Monday, December 29, 2014

2014: A Birding Year in Review

At the beginning of this year, I posted some birding resolutions for the coming year. Well, it's our last blog post of the year, and I think it's a good time to look back at some of those goals and see just how much we accomplished, as well as setting some new ones. Were they mostly amateurnifails or amateurnisuccesses? It's a time for reflection, a time for introspection, it's the amateurnithologist year in review.

1) Take a picture of a Golden Eagle

Amateurnithologist should have set this goal as 'take a million pictures of bald eagles' since it was really their year. I saw them probably a dozen times this year, but never even spotted a golden eagle. This goal will have to continue forward, since I still totes wanna see that bird.

2) See a Roseate Spoonbill

Status: Semi-success
Well, I definitely got to see this bird, and I even got a picture of it, so maybe it's a full success. But I just can't get over how disappointing it is that I didn't have my good 'birdin camera' on this very eventful trip to Florida. It broke shortly beforehand and I had to use a backup, hence why there haven't been many pictures from it post to the blog. We're a victim of our commitment to quality here on Bird Blog. Next year maybe I will get a picture of a Spoonbill worth a portraiture entry.

3) Get a good picture of a Vulture

Status: Good Job!
Actually was able to knock the whole North American Vulture Family off the blog list this year, with solid entries for both Black and Turkey Vultures. It was most exciting that I finally got to find some at rest and take intimate portraiture shots that you don't often see of these birds. Condors, my 'reach goal', were not to be had, but they were always unlikely.

4) Blog about more ducks

Status: Duckcess!
We managed to get a few good ducks on the blog in this year, and have several more in the queue. Most importantly, I paid more attention to ducks in my day to day birding, and as a result got quite a few interesting ones, including the inexplicable Lake Merritt Tufted Duck and the Surf Scoter that was my 'duck to look for'.

5)  Track down the elusive Snail Kite

Status: DID NOT DO
Yeah, when I went and visited his home, there were simply no raptors to be seen. I think I'd need to dedicate a lot more energy to finding this guy, and frankly he doesn't seem worth it. If Snail Kite happens, he happens, if not, I'm willing to let this one go. I did get a ton of other raptors this year, many of which will be blogged about in the new year, including the above Merlin.

6) Find a Painted Bunting

Status: Welllllll... 
This Painted Bunting Pic (PBP) was taken by Amateurnithologist's mom at Green Cay Wetlands in Florida. So, since I worded the goal 'find the Painted Bunting', you could call it a success. I now know where he is. However, never one to rest on his laurels, the Amateurnithologist will not be satisfied until he sees one himself and can put a quality picture of it up on the blog. Next year Painted Bunting, next year!

Total Success Rate: 50%
I'd say halfway getting to your new years resolutions is better than most people manage, so I'm going to call this one a success. So, just to recap, what am I going to be trying to do in 2015? I think this year's goals are going to be mostly local, trying to take in the rarer birds that I know are here, but haven't gotten to see yet. It will the year of the California bird.

Three goals that carry forward
1. Golden Eagle
2. Califonia Condor
3. Painted Bunting

and three new ones
4. Audubon Society blog (expertly named Audublog) posted recently about Owling California. It seems California is positively lousy with the things. I'm a huge owl fan, as seen in entries about the Barn and Burrowing Owls, and would be excited to get, let's say... Two More Owls this year.
5. Sitting nearly right under your Bird Blogger's nose are the Farrallon Islands one of the great birding destinations. You don't need to travel half way around the world to see Puffins, and this year, I'm hoping to get out there by boat and capture some images of Tufted Puffins.
6. Road Runner. I just want a picture of a road runner. He lives in, like, all of our deserts. Let's make it happen.

Thanks for joining us on this journey, loyal readers. Join us next year for another fantastic year of birding amateurishly.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal aka. Common Cardinal aka. Redbird (colloq.)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
November 2014
Member of the Cardinals and Piranaga Tanagers (whatever that means) family
§A Conclave of Cardinals§
State bird of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. More state bird titles than any other bird

~true bird fact~ One of the more territorial birds, Cardinals will aggressively attack their own reflections in windows and other reflective surfaces. These imaginary battles can last for hours. 


