting and rare bird - but the reaction is nothing compared to what happened next. Paul spotted a Great Shearwater on the water, and suddenly the boat was alive with panicked birders - many of them local - getting the first record of this species for San Diego county. For most, it was also a state bird. And for others a life bird!

Great Shearwater - the first record for San Diego county and southern California!
These birds are common on the east coast, but very rarely round Cape Horn 
and make it into the Pacific Ocean.

To many, I'm sure this is more exciting than a Craveri's sighting - but, alas, on this trip I'll never know.

Fortunately, there's an ABA rally in town this week. And they're running a couple of pelagic trips for the group - essentially going out in the same waters as Sunday. Although the Craveri season is probably over, I decide to try again - and thankfully Paul manages to get Jay and I on the boat on Tuesday.

+ + +

Tuesday, Oct 15th.

It's a beautiful start to the day, and full of promise.

But with each passing minute that we're not getting Craveri's my hopes are slowly turning to despair. (OK - maybe not actual despair.) What if we don't see the birds today? Should I come back again tomorrow on the next boat? Can I stay awake on yet another pelagic? Will they serve fish tacos again on the boat today?

I'm chatting to John Puschock, who's one of the leaders on this trip, when the engines are suddenly cut. John signals me to follow him to the front of the boat. As I'm moving forward, I'm reminded of Paul Lehman's comments about how skittish murrelets can be - and that if we find them, we're not going to be announcing them on the PA system. And as I arrive at the bow, I can hear Paul's unamplified voice, "pair of murrelets at 9 O'clock."

After a mild panic lasting 15 seconds of me not seeing what everyone else evidently is seeing, I spot two tiny black-and-white birds bobbing on the water. Murrelets! The captain gently nudges the boat towards the birds. I'm expecting them to fly any minute, and reveal their diagnostic underwings (Scripp's and Guadalupe, the only other birds likely to be confused with Craveri's, have bright white underwings.) But we keep getting closer and closer, until eventually the birds are right alongside the boat. So close we can hear them vocalizing - a cicada-like rattling.

Craveri's Murrelets. At close range, the black upperparts have a brown ting. 
The black on the head comes down below the bill, and the eyes are framed by white arcs.

There's a quiet excitement among all the birders pushed up against the railing, taking in the incredible and close view. For many, including John Puschock, it's a life bird.

No two days are the same in pelagic birding. Even taking the same course as the previous day will produce different birds. Today we had Craveri's, which were new, but no Red-billed Tropicbird, Flesh-footed or Great Shearwaters that we had Sunday. That's why with pelagics you need to take more than one trip. And this was a great demonstration. An ever greater demonstration of this principle happened the very next day - when the ABA group saw not only Craveri's again, but also saw the rare Guadalupe Murrelet - the southern form of the previously-named Xantus's Murrelet, and a bird I've never seen. Now that would have been a great boat to be on. (And I bet they had fish tacos too!)

The Dolphin Motel - a great place to stay in San Diego. Unless you're a fish.

+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 724 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)

NEW YEAR BIRDS (2): Least Storm-petrel, Craveri's Murrelet

Friday, October 11, 2013


There may not be pumpkins on St. Paul, but fall has finally come to the Pribilof Islands...

Leaf peeping in the Bering Sea - wormwood

And it's been a great fall for me - a potential ABA first (Common Redstart) this week, as well as 5 new year birds last week. And on this, my 3rd and final trip to St Paul this year, the putchkie is more alive with birds than I've ever seen it...

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - taking shelter deep in the putchkie

As well as Red-throated Pipit, Fox Sparrow, and even a shorebird...

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

Although one of our best putchkie patches was flattened overnight...

Putchkie desert

It wasn't long before we caught up with the culprits - one of St. Paul's herds of introduced reindeer

Reindeer doing the putchkie putsch

The day after the Redstart find is our last day on the island. And the weather is terrible - driving rain and strong winds. I'm guessing we're not going to be finding many birds in this. Before heading to the airport to check in, Doug decides to swing by the cliffs to check on the sea (strong SE winds tend to push pelagic birds onto the coast.) As soon as we park, we can see a thick line of Short-tailed Shearwaters streaming just offshore. "Everyone out!" shouts Doug - this is our best chance for Mottled Petrel - a lifebird for half of us. It takes Doug about 2 minutes before he spots one. They're hidden among the slightly larger shearwaters, their gray upperwings camouflaged perfectly against the turbulent, leaden sea. Fairly distant views, but a very nice last day surprise!

Enjoying Mottled Petrels and thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters.

What a great bird to end our trip here. Or is it? As we're heading towards the airport I have a strong feeling that I should stay. After yesterday's Redstart, what else might be on the island? 
I've learned this year to follow my instincts - especially in coming back to St. Paul twice this fall, which I hadn't planned to do at all. So, when I get to the airport, I manage to switch my ticket for Friday, giving me 2 more days on the island. It's a risk - it means I'll miss the pelagic out of Ventura, CA on Saturday, but still make the San Diego pelagic on Sunday (assuming I can get off the island on time.) And I won't be the only birder still here - Norm Budnitz is arriving on the plane that everyone else is leaving on. I had fun birding with Norm in Gambell this fall. 

Later that day, after the plane has left, we manage to refind the Common Redstart making Norm only the 10th birder to see this bird in the ABA region. We also have a fly-over White-tailed Eagle at the same spot. But nothing new for me.

Most of our days on St. Paul are the same - we cover the same birding hotspots, hoping for something new to have dropped in. A staple among hotspots is the crab pots - which we check every day. With no trees on the island, these stacks are the nearest approximation - offering shelter and elevation. Despite some amazing finds over the years, they've been quiet during my 3 visits. But that doesn't stop me getting excited each time we approach - the anticipation building as one person zigzags through the lines of crab pots, while the rest of us watch to see if any birds are flushed. Today, it's my turn for the zigzagging. I'm not even a quarter of the way through when Scott raises his binoculars and shouts out excitedly, "Eyebrowed Thrush!"

Eyebrowed Thrush - a vagrant from Asia
High on my wish list!

And that's it - my last bird of the trip, and my last bird for the Pribilofs. I've had a great time here from the melting snows of the spring and the arrival of the nesting alcids, to the burned foliage of the fall, and the wayward Asian vagrants. I've seen some amazing birds, and birded with some amazing people. I'll leave with a lot of happy memories.

And a lot of that success is thanks to the guides, Scott and Doug (and Cameron Cox in the spring), for working so hard every day to find good birds. Thank you guys!

Doug Gochfeld and Scott Schuette

As for me - I'm heading south to California and a couple of pelagic trips. Looking forward to seeing trees, drinking lattes, and wearing something other than waterproof birding gear!

+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 722 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)

NEW YEAR BIRDS (2): Mottled Petrel, Eyebrowed Thrush