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Top Birds of 2004
For British Birders, it was possibly the Isles of Scilly Cream-coloured Courser © Roy Harvey - click here for UK Stop Press Gallery
For North American birders, perhaps the Texas Black-headed Nightingale Thrush © Ruth Hoyt - click here for N American Stop Press Gallery

Top Year Listers of 2004

Milestones were reached last year. The highest ever World Year List total was entered on Surfbirds and the honors went to Kim Risen of the USA and Ian Sinclair of South Africa. This was also the best year ever with more birders scoring over 2000 than ever before. Will we ever see 3000 in one year? We also had our highest ABA Year List posting too. Walter Lamb broke the Surfbirds record handily. These totals have not been vetted. So take them for what they are, which is just a bit of fun.

If you keep a life or year list for your country, state or even your local patch, why not enter your totals online in to the Surfbirds Rankings.

Click here to See a Complete Archive of 2004 Year Lists

2004 World Year List Title

No. 2 Ian Sinclair (Total 2753) - South Africa

A short trip into Sth. Thailand for a bundle of Pittas was exhilarating, the best looking one being Banded. Gurney's Pitta was great but so was Eared and etc.

Tibet was rough but some excellent birds with lots of pheasants, snowcocks and Lord Derby's Parakeet above the snow line feeding on pine cones.

Brazil provided some excellent endemic stuff in the Atlantic forests but Ecuador was exquisite and totally ecstatic about the Galapagos which blew me away. However, I would be in total agreement for lumping all those grotty finches.

Gurney's Pitta, Thailand, KNC 10 March 2004 © Vincent van der Spek

Peru was mind numbing with the Manu Road and Biosphere pulling in hundreds more lifers. A year end trip into Kenya for six days provided some frantic but heady birding with over 600spp. Was trying for the big 3K but maybe some other year. Bird of the year? There were too many but Swallow-tailed Gull and Galapagos Petrel linger.

Ian works for Vanga Tours. Contact Ian at: vangatrs (AT) global.co.za

Ian Sinclair

(click photo to enlarge)

See 2003 Review to see Ian's total and highlights last year

No. 4 Jonathan Rossouw (Total 2497) - South Africa

Although my list this year fell short of my 2003 list, 2004 was my best birding year ever: 311 lifers in 25 countries on 6 continents (no Australasia), and with first-time visits to such legendary areas as Antarctica, Alaska and the Philippines. Over 2000 species were logged whilst guiding tours for Eco-Expeditions, with private trips to the Philippines and Morocco, and local birding around home in S Africa, making up the balance.

New Year in the Ibera marshes of Argentina kicked off the year nicely, with Strange-tailed Tyrant, Black-and-white Monjita and Marsh Seedeater especially memorable, running straight into my first trip to Antarctica. Can anything ever prepare a person for their first trip to the Subantarctic and the Frozen Continent? 100,000 King Penguins, nesting Wandering and Light-mantled albatrosses, Snow Petrels gliding over icebergs, courting Leopard Seals, Chinstraps and Gentoos against immense, blue glaciers. Nuff said.

A post-Antarctic trip to the Strobel Plateau produced long dreamed-of Hooded Grebes in surreal afternoon light, as well as Austral Rail, nesting Magellanic Plovers, confiding White-bellied Seedsnipe and Yellow-bridled Finch.

Back to Africa for a chartered flight up the Great Rift Valley in February, where a male Leopard stalking and killing an Impala in South Luangwa NP, Zambia, rather eclipsed any bird sightings. Displaying Bengal Florican and lifer Painted Spurfowl enhanced the tiger-viewing in India in March, whilst a cyclone-blown Sabine's Gull in Madagascar in April was a first record for the island.

Although supposedly not the"ideal time" for birding, May in the Philippines proved exceptionally productive, with highlights including discovering the first (to the best of my, and Tim Fisher's, knowledge) nest of Whiskered Pitta, as well as Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove, Luzon Bleeding-heart, Spotted Imperial Pigeon, and large flocks of Green-faced Parrotfinch in north Luzon's Sierra Madre range, Philippine Eagle, the exquisite Blue-capped Wood-Kingfisher and roding Bukidnon Woodcock on Mt Kitanglad, Azure-breasted Pitta and Silvery Kingfisher at PICOP, the endemic sweep plus Black-faced Spoonbill and breeding-plumaged Chinese Egret on Palawan, Visayan Broadbill on Bohol, and male Cebu Flowerpecker. Lowlight: the widespread forest destruction, nowhere more evident than at PICOP, Mindanao, where we stood on a felled tree that, the previous week, had been a Wattled Broadbill roost.

