To continue a tradition I started in 2008, the following are my top wildlife highlights of 2010 in chronological order:
1. Ferruginous Hawks – Each January Bonnie Long leads the Thursday Birders on a trip to view raptors on the plains just east of the Manzano Mountains. In 2010, we were awed by 23 sightings of Ferruginous Hawks – in addition to Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, a Northern Harrier and a Bald Eagle.
2. Limpkin – In early February, I met my friend and co-author Barbara Hussey in south Florida. While we saw many wonderful birds, my favorite was the Limpkin.
3. Momma alligator with babies – While walking along a trail at Shark Valley, one of the Everglades National Wildlife Refuge sites, we were lucky to see a mother alligator with 8 five-inch babies, four of which were resting on her back.
4. Evening Grosbeaks – I always love to watch Evening Grosbeaks – they are colorful and enthusiastic. It was no April Fool’s when a flock entertained the Thursday Birders while we ate lunch at the Cochiti Golf Course picnic area.
5. Hummingbirds – While convalescing from knee replacement surgery, I had ample time to study the behavior of the hummingbirds that nest in and visit my yard during the summer. From my window, I watched a Black-chinned Hummingbird as it harvested tiny insects from a sunflower plant.
6. Black Scoter and Parasitic Jaeger – On a trip to Washington state, I had the opportunity to see a Black Scoter off Ocean Shores – a life bird – and close-up views of a Parasitic Jaeger at Brown’s Point just north of Tacoma.
7. Seabirds and shorebirds of Monterey Bay – From my vantage point atop Pajaro Dune, I was able to observe the varied fishing behaviors of Elegant Terns, Sooty Shearwaters and Parasitic Jaegers. And at Moss Landing, my friend Sue and I had close-up views of Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits and a variety of other shorebirds.
8. Sea Otters – A raft of 33 sea otters was floating and napping at Moss Landing the afternoon we visited.
9. Yellow-billed Magpie – I love corvids – and the Yellow-billed Magpies that were prancing around a farm in Chualar Canyon were no exception.
10. Pacific Wren – As the year ended, I was rewarded with another life bird – the elusive and secretive Pacific Wren – that alerted me first with its call, then the sound of its feet scuffling in the dry leaves under some logs, before it popped into view three times in the wetlands at Tingley Bosque Ponds. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a photograph.