"How'd you do?"
You know the question. It's both sincerely curious and not-so-subtly competitive. I haven't been birding many years (barely seven, I think, and I entered my first eBird list fall of 2009, for what it's worth), but I have a pretty good idea now of what is a "normal" year for me in numbers: about 220-30 birds in Massachusetts, but about 180 of them in my town alone. I am a local birder. In 2012 I chased a bit and saw 249 in my state, but full time work and a family just don't go together with state-wide listing. Local is where it is at.
Which is why 2014 was so different. We traveled. The kids are old enough to appreciate longer trips, and I had a sabbatical from teaching, so it was a great year for seeing new places and finding new birds.
Early July: my son and I took a "boreal" trip to northern New Hampshire and Vermont. Yes, it was a bit late for good activity, but we had a great time exploring bogs and spruce forests. Perhaps the highlights were Cannon Mountain, where we heard both Bicknell's and Swainson's Thrushes; Pondicherry NWR, where we had goshawk, Philadelphia Vireo, nesting Sharp-shinned Hawks, Bay-breasted and Canada Warblers, and Lincoln's Sparrow; and Moose Bog near Island Lake, VT, where we had Ring-necked ducks and Pied-billed Grebes on territory. The bugs were ferocious and rain drove us home a day soon, but what a great trip.
Late July/Early August: Yellowstone NP and Grand Teton NP, plus Bozeman, MT and the Gallatin Valley. The kids adored Yellowstone, particularly Hayden Valley, where we saw many bison, wolves, grizzlies, white pelicans, delightful Japanese tourists, and open skies. Yellowstone netted me 14 lifers Overall, we were less enamored with Grand Teton, but the birding was good, too, with 5 more lifers. Back in Bozeman, where we were staying on either end of our trip, we lucked into a local guide who showed us some local hotspots in the Missouri Headwaters Area, and we picked up a few more new birds.
Texas: my marvelous wife sent me to Texas for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in November. It is a cliche that first-timers really load up on lifers in Texas, but the cliche is true. It got 49 lifers in 5 days of birding, and saw 167 birds, more than we saw in Montana and Wyoming combined. Man, it was fun!
Florida: Finally, a family trip at Christmas to the Orlando area netted my son and I some good birding time. We missed most of the birds we had targeted, such as red-cockaded woodpecker and Bachman's sparrow, but saw around 90 birds on sporadic trips near where my parent's live.
Overall, I picked up 95 lifers and saw 362 birds in 2014 to get me to a grand total of 419 (300 of which are in Mass.).
Next post will be a year in record shots (some resembling actual photography!).