Alaska in July produced such quintessential Arctic birds as pale phase Gyr Falcon, Snowy Owl and Yellow-billed Loon, as well as specialties such as Spectacled and Steller's Eiders, McKay's Bunting, Red-legged Kittiwake, a plethora of alcids, and awesome mammals such as Muskox, Sea Otter, American Beaver, Black Bear, and Grizzlies against the backdrop of Mt Denali. Lowlight: Running the Clipper Odyssey aground in the Baby Islands while trying to get closer to a Whiskered Auklet colony!

Azure-breasted Pitta
Azure-breasted Pitta © Otani Chikara

Final lifer binge of the year came in Morocco in December, where a 2 week whip-around produced most of the hoped-for specials, notably a cliff roost of 200+ Bald Ibis, Pharoah Eagle-Owl, Levaillant's Woodpecker, Thick-billed Lark, and Desert Sparrow.\

Jonathan guides for Eco-Expeditions. Contact Jonathan at: jonrossouw AT hotmail.com

(click photo to enlarge)

See 2003 Review to see Jonathan's total and highlights last year

No. 5 Mark Van Beirs (Total 2492) - Belgium

"Working as a tour leader for the well-known birdtour company Birdquest allows me to travel all over the globe in search of birds and that is exactly what I did again in 2004.

Tours took me to varied destinations like Northeast Brazil, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico, fabulous Mongolia, the Lesser Sundas (Indonesia), Central Brazil, Polynesia and Uganda.

Private trips included a much too long postponed return visit to my old stamping grounds in Ecuador and an enjoyable trip to Taiwan. Personal highlights of 2004 must include: scopeviews of a sitting Sumba Buttonquail in Sumba (Indonesia), a mega observation of a male Black-billed Capercaillie in Mongolia, a cute Banded Antbird in Ecuador and eye-ball to eye-ball encounters with Tuamotu Sandpipers on a tiny islet in Polynesia.

Tuamotu Sandpiper, French Polynesia, Tuamotu Islands sept 2004 © Mark Van Beirs

Yet another splendid birding year!!!"

Mark Van Beirs

(click photo to enlarge)

No. 7 Keith Barnes (Total 2139) - South Africa

I didn't keep a running tally, so will just take you through the highlights for 2004.

As a guide for Tropical Birding (in Africa and Asia) it is not hard to get a decent yearlist. January started off with a bang, an early tour around South Africa to many of my old favourite haunts including Kruger National Park. February brought the forests of Cameroon and Gabon with the islands of Sao Tome and Principe thrown in for good measure, where we managed a complete haul of all the STP endemics, including the Sao Tome Grosbeak, Dwarf Olive Ibis, Sao Tome Short-tail and Newton's Fiscal, one of the few times this has been achieved.

March we were back running the tours for the BirdLife International Congress in South Africa, where I had the fortune of showing Bob Ridgely and Gerry Bertrand round my own backyard before it was back to Cameroon and a bumper tour of nearly 600 species. Quail Plover, Vermiculated Fishing Owl and Red-headed Rockfowl were nice year birds.

May was Brazil month, where I joined my pals and Tropical Birding colleagues Iain Campbell and Nick Athanas (also 2000+ listers this year) and the southeast yielded Brazilian Merganser, Swallow-tailed Cotinga and a hoarde of Brazilian endemics before an enforced layoff (the birth of my son) took me out of the game for three months.

August saw me back on track with a Tanzania tour that scored Moreau's Tailorbird, Usambara Eagle Owl, Spot-throat Modulatrix and the Serengeti migration before Madagascar (not exactly many species but quality!) occupied a significant sector of September and October where a clean sweep of all the couas, asities, vangas and ground-rollers maximized my enjoyment of the Red Island. Next we were off to Asia where Taiwan (another quality not quantity island) yielded both glorious Swinhoe's and Mikado Pheasants and all the other neat goodies including parrotbills, laughing-thrushes, etc. Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunder's Gull were a doddle as usual. Next on the agenda was an India trip.

First the Himalayas revealed another six laughing-thrushes, Black-headed Jay and the criminally cute Chestnut-headed Tesia and Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler.

Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, India, Mangoli Valley 22 February 2005 © Mike Buckland

Finally off to Borneo for a few days of lounging about and the spectacular Mt. Kinabalu where I had Whitehead's Broadbill and Whitehead's Trogon in the same flock. While the birding for the year was wild, the mammals were just as good with Forest Elephant, Forest Buffalo, Lowland Gorilla, Maned Wolf, Black Bear, Striped Hyaena, the remainder of Africa's Big 5 (Lion, Leopard and Rhino), 20-odd Lemurs, Tiger and finishing off a splendid Mammal year, Orang-utan!

Keith Barnes

(click photo to enlarge)

No. 8 Pete Morris (Total 2038) - UK

This was the first time I had really bothered to keep total of my year list and I was pleased to have amassed over 2000 species (2038 to be precise!).

It was a pretty hectic year for me though I did manage one holiday - an excellent trip to Uganda where Shoebills, Gorrillas and Chimpanzees stole the show! Other than that I was busy guiding Birdquest and Easybird tours, nine in all.

I began the year in Japan amongst the magnificent Japanese Cranes, Steller's Sea Eagles and Blakiston's Fish Owls, not to mention some stunning Japanese Murrelets.

Steller's Sea Eagle, Japan, Hokkaido February 2005 © Pete Morris/Birdquest

A second trip to Cambodia followed and this was immensely successful with both ibises and Chestnut-headed Partridge being the stars. All gettable endemics as well as Spotted Rail and Yellow-breasted Crake provided some nice easy birding in Cuba whilst a week on Cyprus was a positive rest, though Great Snipe and Isabelline Shrike kept the interest up.

Alaska in the summer was simply stunning. The scenery coupled with magnificent birds such as Bristle-thighed Curlew, McKay's Bunting, Red-legged Kittiwake and Spectacled Eider (not to mention the bears!) make this a must for anyone with an interest in the Arctic!

Two trips to Indonesia (Sumatra and Sulawesi and Halmahera) were both great successes. The habitat keeps going, but we keep finding the birds (but for how much longer?). Displaying Wallace's Standardwings, Schneider's, Graceful and the immense Ivory-breasted Pitta, Salvadoris Pheasant, Sumatran Peacock Pheasant, Satanic Nightjar and Moluccan Scrubfowl are just a few that stand out from these trips. A fantastic penguin and albatross-filled cruise around the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia was perhaps the trip of the year and I ended up in Venezuela, watching many gems in Henri Pittier NP before the year drew to an end! This year looks like being slightly less hectic! The target for this year? To get my two little boys to recognise me and the missus not to change the locks!!

Pete Morris

(click photo to enlarge)

See the complete list of 2004 World Year Listers

2004 New Zealand Year List Title

No. 1 Brent Stephenson (Total 189) - New Zealand

2004 was a pretty amazing year for me. Not only did I manage to see 189 species in New Zealand during the year, but also sailed to the Falklands from NZ (with veteran sailor and adventurer John Ridgway and his wife Marie-Christine). To cap that all off I also got married on the Falklands (to my lovely wife Adel), spending almost three months out of the country.

A trip to the Kermadec Islands (administered by NZ) in November, as well as several trips to other NZ offshore islands in the search of New Zealand storm-petrel breeding activity helped to boost my years tally. New Zealand stormies are of particular interest to me due to the fact that I was the first person to ever photograph this bird alive, after we rediscovered this supposedly 'extinct' species in Jan 2003 (read about that on our website www.wrybill-tours.com).

New Zealand Storm Petrel, New Zealand, Hauraki Gulf 23 January 2005 © Quentin Paynter

So during 2004 I managed to get to some pretty amazing places, both within and outside of New Zealand. Being co-director of Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ certainly helps! With several trips around the country in late 2004, this helped pick up most of the endemics including real stunners like yellowhead, rock wren, black stilt, and yellow-eyed penguin. A fair few pelagic trips, including the trip to the Kermadecs, managed to raise the numbers with some excellent seabirds like white-naped and Kermadec petrel, white-capped noddy, and sooty tern - all new birds for my NZ list. Throughout the year I managed to get 19 new birds on my NZ list, not bad after over 15 years of birding here!

Now 189 is not a huge total, and I expect in the next year or two that somebody, hopefully me (!), will break the "200 species in a year" barrier. With birding in NZ being in its infancy, this makes for interesting challenges, often unexpected birds, and ever increasing birding tallies. Certainly the whole concept of travelling to see vagrants and keeping lists is very new to the New Zealand birding ethos. This has possibly been influenced by the immigration of European and North American birders to New Zealand! With so few birders, this does however make birding in New Zealand both frustrating and exciting. Whatever, New Zealand lacks in birding circles, it certainly makes up for with some amazing birds. Being a birding guide in the country is a fantastic way of sharing what we have with other birders, and I feel very privileged to be able to do so.

