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.
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.
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.
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.
Other new species at the boardwalk, included Black-billed Cuckoo,
And 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.
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.
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.
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.
Later in May a Little Blue Heron, rare for the Albuquerque area, visited the Rio Grande Nature Center for a few days.
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,
several species of gulls, including this Lesser Black-backed Gull,
and a 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,
and a 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’
Later, while visiting another cousin in Exeter, we took several excursions that gave me an opportunity to see new birds, including Common Shelduck,
And 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.
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.
In December, a Surf Scoter arrived at the Tingley Fishing ponds, also a rare winter visitor.
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.