Journal archives for December 2021

December 30, 2021

Wrapping up 2021: 100 Species goal-Year Three!

The third year of my 100 species resolution found me deep in the Covid 19 pandemic, and recounting 2020s dismal total of 29 new species. Little did I know 2021 would shape up to be my most exciting year of travel, birding, and wildlife diversity yet! The first trip of the year was a pilgrimage to Sax-Zim Bog to look for two northern boreal forest targets, Hoary Redpoll and Bohemian Waxwing. I managed to find both of these species plus two elusive mammals, Pine Marten and Ermine in the few days I was there. After this trip, a rare Eurasian Wigeon showed up on the Mississippi river in eastern Iowa, and with a quick chase I added my third bird species for the year. Realizing at this pace I would fall far short of my 100 species target, I decided that some travel was in order. I planned a trip to Monterey Bay California to coincide with the migration of gray whales and Orcas in the hopes of adding some new marine mammals and coastal birds to my list. On my first day in California a quick walk along the beach netted me some of my primary target birds including Black oystercatcher, Black turnstone, Pelagic cormorant, and Surfbird. I decided to go to a small local park that included some natural scrub land and pine habitat and was rewarded with good looks at California scrub Jay Golden Crowned Sparrow, Oak titmouse, Chestnut-backed chickadee, and my favorite woodpecker in North America, the Acorn woodpecker. About three days into the trip I heard news that a White wagtail that had been staying at a nearby beach was still being seen. My girlfriend and I raced up to the last known location, and she found the bird foraging in a small estuary near the beach! This would be my 13th (and rarest) bird for the trip bringing my yearly total into the mid 20s. After the quick rarity chase we went on a short whale watching trip into Monterey Bay where I saw my first albatross! Two Black footed albatross, Risso's dolphin, Gray whale, and Sea otters abounded. It's not often I add 5 new mammals in one day! We then ventured inland to snag a few more desert and upland species like Hutton's vireo, California thrasher, Tricolored Blackbird, and a personal favorite bird of mine, the California quail. A few spots were tried for the endemic yellow-billed magpie and the third, Coyote Lake Park, was a success! Having acquired most of the expected animal targets on this trip I was happy to head home. No matter how bad a year starts in Iowa, a trip to California practically guarantees success for a Midwest boy.
Soon after my trip to California a few friends decided to take a quick road trip to Galveston Island, Texas to enjoy some warmer waters and a well-deserved vacation from a long stint of overtime work. I had a few targets here including a long-time nemesis bird: Painted Bunting. Before arriving in Texas a quick stop in Oklahoma City got had me staring at a beautiful male Painted bunting in a small farm field just outside the city limits. In Texas scanning the salt marshes in the early morning I found a few singing Seaside sparrow's and one very secretive King rail. After a few days of enjoying the beach we headed home, but made sure to make a quick stop at Brazos Bend State Park where we were greeted with numerous beautiful Painted gallinules and Boat-tailed grackles. July was fast approaching, and with the halfway point of the year in my sites the biggest birding trip of my life was on the horizon. Earlier in the year a few birding buddies and I had planned another whirlwind birding trip to southern Arizona. We had scheduled nine days to explore the sky islands and desert to try to see as many endemic bird species as possible. The lifers are too numerous to list but some highlights of the trip were Zone-tailed hawk, Olive Warbler, Rose-throated Becard, Violet-crowned hummingbird, Whiskered screech owl, Montezuma quail, Five-striped sparrow, Elegant trogon, Ruddy Ground-dove, White-eared hummingbird, Lucifer hummingbird, and a family of Spotted owls! Along with this plethora of new birds, I spotted many new reptile/amphibian lifers including Ridgenose rattlesnakes, whiptails, and Spadefoot toads . After this incredible trip my yearly tally stood at 118 species, well above my goal for the year and with five months left to go. Upon returning to Iowa an incredible combo of Long-tailed Jaeger and Pomarine Jaeger appeared at a reservoir a couple hours from my house. With these two extra birds I sat at 120 species. Quite a start!

Posted on December 30, 2021 05:37 by dean_hester dean_hester | 1 comment | Leave a comment

Wrapping up 2021 Part II

After an already unbelievable year of wildlife my girlfriend surprised me by finding flights to Hawaii at a huge discount, and we decided with little planning to make our first trip to the islands in early December. We decided on a three Island trip, starting on Oahu then two days on Kawai and four days on the big island. The birding was incredible, and I was able to see some bucket list Hawaiian birds such as Iiwi, Omao, Amakihi, Elepaio, and Akiapolaau in the cloud forests of Kauai and Hawaii. On the rocky coasts we saw Nene with young babies, White-tailed Tropicbird, Masked and Red-footed Booby, and Laysan Albatross. On a whim I decided to buy a cheap snorkel set from a souvenir shop and check out a nearby reef. I was amazed by the abundance of incredible tropical fish and within a few hours found myself addicted to this new hobby. Across the three islands we snorkeled at four more locations and I was able to see and photograph 72 species of fish. While in Hawaii we also had the opportunity to dive with Galapagos sharks, Sandbar sharks, Green Sea Turtles, and Reef Manta rays! All said and done I saw a staggering 117 species of animal in Hawaii alone! Now back home in Iowa with the first snow storms rolling in, I finished the year seeing 119 new birds, 28 reptiles/amphibians, 18 mammals, and 75 fish. A total of 240 species of vertebrate. The year was a blast, and I already have plans for an equally exciting 2022!

Posted on December 30, 2021 15:44 by dean_hester dean_hester | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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