Hopefully 2005 will be another exciting birding year for me, and I look forward to be challenged for the top NZ year listing position by other NZ birders.

Brent Stephenson

(click photo to enlarge)

See the complete list of 2004 NZ Year Listers

2004 French Year List Title

No. 1 Jean-Philippe Siblet (Total 324) - France

Jean-Philippe Siblet was also No. 2 in the European Year Listing Category with a total of 340 and No.6 in West Palearctic Category with 362

2004 was a very good year for me with 5 french « lifers » bringing me to 447 near the mythical step of 450.

The year began in style with a trip in south France in february (Camargue, Crau, Alpilles) and offer some good birds : Pine Bunting, Glossy Ibis, Steppe Buzzard, Greater Spotted Eagle.

In April, a one week trip in Cyprus give me 4 lifers : Cyprus Warbler, Cyprus Weather, Armenian Gull and… Baillon’s Crake one of my bogey bird.

On 20 april, I and my friend Bernard broke the county (Seine-et-Marne) big day with 127. My first french lifer of the year was a Black Duck drake on the Ushant Island the 22 may : superb!

The second french lifer follow only 8 days later : a gorgeous singing River Warbler in Dombes.
Third, was a Lesser Crested Tern at Banc d’Arguin. This bird was present here many years ago, but I haven’t already the opportunity to twitch her before.

On 14 to 18 august the mini-cruise Porsthmouth-Bilbao produce a few good birds but 9 species of cetaceans (73 Fin Wahles, 4 Cuvier’s Beacked Whales, 2 Sperms Whales…). Following this trip we spend one week in England but failed to reached our main target : the Pheasants (Golden and Lady Amherst). Fortunetly we managed to see some good birds like a Broad-billed Sandpiper at Titchwell.

The first of septembrer I got a new Big Sit record with 80 species in South Seine-et-Marne. The fourth french lifer was an incredible Cream-coloured Courser in Crau the 17th september (1800 km on a week-end!).

Less than five days latter, a news get online late afternoon : an Upland Sandpiper is on Ushant Island! Me and two friends made the twich next day and get in touch with this wonderful bird with, in prime, a Bonaparte’s Gull on the continent !

Upland sandpiper, FRANCE, Ouessant Island 01/10/2004 © Audevard Aurélien

The rumor of a Slender-billed Culew in Minsmere give the way to an england twitch for me, my son and a friend. We failed to see the bird… which fortunately for us turn to be in fact a strange Curlew.

Back in Ushant the last days of october give some good birds : Dusky Warbler, Pallid Swift and the first Waxwings… premice of a massive invasion.

The birding year higlight came with a Ross’s Gull at Schevingen in Holland the 21st november.. a dream bird for me !!

A week trip in Holland before Christmas produce many good birds and among huge flocks of Barnacle Geese, 36 Lesser white-fronted Geese was at classical site of Strijen.\

The birding year ends with the Sora twitch in Nottinghamshire (what a bird !), but we sadly missed the Redhead drake at Kenfig Pool, Wales.


(click photo to enlarge)

See the complete list of 2004 French Year Listers

2004 British Year List Title

No. 2 Mark Hows (Total 345 - UK400 Total) - UK

When calculating some stats at the end of January, and having managed 279 in 2003, I thought about trying for the 300 in 2004, which bearing in mind I have a full time job and can't spend all my free time birdwatching would prove to be a real challenge. Particularly that when I started mid-late January I had already missed some good birds that would be hard to get again. This is a brief account of what birds I saw

Not starting seriously until late in January I still picked up a rough legged buzzard, and the Lincs American robin. February and a trip to Devon was the highlight but dipped the penduline tit, the best birds were the little bunting and hume’s warbler.

I started a bit more seriously in March although a trip to the Carmague took me away, I did get the Pine bunting, white headed duck, alpine swift and franklin’s gull and I was well over 200. April produced several dips but red rumped swallow and bufflehead were seen as well and the regular migrants before a trip to Scotland for the usual birds and the harlequin and white billed divers amongst others. May went very well Great reed warbler and squacco heron and lots of other migrants and vagrants. In June 2 weeks in the US for work slowed things down a bit. My day trips started to be further away for common rosefinch, broad billed sandpiper in Staffs, spotted sand in W midlands and I had surpassed last years total. I was sure that I would get past my target.

