As I’ve said often enough, our stays here in North Carolina are more about being close to family and away from the oppressive heat of South Texas than they are about birds.
Once again, we have found no new species for the life list in an entire summer here … or even nearby. Meanwhile, rarity after rarity has graced the skies in Alaska, California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Newfoundland, Quebec, etc., etc., etc. The rare birds have managed to be exactly where I am not this summer; often within just a few days or weeks of me having been there. Que sera, sera!
That does not mean that the summer has been wasted, birdwise. I did manage to finish over a dozen wood carvings of songbirds, shorebirds, and a Least Grebe. I put on an exhibition of 50 of our Big Year photos and we did a presentation on that adventure for the local bird club. I even managed to sell a few of the carvings and photos. That’s rare. (I’d starve if I tried to make a living as a bird carver or photographer!)
The most exciting news is that we are heading down to Trinidad and Tobago in December! We just finished all of the reservations and all that’s left is to scrape together the money to make the trip. We’ll fill you all in on the preparations and results of that trip as they develop, but for now, let me just say that we are doing a package tour by Coligo Ventures to the Asa Wright Nature Centre. We have booked 12 days of birding at a cost of about $210 per person per day, plus airfare. That’s not “cheap” but it is a relative bargain compared to the costs of many birding tours. Visions of tropical tanagers, hummingbirds, and manakins are dancing in my head!
Next week we make a brief visit to New Jersey for my father’s 90th birthday and we hope to do a little fall migration birding along the Jersey coast. Maybe we’ll get lucky with a vagrant while there.
Then, it’s westward bound for New Mexico again.
Our summer home in North Carolina has lots to offer but rare birds are NOT one of its strong points.
There have been some nice rarities in the state, but they have all been pelagic birds seen from Brian Patteson’s boat out of Hatteras or vagrants that I have already seen. There has been nothing new, and within chasing distance, since our arrival here in May.
Elsewhere, it has continued to be an incredible year for rarities in North America. So much so that the North American Big Year record is guaranteed to fall! John Weigle, a birder from Australia whom I met while chasing Common Cranes in West Texas, has already reached the previous record total, and may have exceeded it since I last heard from him. He has seen an incredible 89 rare birds (those ranked ABA codes 3 and above) this year, including several (at least three) that are new to the ABA list and are counted as provisional species until accepted by the checklist committee. This is even before he spends his planned month in Alaska during the fall migration season to chase Eurasian vagrants!
My own year has been decidedly less exciting. So much so that I have come to the conclusion (AGAIN!) that it is simply not possible to see my hoped-for 800 species in eight years under the constraints of our “budget birding” limits. It is certainly possible to see 800 species in eight years. You just have to be willing to spend oodles and oodles of cash to do it.
Going forward, I plan to keep birding in a more casual way but to chase rarities that are near enough to do so without breaking our budget. I expect that I will be able to reach 750 ABA species, with about 15 non-ABA birds as well, and get a respectable list by the time I reach the end of my eight year run.
I also will be hoping to compile a list of several thousand “world birds” by doing some international travel in the future. Right now, I have somewhere between 2000 and 2500 species on my world list (mostly in the USA, Mexico, and Africa).
South America and Asia beckon!