Friday, January 9, 2015

2014 Year in Review: Noteworthy and Memorable Species

[2014 Year in Review. India, Dominican Republic, Florida, Arizona, The Bahamas, Texas, Ohio, Michigan]

2014 has passed us by, leaving in its wake avian highlights that will linger on in our memories -- species that are particularly noteworthy because they represent Lifers, Endemics or simply remarkable birds that have left an indelible impact on the observer.

In that spirit, we review, in roughly chronological order and by geography, these truly memorable species:

India
A country with 1300 species is bound to be a top birding destination:

A stunning white-headed, white-breasted-raptor also known as the Red-backed Sea Eagle:
Brahminy Kite, Goa
Jacanas are rail-like birds and this Bronze-winged Jacana was exceptional:
Bronze-winged Jacana, Goa
Kingfishers have an outsized personality -- even the Common Kingfisher is uncommonly beautiful:

Common Kingfisher, Keoladeo National Park
A specialist of mangroves, the Collared Kingfisher:
Collared Kingfisher, Zuari River, Goa
A "terrestrial" kingfisher, this Little Green Beeeater excels at catching insects, especially bees:
Little Green Beeeater, Sambhar Lake Outskirts
Isabelline Shrike -- a beautiful name for an equally handsome shrike:
Isabelline Shrike, near Sultanpur National Park
A hornbill flying overhead -- proof that birds descended from dinosaurs!
Malabar Pied Hornbill, Goa
There are no pratincoles in America which is a shame because this Small Pratincole is a shorebird like no other:
Small Pratincole, Goa
And, when it comes to shorebirds, the Crab Plover is equally unique:
Crab Plover, Jamnagar
Finally, everyone loves streamers and this Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo has them in impressive dimensions:
Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo, Goa

The Caribbean (Bahamas and Dominican Republic)
The Caribbean is the tropics in our own backyard, readily accessible to those in the US with a mix of fascinating species.

First a colorful tropical finch, the Antillean Euphonia:
Antillean Euphonia, DR
And, a shimmering green jewel -- a stunning Hispaniolan Emerald (an endemic):
Hispaniolan Emerald seen at Ebano Verde
Another endemic; this time a woodpecker:
Hispaniolan Woodpecker seen at Jardin Botanico, Santo Domingo
To see a Tody, you have to travel to the Caribbean -- they are not found anywhere else in the world:
Narrow-billed Tody seen at Ebano Verde





The Caribbean's proximity to South Florida means that this is one dove we get to enjoy as well:
White-crowned Pigeon seen on Grand Bahama
Another hummer -- the Bahama Woodstar:
Bahama Woodstar seen on Grand Bahama
Arizona

If you had to bird only 10% of the States in the US, you would not be faulted for picking the Great Birding states of Texas, California, Florida, Alaska and Arizona.  Why Arizona? Name one other state where all the following birds can be seen:


The only non-green, and brightest, empidonax flycatcher:
Buff-breasted Flycatcher seen at Rose Canyon
Our only Trogon:
Elegant Trogon seen at Madera Canyon
The Black-tailed Gnatcatcher is certainly aptly named:
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher seen at Sabino Canyon
Our most colorful wren:
Canyon Wren seen at Sabino Canyon
A "must see" warbler for every birder in the US:
Red-faced Warbler seen at Incinerator Ridge
Another Arizona specialty:
Yellow-eyed Junco seen at Rose Canyon
Texas
Another of the "Birding Big 5" states, Texas offers a collection of exclusive and hard-to-get species -- And, the incomparable Black-capped Vireo is one of them:
Black-capped Vireo, Window Trail
A resplendent Black-headed Grosbeak:
Black-headed Grosbreak, Laguna Meadows Trail
Painted Buntings at their breeding grounds:
Painted Bunting, Rio Grande Village
A stunning Summer Tanager:
Summer Tanager, Rio Grande Village
The Varied Bunting is one bird that can claim to outshine the Painted in a mystical blend of purple, blue, red and black:
Varied Bunting, Green Gulch
The Vermilion Flycatcher is ablaze in a bright orangey-red:
Vermilion Flycatcher, Rio Grande Village
Loud and gregarious, the Mexican Jay is hard to miss:

Mexican Jay, Chisos Mts

Ohio
Having covered the miracle of neotropical warbler migration on the shores of Lake Erie in earlier posts, we recap the "non warbler" species at Magee Marsh -- starting with a shorebird of the woods: The American Woodcock: 

American Woodcock
A superbly camouflaged raptor:
Eastern Screech Owl
Not a pretty picture; but, this Turkey Vulture has a tale to tell -- what happens when you fly too close to an Eagle's nest. A pair of Bald Eagles viciously and repeatedly attacked this bird eventually "grounding" it.
Injured Tureky Vulture
Our only one-word named thrush:

Veery
A superbly camouflaged goatsucker:
Whip-poor-will
A specialist bee-eater, this Tanager is now classified as a Cardinal:

Scarlet Tanager

Michigan
Michigan is a mecca for many breeding and migrating species -- starting with the indefatigable songster, Red-eyed Vireo:

Red-eyed Vireo, Algonquin State Park
The eye-catching Scarlet Tanager:
Scarlet Tanager, Port Huron SGA
Michigan is an important breeding area for the most delicately hued of our warblers -- shunning the bright yellows, garish blacks, greens and reds of typical warblers for a zen-like composition in sky-blue and white:

Cerulean Warbler, Algonquin State Park
The "Blue Canary" of our forests:
Indigo Bunting, Algonquin State Park
Michigan's birding reputation is reinforced by its claim to be the breeding home for America's rarest warbler:
Kirtland's Warbler, Greyling
Port Huron State Game Area (SGA) is a haven for breeding species including Mourning Warbler:
Mourning Warbler
The Great Lakes attract migrating songbirds including this bright and crisp looking Savannah Sparrow:
Savannah Sparrow, Lake St. Clair
Marshes at Lake St. Clair allow rails and herons to thrive:
Virginia Rail, Lake St. Clair


Florida
As another "birding heavyweight" state, Florida offers excellent birding year-round -- for migration, breeding season as well as overwintering species:

Blue Grosbeak, Sanibel Lighthouse
Corkscrew Swamp has to be one of the best places in the country to see breeding Barred Owl:
Barred Owl, Corkscrew Swamp
Carolina Wren is seen year-round at the Swamp:
Carolina Wren, Corkscrew Swamp
Indigo Buntings are common at the Lighthouse in migration:
Indigo Bunting, Sanibel Lighthouse
Like many other raptors, Red-shouldered Hawk populations declined precipitously during the 20th century due to DDT and loss of habitat; now on the rebound, they are near ubiquitous in SW Florida:
Red-shouldered Hawk, Corkscrew Swamp
A strawberry-red Summer Tanager in migration at the Lighthouse:
Summer Tanager, Sanibel Lighthouse
Florida is a haven for shorebirds with miles and miles of pristine mudflats and tidal lagoons that attract lots of species, including this Whimbrel:
Hudsonian Whimbrel, Little Estero Lagoon
Finally, a Yellow-throated Vireo in migration:
Yellow-throated Vireo, Sanibel Lighhouse
As every birder can relate, each species is more than a bird -- it represents a story and an experience that is special and delightful in some way. And, these highlights, for this blogger, were standouts from a very productive 2014.


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