July was the wader month, with long billed dowicher, greater sandplover, white rumped sandpiper, american golden plover, wood sandpiper, marsh sandpiper, blue winged teal and- night heron and I had surpassed my target of 300. Dipped the sharp tailed sandpiper but went on the Scillonian vomit fest for the petrels and shearwaters. Fluked the thrush nightingale, managed the purple heron and greenish warbler in the same day. The black stork was seen before going to Spain on the Bilbao minicruise.

September came I was ill and some work on the car meant I was not mobile for a while. But I was well again for the semi palmated sandpiper, bairds, and balearic shearwaters in Cornwall. Leach's petrel, and all four skuas. October produced the western sandpiper and a trip to see the Courser on the Scilly isles, followed by several good vagrants, RT pipit, pallid swift and pacific golden plover of note. November started with a crazy day 29 hour round trip to Scotland for the Masked Shrike Peterhead, a quick diversion to Montrose, the Snow Goose had come on the pager, it was still present. Peterhead produced the King Eider very quickly, showing well behind the oil store as did a Little Auk.

Cream coloured Courser, Cornwall, St Martins, Scilly Isles 01 October 2004 © Nigel Blake

Then two trips to cormwall for the Little crake and Blyths pipit. A trip abroad to Latvia started December and a trip to tichwell for the artic redpoll followed. The sora in Notts was the last bird until a trip to Scotland on the 27th for Black duck and American coot on Shetland. The final bird of the year was eventually located in Glen Tanar, and one that I put about 4 days searching in April and December before finding a group of three Parrot Crossbills in the forest near the Visitor centre.

Final Notes
I enjoyed my year lisiting in 2004, I could not spend as much time as some other listers, and could not go for every bird. I only visited Shetland and the Scilly’s once, and I did not start until midway into January. Things I should have done, don't get ill and don't go abroad, I spent almost 3 weeks abroad in 2004, which was not helpful with my listing, but 345 was much more than I had expected to get considering I have a full time job. I would like to thank all the people I met who helped me during the year. This year was a one off I would not be able to spend as much time listing again for quite a while.

Best Bird - Cream Coloured Courser - a super bird
Worst Bird - American Coot- a bit of a disapointment
Easiest Bird - Quail / Golden Pheasant, almost ran both of them over
Hardest Bird
- Parrot Crossbill over 4 days of searching Scottish forests
Worst Dips - Penduline Tit, Sharp tailed Sandpiper missed both by minutes
Should Have Got - Serin, Ortolan Despite several around none were accessible

Mark's Website

Mark Hows

(click photo to enlarge)

See the complete list of 2004 British Year Listers

2004 ABA Area Year List Title

No. 1 Walter Lamb (Total 648) - USA

Based on my limited experience and skill, I had no business doing an ABA year list, but I did it anyway and I'm glad of it. Humbling as it was at times, I improved my birding skills, experienced some of the most fantastic wild areas on the continent, and met a whole bunch of great people along the way. Well over half of all the birds I saw were life birds and I took my time studying, documenting, and appreciating each of them for as long as possible before moving on to the next bird. I did not chase individual rarities, such as the Red-footed Falcon on Martha's Vineyard, but rather scheduled trips to key areas at key times and saw as much as I could during each trip. Highlights included trips to the Dry Tortugas, Gambell, Barrow, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (where I picked up no new year birds but a wealth of experiences), and numerous spots in between. Just a few of my most memorable birds were a Rufous-capped Warbler in Sycamore Canyon, a Whiskered-Screech Owl that I tracked down in the Chiricahua Mountains, and the American Woodcocks on the property of the gracious Hugh Brown near Austin, Texas. All of my trips and sightings along with many pictures and sound recordings are logged at www.lifelist2004.com

Rufous-capped Warbler, Frio County, Texas, Private ranch c.50m south of San Antonio 31st October 2004 © Martin Reid

Walter Lamb

(click photo to enlarge)

See the complete list of 2004 ABA Year Listers

2004 British County Year List Title

No. 7 Martin Hodges "Big M" (Total 237) - Yorkshire

My first year aiming for a reasonable county list - and with such a great county to tour round and some brilliant scenery to encounter it was worth the effort to get out and about.

