Some recent birding trips

I'm just settling in from a few trips to birding events in Alaska and Texas. Below are a few images I managed to digiscope while on the road.Harlequin Duck near Ninilchick, AK.

Indigo Bunting at South Padre Island, TX.

Scarlet Tanager, High Island, TX.
It was a pretty face paced trip jumping from one end of the country to another. A bit of exciting news is that the Eagle Optics sponsored team (the Groovie Billed Anis) won the Big Sit Tournament of the Great Texas Birding Classic this year. We managed to see/hear 145 species in 24 hours at the convention center at South Padre Island.
I did miss the one Black-billed Cuckoo that was seen that day and also manged to miss out on Aleutian Tern and Black-backed Woodpecker while in Alaska. Still sitting at 598 birds right now, though I have a date with a Kirtland's Warbler later this week. I'll keep y'all posted on those developments later.

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Migration is well under way!

I was enjoying coffee in my backyard last week and spotted a pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers flirting and feeding on a birch tree in my yard. The Sapsucker is one of my favorite harbingers of spring. It's a species that shows up to let me know that winter is in fact over. One morning each spring I wake up to find our resident Hairy Woodpeckers replaced by this larger, more colorful relative passing through from the south. Once the Sapsucker has arrived, he will be followed shortly by a migratory cavalry of warblers, vireos, thrushes, and other neo-tropical migrants. I also think the Sapsucker may hold the title as the showiest of backyard bird species that we see at our house, with it's faint yellow markings on the breast and dramatic red throat and crown. The Sapsucker is the perfect aesthetic compliment to the Bloodroot that inevitably begins to bloom within a day of this bird's arrival. As I sat on my deck, watching and photographing these birds and admiring the buds in the garden, I could only wonder if there a sweeter season than spring??? At the moment anyway, the answer would be "No"...
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597 Birds....

So 2009 has been put to bed and 600 Birds comes to a turning point of sorts. The idea or concept of this blog began as a way to document my travels to various birding events around the country and my quest to see 600 different bird species in North America. This pursuit was not simply an attempt to reach a personal goal or fulfill a lifelong dream. At its core, it was a beer bet between me and a few coworkers here at Eagle Optics. When the clock struck midnight and the new year dawned, I lost that bet.

How close did I get? 597 species was where I stood at the end of the year and where I still sit today. Let me tell you, those last 3 species have been hard to find, given my limited ability to just hop in the car and chase birds. Sure, there were chances to travel north and hunt down a Hoary Redpoll, Gyrfalcon, and Bohemian Waxwing for example. The problem is that December just isn't a good month for me to get away.

So having lost 2 cases of beer (is it possible to lose something you never really had?) and fallen short of my much publicized goal, I come into 2010 anticipating the joy of seeing my 600th bird species without the pressure of a deadline. That doesn't mean I won't celebrate though!

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