Totally buff (and a big showoff about it)
Both starts and resolves conflicts very easily
Drove girlfriend's car into a ditch recently

The brains of the relationship
Coffee aficionado
Kind of a nag, but it's really for his benefit

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing
Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada
August 2014
Member of the Waxwing Family
§A Museum of Waxwings§ (eyeroll)

~true bird fact~ One of the few North American birds that subsists on a mostly fruit-based diet, the Cedar Waxwing has all kind of berry facts associated with him. [berryfact 1] When a berry-laden branch is only accessible to one bird at a time, often members of the flock will form an assembly line, passing berries to each other from beak to beak to ensure everyone gets to eat. [berrryfact 2] Sometimes, a waxwing's trademark tail band is orange instead of yellow. This is because he has been eating a berry with a certain kind of pigment. [berryfact 3] Because of their heavy fruit diet, waxwings are the rare bird that occasionally gets drunk by eating fermented berries (awesome! party on dude!). This can lead to the inebriated birds flying into cars or windows, or sometimes simply dying of alcohol poisoning (oh... not so awesome).

Cool, but a lot of work goes into it
Lots of high fives among cedar waxwings
Often egg each other on into engaging in dangerous stunts
"I just like to have fun!" said defensively

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary

Let's be frank, your amateurnithologist is in over his head here. I never realized how difficult shorebirds could be until I visited the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary in beautiful Alameda, California. They are pretty much innumerable here.

That's a lotta birds. But not only that, dear reader, that's a lotta different types of birds.

When I visited, back in October, I kind of assumed I had see probably 4 or 5 different species of shorebirds. Once I started doing my research, I wasn't so sure. According to very reliable sources at, the Else Roemer Bird Sanctuary is home to no less than 147 species of birds. What??? I didn't even know there were that many birds.

Rather than attempt to profile all of them now, I'll share a few that I saw and share my current best guess. Did I egregiously mislabel a bird? Sound off in the comments! I promise I won't get mad at you.

Marbled Godwit

Elegant Tern (center)

OR Caspian Tern OR Royal Tern (distinguished based on size of tern and color of bill. But who knows, life is uncertain)

Black-bellied Plover
OR Pacific Golden Plover (could be really anything, apparently distinguishable by his "white rump", but your amateurnithologist is dubious)
Constantly looks annoyed, even when not

Also spotted at the sanctuary were our old friends
Long-billed Curlew (aka. Candlestick Bird)
Willet (ft. above in 2nd picture along with godwits)
Black Phoebe
& Snowy Egret
Among probably many others

We attempt to capture the utter bird chaos with the follow .gif

By the way, this bird sanctuary is named after a local conservationist, best known for her efforts to preserve the San Francisco Bay's natural salt marsh habitat, which was being drained and developed at a breakneck pace in her time. Her park now provides shelter for, the aforementioned 147 birds, including endangered species like Heerman's Gull and the California Clapper Rail, which is kind the ultimate reward for a fighter for birds, I suppose.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan
Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Member of the Duck, Goose, and Swan Family
Largest Waterfowl
Heaviest North American Bird
§A Regatta of Swans§

~true bird fact~ Trumpeter Swans are one of the few birds to come back from the brink of extinction. By 1900 it was believed that they had been hunted to extinction for their meat, skin, eggs, and feathers (which were believed to make the best possible quill for a quill pen). However, small populations still survived in sparsely inhabited and hard to reach places like Alaska, central Canada, and small mountain valleys in middle America. Efforts to preserve the remaining swans and reintroduce them began, and at first populations remained dangerous small. Recently however, populations have begun to rebound, quadrupling in the past 35 years. Today Trumpeter Swans are again beginning to live in some of the places they were once hunted out of. An inspiring and hopeful story for your holiday season!

A mind like a steel trap
Finds weird things to be fun or entertaining, like doing her taxes
Gets stressed out on long trips. Not a good travel companion