My Bird Blog: A blog about my birding discoveries, bird feeders, birds on my life lists, and all things bird related

Sue's Bird Blog Archives

My Big Year

Published December 31, 2014
Tags: General Observations, Cassin's Kingbird, Marbled Godwit, Tufted Duck, Laughing Gull, Dickcissel, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Northern Wheatear, Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Gray Jay, Kirtland's Warbler, Piping Plover, Snowy Egret, Ruffed Grouse, Willow Ptarmigan, Eastern Whip-poor-will, American Bittern, Long-eared Owl

It's been quite a birdy year for me. Sometime during the spring, I decided to make this my "Big Year".  If you haven't heard of a birder's Big Year, I suggest you rent the movie, "The Big Year".  It has a great cast and it humorously depicts what a Big Year is all about to us, crazy birders.

So - for MY Big year, I focused on New York State.  The year wasn't quite the accomplishment that Sandy Komito had in 1998 for the entire United States - BUT - my year was big enough for the likes of me - and it consumed an awful lot of time, gas, and wear-and-tear on myself and car during this crazy year! I don't know how Sandy did it, but he saw 745 different bird species that year! Amazing!  I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think his record has been broken yet.

I chose to make this my Big Year because I noticed my numbers were very good for the number of species seen by that point in the spring. I've also started catching on to some of the fundamentals of this thing called "birding": things like bird taxonomy, their habits, where and when to find them, a bit more about the whole mystery of migration, nesting, territories, and habitat.  And lastly, I'm not getting any younger - so better now than later!

Though it was a tough year, I wouldn't trade the experiences I had for anything.  I saw some really spectacular birds and traveled to places that I never would have seen had I not had the push to get out there and go after each new bird.

I went to Long Island 3 times. I even went way out of my comfort zone and took a pelagic (an ocean birding trip)!  I went to the Adirondacks twice, as far north as Chaumont Bay and and as high as the top of White Face Mountain, climbed Snow Mountain and Bear Mountain - then as far south as Allegany State Park by the Pennsylvania border. And in-between the bigger trips were so many quests to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Ithaca - near the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Fort Drum, the Niagara River, the Dunkirk Harbor, Syracuse, Rochester, Geneseo, Jamestown - you name it - I was probably there! I even kayaked one day to get photos of a Tri-colored Heron - talk about being out of my comfort zone!

During all those escapades, I added 61 new life birds for the year and saw a total of 319 bird species in New York State. I was shooting for 300, so the extra 19 were a nice bonus!  I also saw an additional 4 or 5 species in Ontario, depending on whether the Painted Bunting is accepted as a wild bird. Those 4 or 5 would all be life birds too. 

Some of my favorite life bird sightings of the year were:
  • Long-eared Owl (thanks to Jim Adams!)
  • Great Gray Owl (thanks to Jean Iron and to Betsy Potter and Celeste Morien for making the trip with me!)
  • Golden Eagle (thanks to Alec Humann!)
  • Black-headed Gull (thanks to Jim Pawlicki for alerting me to this and for ensuring I got on it!)
  • American Bittern - a magical moment of good luck for this chance sighting!
  • Eastern Whip-poor-will (thanks to Willie D'Anna!)
  • White-eyed Vireo (thanks to Pat Martin!)
  • Ruffed Grouse (thanks to my son, Tom, for flushing it in the Adirondacks!)
  • Willow Ptarmigan (thanks to Willie D'Anna!)
  • Tri-colored Heron (thanks to Willie D'Anna!)
  • Kirtland's Warbler (thanks to Andy Guthrie!)
  • Fish Crow, Piping Plover, Worm-eating Warbler, Snowy Egret, and 15 more (thanks to Willie D'Anna and Celeste Morien!)
  • Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, Bicknell's Thrush, Northern Goshawk, and Red Crossbills (thanks to Joan Collins and to Celeste for going to the Adirondacks w me!)
  • Wilson's Storm-Petrel (thanks to Alec Humann - for this first pelagic bird and for the 7 others that followed - and also to Greg Lawrence and Gale VerHague for going with me!)
  • Buff-breasted Sandpiper (thanks to Jim Pawlicki for finding it and for his patience giving me directions that day!)
  • Parasitic Jaeger (thanks to Andy Guthrie! I waited a long time for this bird!)
  • Northern Wheatear - a solo and a far chase for me
  • Dickcissel (thanks to Tim Lenz for directions and Brad Walker and J. Gary Kohlenberg!)
  • Tufted Duck (thanks to Alec Humann!)
  • Cassin's Kingbird and Marbled Godwit (thanks to Willie D'Anna and Celeste Morien for going with me!)

I was able to get photos of most of these birds and will post below.  If you've been here before, you've probably already seen them - but it's kind of nice to remember some of the highlights...

And for 2015?  Well, I think I'm going to take it a LOT easier, take my time to enjoy each bird a little more, attempt to master a few more photo techniques, and start expanding my quests for life birds outside of New York State...  I am REALLY looking forward to a much more relaxed pace!  

Happy New Year to all!!!

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Long-eared Owl (Oatka Creek)
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Great Gray Owl (Whitby, Ontario)
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Black-headed Gull (Buffalo, NY)
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American Bittern (Tifft Nature Preserve - Buffalo, NY)
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Eastern Whip-poor-will (Wilson, NY)
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Ruffed Grouse (Adirondacks)
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Willow Ptarmigan (Point Penninsula, NY)
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Tri-colored Heron (Wilson, NY)
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Kirtland's Warbler (Hamlin Beach SP)
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Piping Plover (Long Island)
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Snowy Egret (Long Island)
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American Oystercatcher and chicks (Long Island)
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Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Long Island)
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Worm-eating Warbler (Bear Mountain)
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Gray Jay (Adirondacks)
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Boreal Chickadee (Adirondacks)
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Wilson's Storm-Petrel (Freeport Pelagic)
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Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Buffalo, NY)
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Northern Wheatear (Henderson, NY)
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Dickcissel (Cornell Lab of Ornithology Garden Plot)
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Cassin's Kingbird (Long Island)
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Marbled Godwit (Long Island)
Reply from: Karen Vizzi on 1/1/2015 1:17 PM
 BRAVO!!!! Congratulations on an amazing year!
Reply from: Sue on 1/1/2015 7:00 PM
 Thanks, Karen!
Reply from: shelley on 1/1/2015 7:23 PM
 wow Sue . congratulations on your Big Year and amazing photos ... you make me want to go back to Long Island!! Beautiful. beautiful photos!!
Reply from: Sue on 1/1/2015 8:16 PM
 Thanks so much, Shelley. I really love it there and they get the best birds!
Reply from: tim on 1/1/2015 9:55 PM
 Congratulations on your year Sue! You have seen some amazing birds and produced some great photos.