Highlights for the year are to many to mention. Don't know how many county ticks I added but Raven, Black Grouse, Hawfinch, Bittern, Wood Warbler, Stone Curlew and Nightjar were on that list - and no doubt they will get revisited in the coming years!

Rare and scarce wise there were a lot of crackers - Alpine Swift, Bufflehead, Cattle Egret - Bairds Sand down to a few feet ,the 2 White Winged Black Terns at Swillington Ings were quite pleasant on the eye - then there was the Long Billed Dowitcher in the rain on the Humber - the Wrynecks in the sun at Spurn - AH! it comes flooding back - the WHITE'S THRUSH and the OBP at Spurn in October (supporting cast of RB Fly and Pallas's Warbler) - didn't walk too far that day - guess life couldn't get much better!!!

White's Thrush, East Yorks, Easington 11th October 2004 © Chris Galvin

On the finding front - just a selection of locally scarce birds but Leach's, Stormy, Ring Necked Duck, Spot Crakes, Temminck's, Sabs were all found at sites within 20 minutes drive of home.

The low points were few - pity not to get 250 for the county, that was the target but work commitments do get in the way - and stop you going for PINE GROSBEAK! Still, if you miss Black throated Diver, Honey Buzzard, Osprey, Long tailed Skua, Roseate Tern, Iberian Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed Warbler, Twite and CROSSBILL (despite countless visits to the forests) and I'm sure I can think of few more - there was no chance of getting 250 - BUT THERE IS ALWAYS 2005!

Mike Hodges

(click photo to enlarge)

See the complete list of 2004 British County Year Listers

2004 Lower 48 Year List Title

No. 1 Scott Kennedy (Total 580)

My first full year in the United States, driving over 37000 miles in search of Yankee birds, I experienced extremes in temperature, from -35°F in the wilds of Minnesota while searching for Great Gray Owls to 119°F in the Sonoran Desert looking for the elusive Le Conte's Thrasher. I managed to slide off the road into a snow filled ditch, while looking for Northern Hawk-owl. I was approached by drug runners in the Huachuca Mountains, luckily they were returning to Mexico over the mountains and only wanted food. I was charged by Black Bears, rattled at by Western Diamondbacks, and managed to to back into numerous Cactus trying to move away from snakes. Altogether an interesting year. A summary follows:

January: Birding began in Ohio, where the snow bound state made for difficult birding, on any given day I was lucky to see 20 species, of which five were woodpeckers, two chickadees, a few sparrows and the odd raptor and corvid. It was only when I ventured north to Lake Eerie that numbers picked up, the only pieces of open water for hundreds of miles got the first wildfowl on to the year list. With Trumpeter & Tundra Swans, Black Duck, Pintail, Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Scoters and Mergansers, then came a few raptors and gulls. Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawks by the dozen including melanistic forms, Bald Eagles, Sharp-shinned & Cooper's Hawks, numerous Short-eared Owls, I also found 17 Long-eared Owls peering down from a pine, while answering a call of nature. The tree also contained the only Northern Saw-whet that I saw all year. A side trip to Ecuador curtailed the Lower 48 listing until the return at the beginning of February. Total number of birds seen this month 68.

February: At the beginning of the month my wife and I headed northward towards Minnesota, picking up several new species on the two day drive, Thayer's Gull, Redhead, Canvasback and Greater Scaup just passed Chicago. Snow Buntings in Wisconsin then it was five days of birding the Minnesota countryside, deep in snow and bitter cold. Although not many species were found in this northern state, the species quality was excellent, of course the Great Gray was eventually found, as was Snowy Owl, Barred Owl, Gyrfalcon, Glaucous Gull, Northern Shrike, Common & Hoary Redpolls, Pine Grosbeak, Pine Siskin, Red Crossbill, Sharp-tailed, Ruffed & Spruce Grouse. But some serious dipping occurred, with local specialities such as Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Boreal Owl and a reported Harlequin Duck, all never to be seen during the course of the year. After returning to Ohio for a few days, it was off to sunny Florida for two weeks.

