Looking Back on 2018

With the exception of yet another romantic failure, by all measures 2018 was a great year.  Without question the highlight was the addition of Griffin Pascal Leung to the family as my first grandchild.  Although he arrived on the scene a month early, he is healthy and happy and definitely a cutie.  Parents Miya and Lester are wonderful parents.  Unfortunately, I only got to visit them and Griffin in Newton, MA twice and Miya and Griffin made the trek to Seattle once.  I am looking forward to time with them in Hawaii next month.

Grandson Griffin – Maybe a Birder in the Future – But Entirely His Choice

Griffin Birder

As best I can recall there were only two health issues in 2018, some very brief congestion after a plane ride that was chilly or worse and some bursitis in my left knee after the crowded San Diego Pelagic trip and that darn anchor chain in the bow of the boat.  At age 71 those are hardly matters to complain about.  I am 15 pounds lighter than I was when I started the year.  That’s the good news, but the bad news is that I am 10 pounds heavier than I was maybe five months ago – another casualty of that romantic failure – or at least that’s my excuse.  Many friends have had knee replacements this year and have done very well afterwards.  So far no indication that this will be my fate in my near future, but I do not take good health for granted and am grateful for my present condition and high energy.  If only I could figure out how to sleep past 4 or 5 a.m.

It was an excellent birding year.  There were many special birds, but mostly I am very happy about visits to great places and time with wonderful people.  There is way more to it than just numbers, but I am a “lister” and not only keep track, but organize much of my birding accordingly.  Some bottom lines for the year are below.


My first priority is adding birds to my Washington state life list and state life photo list. New state birds in 2018 were LeConte’s Sparrow, Painted Redstart, Phainopepla and Vermilion Flycatcher.  This brought my “countable” state total to 420 species.  I also added a photo of a White Wagtail (seen but not photographed in 1984) to bring my Washington photo total to 409.  I guess I would have to acknowledge two remaining and recurring disappointments.  I tried several times but was unable to get photos of either a Boreal Owl or a Flammulated Owl.  Maybe next year (an annual refrain).   The only unsuccessful state “lifer” chase was for the Prothonotary Warbler seen at Neah Bay.  Ann Marie Wood and I missed it by an hour or so.  Sigh…

I did not specifically try for a big year list for the state but as reported here earlier, I did a Big Month in January. The 208 species that month made it pretty easy to get a good year list.  Since I birded out of state for more than two months including some prime time in both Spring and Fall migrations, I was very happy to end the year with 349 species seen in the State.  That Prothonotary Warbler would have been a nice round 350!!

Vermilion Flycatcher – Stanwood – Last New Washington State Bird and Photo – December 4, 2018

vemillion fc

ABA Area 

My second birding priority in 2018 was adding new ABA photos.  I had reached the milestone 700 species life list in 2017.  Now I was trying to add more ABA photos hoping to get to that same level for species photographed.  If only I had been taking pictures in the early days when I had seen many of the Florida, Texas and Arizona specialty birds as well as others here and there.  I did not keep a chronological list, but believe I ended 2017 with 628 photos.  And that was a big jump from the end of 2016 thanks to trips to Arizona and Florida in 2017 where I expect I added as many as 100 ABA photos.  Of course seeing new ABA Species was important as well, especially since each of those was also a new photo opportunity.  I will discuss it separately but much of my birding as part of my 50/50/50 Project contributed to my totals in the ABA area.

2018 was a great ABA year.  I saw a total of 564 species (my best year ever).  Of those 26 were new lifers bringing me to 728 countable species.  And 68 were new ABA photos bringing me to the oh so close to 700 total of 696 species with photos.  Some of the photos were not so great, but I did get photos of all of the new lifers for the year.  I think all of them have been included in previous blogs about many of my trips.  I am often asked to pick a favorite bird or a favorite bird for the year.  In 2018, it would have to be the Whooping Crane as much for its beauty as for its symbolic importance as a conservation success story right up there with the California Condor which was a highlight of 2017.  It was not the rarest bird of the year.  That honor would probably have to go to the Fieldfare seen in British Columbia, the Nazca Booby in San Diego, the Sinaloa Wren in Arizona, or the European Storm Petrel in North Carolina.

My biggest disappointment was having my camera lens go on the blitz while at the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival in Louisiana.  Thus despite seeing several Yellow Rails, I was not able to get a photo of any.

Whooping Crane – Aransas NWR  – April 4, 2018

Whooping Crane4

New ABA Life Birds in 2018

Rosy-faced Lovebird Golden-cheeked Warbler Craveri’s Murrelet
Streak-backed Oriole Audubon’s Shearwater Ashy Storm-Petrel
Sinaloa Wren Wilson’s Storm-Petrel Least Storm-Petrel
Red-throated Pipit European Storm-Petrel LeConte’s Sparrow
Nazca Booby Band-rumped Storm-Petrel Philadelphia Vireo
Whooping Crane Fea’s Petrel Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Tropical Parula Black-capped Petrel Tundra Bean-Goose
Morelet’s Seedeater Yellow-footed Gull Fieldfare
Black-capped Vireo Black Storm-Petrel

My 50/50/50 Project/Adventure

As explained in earlier posts, this project evolved during the year and was not officially put into action until October.  The goal here is in each of the 50 states on a single day to see 50 species and to intersect with local birders and folks in the process – also to see places of interest – birding or not – in each case.  I decided to grandfather in a few states where I had already accomplished that goal:  Maine, Arizona, Wisconsin, Maryland, Florida, Colorado and Alaska.  I may redo some of these states as I go, but for now, they are in the “Done” list.  I had also already done that on many occasions in Washington including many times in 2018 and in fact have already done it 5 times this year.  That still left 42 states to do. Having a lot of fun along the way, I was able to add 15 states in 2018 and have a very ambitious schedule to hopefully complete the project in 2019.

In each state the overriding requirement is to have fun and also to get those 50 species and to join local birders.  When possible, I try to include a new ABA species or a new ABA photo either as one of the birds or on an additional day of birding in the states.  I haven’t broken it down by year, but so far on this adventure I have seen 415 species on the day of the count itself and 594 species including additional time in the state on the same trip.  In 2018,  5 new ABA Life birds were added on the count days only and 11 more were added on extended days.  There were many favorite birds or favorite bird photos or stories along the way on these trips including the Whooping Crane above, but they have been included in previous posts so I won’t include them again.  More importantly there were many great places visited and even more great people that I met.

I include again this map which shows the 23 states where I have already finished the 50 species in a day goal.  The ones in pink are scheduled for the next few weeks – New Mexico and Hawaii.  The ones in raised gold will be a month long swing during the peak migration this Spring in the east and the ones in gold with blue border will be a car trip in late May into June when I return from that eastern marathon.  Those gray states in the plains plus Arkansas and Iowa are unclear.  Maybe this fall – may have to defer them until 2020.  It’s a big country.

Interactive Map as of December 31

Birds, places and people – truly a great combination and that is the overwhelming lasting feeling about this year.  Had all of them over and over again.  Looking forward to 2019.

2 thoughts on “Looking Back on 2018

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