Sunday, January 6, 2013

Looking back on 2012

2012 in review... something of a daunting task, but we generally do a semi-annual update and the timing is about right for one. Let the festival of links begin!

Changes and challenges:

In somewhat exciting news, we've decided to branch out a bit - we've always done informal guiding, but now we've actually listed regional guiding here on the blog. Regardless of skill level, we're more than happy to introduce folks to the birds (and butterflies) or general nature of the region; Marathon is our home turf, but as long as our schedules work out, we're quite happy to help out with Balmorhea, the Davis Mountains and whatever else suits you. Year listers, county listers, target birding or simply soaking up the region - we'd be happy to help. 

It was also in 2012 that eBird reviewing for Reeves and Pecos Counties fell into play: Pecos hasn't even been touched yet, but the learning curve has gone from vertical to... still pretty steep. It's all in the name of progress, right? Speaking of progress, there's another Sul Ross State University grad in the family! After 9 years, 7 moves, 3 schools and 2 states, Heidi finished ~160 hours of a B.A.

This was also the first year that both of us were recruited to co-lead trips for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. For 2011 we were tied up with a booth, so 2012 was a bit more freeing, even if that free time was used to track down speaker/sponsor/leader people for the summer festival!

Last year saw 131 blog posts here, peaking in July with 20 posts. Can't imagine why... we only assembled the finest crew of Texas birders with Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman in attendance!

From left to right: Cameron Carver, Kelly Bryan, Matthew York, Heidi Trudell, Kimberly Kaufman, Kenn Kaufman, and Steve Gross. Mark Flippo disappeared in the photo; ninjas do not show up in photographs. Photo by Patty Pasztor.
Blog factoids and people aside, it was quite a year for birds in our region (roughly Brewster, Jeff Davis and Reeves Counties), including but not limited to:
January - Nutting's Flycatcher, a life bird for both of us!)
April - Swainson's and Hermit Wablers
August - Black-billed Cuckoo, Black-throated Green Warbler
October - Sabine's Gull - another double life bird, Varied Thrush, Surf Scoter and Red Phalarope
November - Williamson's Sapsucker* (usually in Jeff Davis Co, not Marathon!)
December - Red Crossbill - it most certainly has been Winter of the Crossbills, and not just for our region. They've been reported all over the southern states and throughout much of Texas. In December we also snuck off to Lubbock to see a double-life Northern Shrike!

Most cooperative non-passerine of the year goes to a pair of Zone-tailed Hawks that cooperated for the festival, tending to their large nestling (still in nest) in front of a group of ~15 or so folks!

Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus), photo by Matt York.
...but let's not forget the butterflies that made this year amazing:
Palmer's Metalmark stole the show for the entire summer and well into fall. Common Mestras made an exceptional appearance nearly daily in our yard - not that they ever landed - and made a surge throughout the state. And Big Bend? Diversity was fantastic, and we only made it down there a few times! The festival list was also quite impressive.

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia), photo by Matt York.
Moths took on a whole new meaning to us in 2012, with regular sessions: Summer was great for blacklighting big moths and medium moths and little moths, but the fall threw amazing diversity at us. Biggest miss of the year: Mexican Agapema. We must have slept through it. But, really, the mothy highlight of the year: Plagiomimicus olvello, our beloved Planet Arium Moth.

Planet Arium Moth (Plagiomimicus olvello), photo by Matt York.
It will be interesting to see what 2013 brings; we're already off to a good start with more Red Crossbills and a Rough-legged Hawk! Rumor has it that August 8-11 will be the next birding festival out here, but details are still in the works.

Happy New Year and happy trails,
-Heidi & Matt


  1. Congratulations on a great year y'all!

    I'm still bummed I missed the Big Bend festival. Maybe next summer though. That's a pretty righteous list of righteous highlight birds.

    I hope the guiding picks up for y'all this year. I have one couple lined up end of January for my first real go of it, and I'll of course get in touch when I finally make it to the area!


    1. Laurence, we can't guarantee a Kaufman* sighting if your schedule doesn't fall within the festival (speakers may vary!) but we'll see if we can't round up some birds for you when you get out here. The down side to any festival is flexibility of logistics - Balmorhea is just not doable with a gaggle of ~30 people with last year's format!

      Good luck with your adventure and keep us posted! We're more than happy to send folks heading to AZ your way =)