Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top Birds of 2012

2012 was an incredible year of birding for me despite some frustrating health issues.  The highlight of the year was my trip to Hawai'i in June where I saw 45 species and 32 lifers.  A couple trips to California added 29 species to my San Diego County list and 14 to my life list.  Other than that I concentrated on my lifetime county list, surpassing 300 species in Pima County.  Here's a rundown of the numbers and a review of the top 15 birds (16 actually).  Click on the number for a link to the original post.

Lifers: 63 (HI-32, AZ-17, CA-14)
Species seen: 325 (personal best)

#15 Groove-billed Ani
Sweetwater Wetlands | Tucson, AZ | Nov. 24
#14 Common Goldeneye
I found this bird while taking my first grade student on his first birding outing.

Reid Park | Tucson, AZ | Jan. 4
#13 Snow Goose with Hawaiian Goose
I didn't expect to find a Snow Goose in Kaua'i in June, it's considered "casual" to the Hawaiian Islands (according to The Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific).

Hanalei NWR- Ohiki Rd | Kaua'i, HI | June 22
#12 American Bittern
I got great views of this amazing bird and I got to meet Ben Feltner, famous among birders finding an Eskimo Curlew in Texas in 1959.
Whitewater Draw | SE Arizona | Jan. 7

#11 Mountain Bluebird  
In February I noticed a pair of these birds outside my classroom window where I teach.  The best part was that some of the teachers and all of my students got to enjoy them for the whole month!

Liberty Elementary | Tucson, AZ | Feb. 7
#10 Spotted Owl
It was an amazing experience for Gaby, Geniece, and I to be in the presence of such a magical bird.
Upper Miller Canyon | Cochise Co. AZ | Sep. 1
#9 Red-footed Booby
This bird was seen on a snorkel cruise west of the island of Kaua'i.

Lehua, Hawai'i | June 20
#8 Rufous-capped Warbler
In February I took Robert Mortensen and Laurence Butler on a tour of birding hotspots in Southeast Arizona.  We were hoping for good looks and ended up getting within a few feet of three of these gorgeous birds!
Florida Canyon | Santa Rita Mountains | Pima Co. AZ | Feb. 18
#7 Common Redpoll
I was at the right place at the right time in San Diego when this bird was found in nearby Julian.  Good thing I checked the rare bird alert or I would have missed it!  It was only a 23 mile detour on my way back to Tucson.  Amazingly, Arizona's first record of this species was found eleven days later, but over 400 miles from my home.  This was my first published photo, seen in the Ramona Journal News.

The Birdwatcher store feeders | Julian, CA | Feb. 5
#6 'Apapane
I was thrilled to see this endemic Hawaiian honeycreeper on our incredibly beautiful hike overlooking the Na'Pali Coast.
Pihea Trail | Kaua'i | June 24
#5 Wedge-tailed Shearwater 
These endangered little shearwaters were seen zooming all around the Kilauea Point Lighthouse in Kaua'i.  We found this one in its burrow along the path to the lighthouse.
Kilauea Point NWR | Kaua'i | June 19
#4 White-rumped Shama
On our hike down to the Queen's Bath this handsome little bird gave us a great show as it bathed and shook dry.
Queen's Bath | Princeville, Kaua'i | June 23
#3 Black Noddy (I think)
On our snorkel cruise of the Na'Pali Coast, the captain maneuvered the boat near the cliff to give us an up-close look at these awesome birds.  Unfortunately, as I quickly grabbed my camera below deck I didn't realize the rough seas had bumped the image stabilization switch to off, something I desperately needed as we rocked back and forth.  I'm still kicking myself to this day!  But it's a mistake I won't make ever again.  After studying five field guides and researching online, I believe these are Black Noddy terns.  Apparently, the Black Noddy seen in North America have black legs and feet because I couldn't find any mention of orange legs and feet.  I read that there are two subspecies of Black Noddy in Hawai'i and I believe one of them has orange legs and feet.  Please correct me if I'm wrong, they're very similar to the Brown Noddy.

Na'Pali Coast | Kauai | June 20
I'm including both species of tropicbird I saw in Kaua'i.  These two species could be found along the coast.  Fantastic flyers, they hoovered and zoomed around the cove near the Kilauea Point Lighthouse.

Red-tailed Tropicbird | Kilauea Point NWR | Kaua'i | June 19
White-tailed Tropicbird
This was the first albatross I've ever seen and I was more than impressed.  It knifed through the air with ease and I barely caught all of this one in the viewfinder as it zoomed by.  What a good-looking bird! 

Kilauea Point NWR | Kaua'i | June 19
You know it's a been a great year of birding when Great Frigatebird gets left off the list!  I wish all of you a happy New Year and a wonderful year of birding.


  1. You make me want to go to Hawaii! Your photos are beautiful.

  2. Wonderful birds, and wonderful photos of them too! These are gorgeous... Happy 2013!

  3. Congrats on an amazing year of birds! Wishing you lots of good health so you can share even more birds in 2013!

  4. Wow, what great birds! Happy New Year, Jeremy and the best of birding in 2013!

  5. Jeremy, I hope that 2013 bring you good health, great light and plenty of birds!! I love the images you posted here, what a great year you had for lifers!

  6. Wow, what a fantastic series, and some amazing lifers! I can't imagine beating some of these in 2013, but I wish you luck with it. I am especially jealous of the tropicbirds; I hope I can add one or two to my life list one day! Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Wow, what an incredible birding year! Unbelievable photos...I'm inspired to save up for a birding trip to Hawaii now! Here's to hoping 2013 will be just as exciting. Also, thank you for your help with the bird IDs from last month (pardon my incredibly late response).

  8. Jeremy, wow! wow! wow! that's quite a list and quite a show! Wonderful photos and story! I missed the groove-billed Ani, though I tried several times with Chris R! He tired more often than me and got it while I missed out. I think I just missed being here when Robert was. That would have been fun. Chris and I tired twice for the rufous-capped but so far no luck. I hope you are doing well and I would love to meet you one day!