To continue a tradition I started in 2008, the following are my top wildlife highlights of 2010 in chronological order:
1. Bald eagle and juvenile along the Rio Grande – While I was blest with many Bald Eagle watching opportunities during the winter months of 2010, the highlight was walking along the Rio Grande and looking up to discover an adult Bald Eagle perched above me and my friend, Jeane – and nearby a juvenile.
2. Red-breasted Sapsucker –A sought-after bird for several years, I had the opportunity to watch one drilling for sap in Veterans Park in the north San Fernando Valley.
3. Grouse and winter finches in Colorado – On a trip to visit my friend Sue in Colorado, we traveled into the Rockies where we were able to watch White-winged Crossbills and Pine Grosbeaks, before heading to Walden where we observed the spectacular mating dance of the Greater Sage-Grouse, plus a female who walked next to the car.
4. Lesser Prairie Chickens and Swallow-tailed Flycatchers – While participating in the all Audubon work day in Milnesand, NM, Swallow-tailed Flycatchers entertained us as we worked. At dusk and again at dawn the next morning, we were treated to booming Lesser Prairie Chickens dancing on their lek.
5. Cooper’s Hawk fledglings – I started watching a pair of Cooper’s Hawks build their nest in a park near my home and checked them weekly. By June I was treated to the antics of three fledglings as they ventured from the nest.
6. Colonial Bird Survey – I counted Cattle Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons in several rookeries for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The highlight was walking under a rookery located next to a private residence in Bosque Farms where several hundred birds were tending their nests.
7. Black Swallowtail Caterpillar – I watched this spectacular caterpillar on my broad-leafed parsley, as it grew from about .05 inch to a 3 inch caterpillar – and then graced my garden as a Black Swallowtail Butterfly.
8. Migrating Yellow-headed Blackbirds – On a trip to New Mexico’s eastern plains with my friend Donna, we watched as hundreds of Yellow-headed Blackbirds gathered in the late afternoon during fall migration.
9. HawkWatch – In Oct. I climbed up to the HawkWatch site in the Manzano Mountains with two friends to watch migrating hawks. We were treated to up-close views of a Cooper’s and a Sharp-shinned Hawk.
10. White-headed Woodpecker – I saw my 500th North American Bird, a perky White-headed Woodpecker, with my friend Sue, along the Angeles Crest Highway in Southern California.