January 5, 2011
Bulletin #129 – 2010 in review
2010 was a spectacular year for me birding. As many of you know, I'm trying to photograph all the birds in North America. There are about 700 birds possible and this year I finished at 601 in total. I added 70 species this year compared to 80 in 2009. However, as I get closer to the end, it becomes harder to find new birds.
To get to 601 in 2010, I had trips to Alaska (30 species), Scandia Crest New Mexico (6 species), Monterey CA pelagic trip, and both Duluth MN in winter and Niagara Falls ON in winter for more northern species. Also within Texas locally, I added some neat birds - Bobwhite, Sooty Tern, and Black-billed Cuckoo that I had not found in the previous 4 years.
On my Pbase photo web site, I have 2200 photos posted, and am closing in on 1/3 million hits after 3 years. On the blog, where I post these bulletins, I had hits from 33 new countries in 2010 for a total of 79 in 2 years. I'm starting to get the South American countries now (Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina and Chile all in 2010). But many smaller countries showed up this year - Barbados, Armenia, Algeria, Dubai and Abu Dhabi (?US forces), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to name a few. The power of the Internet is amazing!
A special thank you to the guides I used this year on my trips. You guys were a big help finding the birds for me and getting them in close enough to be photographed.
• Sparky Stensaas in Duluth MN.
• Geoff Carpentier in Toronto ON
• Rick Fournier in Monterey CA
• Jim Hailey - the volunteer leader for the Texas Ornithological Society Alaska trip. Jim leads these TOS trips as a fund raiser for TOS.
At the year end, I like to review and post my 10 favorite photos for the year.
Hands down, my favorite photo was this displaying, breeding plumaged Ruff sandpiper. This photo was taken through the window of the van in Barrow Alaska last June.
I got super photos of a number of warblers this year. Perhaps it was due to the new camera, a Canon 7D. But the major part of my success was the new water feature at LaFitte's Cove Nature Preserve on west Galveston Island. These are all photos that I have framed for display, as they have nice clean uncluttered backgrounds.
My favorite warbler is the stunning Blackburnian Warbler. The male with his black and white body with flaming orange head and throat will amaze even the most jaded non-birder. In fact, in reading the life story of Phoebe Snetzinger, a women who saw the more bird species in the world than anyone else, it was this bird that launched her quest.
Another warbler that eluded me before to get a good photo was the Yellow-throated Warbler. It is usually an early spring migrant in late March or early April. I didn't see a single bird until this one showed up at the end of April. It was only the second bird of this species I found, in the 5 years I have been doing photography.
The next one is the Cerulean Warbler. This is a very uncommon warbler in Texas. The total estimated population has fallen 70% over the last 30 years through loss of habitat. I saw 2 males this year at LaFitte's Cove and this one posed nicely.
The male Bay-breasted Warbler is another beautiful bird. I see several of these each spring, but this is my best ever photo of this species.
The Alaska trip also produced some rare bird sightings. These aren't photos that I would frame for their artistic beauty, but for birders, they are great finds.
Here is the Great Gray Owl. This is the largest owl in North America. It is difficult to even see it, but to have it on the nest is extra special.
The December trip to Sandia Crest in New Mexico had this male Black Rosy-Finch. I wish the stick wasn't in the middle, but the black background, black and pink bird highlighted with flash is special. In fact, it was one of those flukes that happens. I was outside on the deck by the feeder when the flock of birds flew in to feed. My camera had been turned off. I had gloves on my hands to keep warm and when I turned the camera on, it must have rotated the dial from Av to Manual setting. All the exposures without flash were totally underexposed and black. But when the flash went off, I got this cool photo. There was no black backdrop to the photo!
The trip to Duluth MN in mid-winter with temperatures well below zero degrees found my lifer Snowy Owl.
2 mammal photos from Alaska were special as well.
This breaching Humpback Whale was so close that the barnacles on his jaw can be seen. I had been on several other pelagic trips, but only managed to get photographs of the splash as the huge beasts flopped back into the sea.
This Grizzly Bear came to within 50 feet of our van. This photo was taken through the window. What an experience to be that close to such a majestic creature.
Thanks to all who submitted comments in 2010. I appreciate the feedback.
I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
Happy birding and photography,
photos copyright 2010 David McDonald
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