What a whirlwind of a year it’s been for the Hipster Birders. The year started simply enough as other mid-winters – looking at some lovely ducks who have headed south for the season. One of my favorite spunky ducks that kicked off our year is the Ruddy Duck, who gave us lovely looks in sunny Savannah.
And the ducks didn’t stop there. We were delighted to finally have close views of the trifecta of Scoters – Black, White-Winged, and Surf. Up until this point, they were usually little black and white specks in rafts out in the distance or zipping across the coastal sky. And throw in a Redhead, and you're good to go!
|White-Winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, and Redhead|
Fast forward to Spring time, Nick and I had the opportunity of a lifetime to move out of the South and head North, and I mean VERY north. We pretty much went almost as far as we could go in the lower 48. We set out on one heck of a road trip and took our time driving cross country for Savannah to Oregon, stopping to bird in some great habitat we had never explored before. Central and West Texas took us far away from the swampy, humid and marshes we had grown to know and love in the South & Southeast. We had reached the lands where Flycatchers gather to catch flies and put on spectacular shows in the middle of nowhere.
|Male Vermillion Flycatcher|
|Female Vermillion Flycatcher|
After a grueling 22 hour drive from Houston to Phoenix, we were not deterred from exploring the greatness of Phoenix after a refreshing 3.5 hour sleep. We will have to go back and soak up even more of its awesomeness someday, perhaps with more sleep and not getting pulled over and figuring out how to change our own headlight in the wee hours of the night. And we'll definitely have to explore more of California other than a sliver of a corner of it.
|Yellow-Headed Blackbird in California|
|Nesting Cliff Swallow|
We were welcomed by Golden-Crowned sparrows and new Jays - Western Scrub, Steller's and Gray. And one of my dreams came true when I encountered my spirit bird, the Acorn Woodpecker.
|Western Scrub Jay|
Each niche of this bountiful state had some unique birds to offer. Central oregon had some mountain birds, like White-Headed woodpecker, Townsend's Solitaire, and Pygmy Nuthatches. Going even a little further east into the desert, we found Rock Wrens and Black-Billed Magpies.
We've seen lots of coastal birds in our time in Florida and Savannah, but the West Coast coastal birds are something else. The nesting birds when we first visited the coast just blew our minds! Three different types of cormorants and alcids galore! I just can't get enough sea birds. And other bodies of water have great things to offer, too - like the charming little American Dippers that hang out in the waterfalls and streams.
|Nesting Common Murr'es|
|Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area|
|One of the waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park|
A couple of my all time favorite moments was watching thousands of Vaux's Swifts funnel into a huge chimney in Portland and the hawk watch at Bonney Butte. There may not have been hundreds of raptors flying by, but there was a good variety. And of course the highlight was getting to release a couple of Sharp-Shinned hawks. This wasn't just a hawk watch, it was a hawk catch and release!
2014 has been an amazing year, and we can’t wait for what 2015 has to bring!