After visiting a few of the usual Florida haunts, Everglades, Corkscrew Swamp, Sanibel Island, Loxahatchee & Merritt Island in search of Snail Kite, Smooth-billed Ani, Scrub-jay, Short-tailed Hawk and any early migrants. We managed to find some familiar birds in the form of Eurasian Wigeon and Tufted Duck, whether or not they were genuine vagrants or escapees from some duck brothel we will never know.
A total of 176 species were seen in Florida, plenty of waders, herons, egrets as expected but some of the passerines included White-eyed Vireo, Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped, Palm, Prairie, Pine and Black & White Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, American Redstart, Ovenbird and Brown Thrasher. Interesting mammals include several Bobcat, one seen hunting Rabbits outside of the chalet at Flamingo, in the Everglades. River Otter at Corkscrew Swamp and while watching a Panther in Big Cypress National Wildlife Reserve, a Black Rail made an appearance.
Year list was now 272.

March: After another brief interlude in Ohio, we headed southward towards Texas, driving from Ohio through Indiana, Illinois and Missouri where we picked up Eurasian Tree Sparrow in St Louis. Then into Oklahoma where the search began for wintering Longspurs and Sparrows. The weather continued to improve as he crossed the state line and moved further into Texas for a four week stay.
The month ended with a year list of 322.

April: During the time in the Lone Star State, we went birding all along the coast from north to south and back again, the Rio Grande Valley for specialities and rarities, the Edwards Plateau for Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo, Big Thicket for Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Bachman’s Sparrow and Brown-headed Nuthatch and finally High Island and Sabine Woods for the hoped for fall of migrants.

Ten days along the Rio Grande Valley produced excellent birds. Paraque and Lesser Nighthawks called at night, Elf, Eastern Screech, Great Horned and Ferruginous Pygmy Owls were easily lamped in the park, one evening we even lamped an Ocelot. Green Jay and Plain Chachalaca were numerous. Several kettles of raptors circling on the thermals were evident, containing thousands of migrating Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks, on their way north, a few Mississippi Kites were also noted. Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary produced Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Ringed & Green Kingfishers, Least Grebe, Great Kiskadee and Olive Sparrow, Santa Ana added Hook-billed Kite, Clay-colored Robin and Tropical Parula to the list. Brown Jay and White-collared Seedeater were easily located further west, as was Cassin’s & Black-throated Sparrows, Curve-billed Thrasher but no sign of Muscovy Duck a specialty of this area. Several Hooded, Altamira & Audubon’s Orioles were found.

The first few days at High Island and Sabine Woods, were quiet, only a few Gray-cheeked, Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes were found. Warbler numbers were low perhaps only five species found. Then the winds changed and numbers increased, we began to average 19 species of warbler per day. Yellow, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, a single Cape May, apparently scarce to Texas, Yellow-rumped, Cerulean, Black-throated Green, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Yellow-throated, Black & White, Prothonotary, Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Nashville, Tennessee, Orange-crowned, Worm-eating, Swainson’s, Wilson’s, Hooded and Kentucky Warblers. Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Louisiana & Northern Waterthrushes, American Redstart, all mixed in with ever growing numbers of Bell’s, Red-eyed, Warbling, Philadelphia, White-eyed, Blue-headed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet & Summer Tanagers, Baltimore & Orchard Orioles, Yellow-billed & smaller numbers of Black-billed Cuckoos. The change in weather also brought waders and visits to appropriate sites added Upland & Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Hudsonian Godwit. A walk through a meadow at Anahuac produced superb views of Rails, including King, Clapper, Virginia’s, Sora and the elusive Yellow with at least 8 seen.
We left Texas after seeing 323 species in the state and bringing the year list up to 421.

May: A few days in the Chiricahua Mtns. added Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Elegant Trogon and Mexican Chickadee. While back in Ohio, a flushed American Woodcock, Eastern Wood-pewee, Acadian & Willow Flycatchers and Indigo Bunting were added. Back in SE Arizona, Scaled & Gambel’s Quail were easily found the more elusive Montezuma Quail would be more difficult. Hikes up the local canyons added several Hummingbirds including Broad-billed, Blue-throated, Magnificent and Black-chinned. The difficult empid flycatchers were more of a challenge with Hammond’s, Dusky, Cordilleran, Pacific-slope, the late arriving Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher was easily found by following it’s distinctive call as was Greater Pewee. The Myiarchus group of flycatchers were just as challenging as the empids, even when calling, but Brown-crested, Ash-throated and Dusk-capped were eventually sorted out, Vermillion Flycatchers were very common around the San Pedro riparian area, a single male Rose-throated Becard was found in Patagonia. Grace’s, Black-throated Gray and Olive Warblers were in full song, as were Red-faced Warbler and Painted Redstart.

