Wildlife Highlights of 2019

As the year draws to a close, it is time to ponder my wildlife highlights of the year, a tradition I began in 2008.

The Harris’s Sparrow that arrived in November 2018, continued to call my yard its winter home through the end of April – making its last appearance on April 30.


Harris’s Sparrow – molted into adult plumage – April 20, 2019

It’s always fun in the winter when species veer off their regular path, like the Harris’s Sparrow, and find a safe place to feed close to home. Another example was a Golden-crowned Sparrow that visited a feeder near the Embudito Trailhead a couple of miles from me.


Golden-crowned Sparrow

In March on a trip with the Thursday Birders to the Bosque del Apache NWR, we had the opportunity to see a Long-tailed Duck that spent a few days there before continuing its journey to the Arctic.

Joe - LTDU BdA 3-2019

Long-tailed Duck – photo by Joe Schelling

In May I finally made a trip to northern Ohio with my friend Bonnie to attend the “Biggest Week in American Birding,” Despite cold, wind, and rainy weather, I had the opportunity to add some new species to my “life list.”

The prior year when visiting Cape May, I was disappointed to learn that, despite its name, it is not a prevalent bird in that area. Their migration path takes them through Ohio, and I was thrilled to see several from the boardwalk at Magee Marsh.


Cape May Warbler

Other new species at the boardwalk, included Black-billed Cuckoo,


Black-billed Cuckoo

Scarlet Tanager,


Scarlet Tanager




And Eastern Screech Owl.


Eastern Screech-Owl

We had signed up to go on an evening walk so I would be able to see an American Woodcock. Fortunately, one was visible along the boardwalk on our first full day there, since the evening walk was rained out.


American Woodcock

Thanks to some children peering over the edge of the boardwalk on our last morning, I had the opportunity to see a Black Water Snake.


Black Water Snake

While attending the festival, Bonnie and I took a ferry across to Point Pelee Provincial Park, Ontario – my first visit to that province in Canada.

We spent a delightful time walking some of the trails near the Visitor Center where both Bonnie and I were able to observe a Kentucky Warbler, a life bird for both of us.

Bonnie KEWA Pt Pelee.jpg

Kentucky Warbler – photo by Bonnie Long

During the lunch hour it started to rain and finally let up a couple of hours later, when we were able to venture out again before it was time to get on the bus for the ferry. One of the highlights was the colorful Blackburnian Warbler.


Blackburnian Warbler

Later in May a Little Blue Heron, rare for the Albuquerque area, visited the Rio Grande Nature Center for a few days.


Little Blue Heron

Mid-July, I stopped in Iceland for a day and a half on my way to Scotland. While I focused on the unique geology of the country during my brief stay, I, of course, was able to see birds. Highlights were a pair of Common Eider swimming in the harbor near my hotel that I had not seen since my trip to Alaska,


Common Eider drake

several species of gulls, including this Lesser Black-backed Gull,


Lesser Black-backed Gull

and a White Wagtail.


White Wagtail

My birding in Scotland was definitely ‘on the fly’ and I didn’t really get any good photos. While visiting a cousin and his family in the Cheltenham area of England, he took me to the Slimbridge Wetland Centre. Highlights included a ‘string’ of Graylag Geese,


Graylag Geese

Tufted Ducks,


Tufted Duck (f)

Bar-tailed Godwit,


Bar-tailed Godwit

and a Green Sandpiper.


Green Sandpiper

After observing a group of large nests near the snack bar, I learned that they were the nests of Rooks, and are the origins of the word ‘rookery’


nest of Rook

Later, while visiting another cousin in Exeter, we took several excursions that gave me an opportunity to see new birds, including Common Shelduck,

UK---Exe Estuary and Goat Walk---Common-Shelduck-8-3-19

Common Shelduck

And Black-tailed Godwit.

UK---Exe Estuary and Goat Walk-BTGO-8-3-19

Black-tailed Godwit

In November when Barb and I took a group of folks from our church to the Bosque del Apache, we were all delighted to have the opportunity to see a Bobcat family scamper across the road.


Bobcat family

And, also in November, a Rusty Blackbird that only makes it appearance in Albuquerque occasionally in the winter, spent a few days near the Rio Grande Nature Center.


Rusty Blackbird

In December, a Surf Scoter arrived at the Tingley Fishing ponds, also a rare winter visitor.


Surf Scoter

I am grateful for a year filled with opportunities to see visiting rarities, including my winter-long visit of the Harris’s Sparrow, birds I don’t get the opportunity to see often while in Iceland, as well as new species in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.




One thought on “Wildlife Highlights of 2019

  1. Thank you for the recap Judy, and for sharing you life of bird watching with us! Its always a thrill to see what you and yours have discovered, and to learn a bit more about the “ones who fly above”.

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