June/July: New species added to the list included Tropical & Thick-billed Kingbirds, Buff-collared Nightjar, Whiskered Screech-owl, Gray, Common Black and Zone-tailed Hawks. More hummingbirds were showing up in good numbers such as Violet-crowned, Broad-tailed, Rufous, Allen’s, Costa’s, Anna’s, and singles of Lucifer’s and White-eared. By the end of July 485 species had been seen in the lower 48 states.

August: Most of the new birds this month were attributed to a trip to California, where a pelagic out of Monterey added many new species. Having superb views of South Polar Skua, Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, Xantus’s & Craveri’s Murrelet, Cassin’s & Rhinocerus Auklet, and many others. Then a drive south towards San Diego, birding enroute picking up many new birds and lifers. Mountain Quail, California Towhee, California Thrasher, White-headed & Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, Yellow-billed Magpie, Wrentit, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Surfbird and Black Turnstone, to name but a few. A stop at Salton Sea on the way back home enabled me to find Yellow-footed Gull, Western & Clark’s Grebes. A trip into the White Mtns. some 200 miles north of home enabled me to find some high altitude species such as Three-toed & Lewis’s Woodpeckers, Red-naped & Williamson’s Sapsuckers, Gray & Pinyon Jays, Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, American Dipper and the extremely skulking MacGillivray’s Warbler, Hermit & Townsend’s Warblers were also noted in quite good numbers. Ending the month with 549 species for the year.

September: Only four new species this month, including only the second Ruff recorded in Arizona, while looking at this bird a small group of Lawrence's Goldfinch were noted feeding on some grasses.

From now until the end of the year only 27 more new birds were seen. Several from another trip to California included, Mew Gull, Wandering Tattler, California Quail, California Gnatcatcher, Golden-crowned & Fox Sparrows. As the wintering sparrow numbers began to increase in Arizona so did the number of wildfowl and raptors. Snow Geese appeared with the thousands of wintering Sandhill Cranes, Mountain Plover, Ferruginous Hawks and Prairie Falcons. Mixed Sparrow flocks roamed the scrub including huge numbers of Lark Bunting, Savannah, Vesper, Brewer's and a few Sage Sparrows. Chestnut-collared Longspurs turned up on the San Raphael Grasslands, with hundreds of Horned Larks, and the occasional American and Sprague's Pipit. The odd Baird's Sparrow was difficult to sort out from the equally elusive but commoner Grasshopper Sparrow and a just as similar Le Conte's Sparrow was found in Tucson, a first for the state. The final few birds for the year, were from the mountains around Albuquerque, New Mexico, viewed from a snow bound Cafe window at 12000 feet while sipping hot Coffee. All three species of Rosy Finch were seen, a fitting end to the year, finishing on 580 species seen in the lower 48 states.

Born2Bird Tours

white-eyed vireo
White-eyed Vireo, Florida, Southern Dunes © Tom Tams

scott kennedy

(click photo to enlarge)

No. 13 Kreg Ellzey (Total 349)

All of my year birds were primarily observed in Texas and Louisiana with 65 lifers recorded in 2004!

I began the year with a blitz trip to San Antonio on January 1 for the Greater Pewee at Avenue A. By February several excellent birds had been observed in Louisiana including Clay-colored Sparrow, Calliope Hummingbird, Vaux’s Swift and Sage Thrasher. In March came another blitz trip to Texas, this time to Texas City for the Greater Flamingo. June started out with a Shiny Cowbird at Bayou Sauvage NWR near New Orleans and ended with the first ABA record of Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush in Pharr, Texas. Several other excellent South Texas birds were observed on this trip as well such as Yellow-green Vireo and Gray-crowned Yellowthroat.

Black-headed Nightingale Thrush, Texas, Pharr May 04 © Ruth Hoyt

In July I took my first ever trip to the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas visiting both the Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend. Life birds were numerous on this trip and included such species as Black-capped Vireo, Painted Redstart, Colima Warbler and Blue-throated Hummingbird. As the fall semester commenced, my birding year slowed tremendously but I was still able to make another blitz trip to South Texas in November to see the Crimson-collared Grosbeaks in Weslaco and the Green-breasted Mango in McAllen. Near the end of November a Black-legged Kittiwake marked my last major tick of the year at Millwood Lake in Arkansas. It was quite a good year for lifers and exploring new areas of my neighboring state of Texas. I’m looking forward to discovering even more new areas in 2005!!

Kreg Ellzey

(click photo to enlarge)

See the complete list of 2004 Lower 48 Year Listers