January 1, 2005 [LINK]

A new year of birding

Golden-crowned kinglet New Year's Day in Staunton is balmy but rather cloudy, probably not much different than in Pasadena right now. On my first birding walk of the year I came tantalizingly close to getting a good shot of this Golden-crowned kinglet, but it moved just as I snapped the shutter. Well, at least you can see the crown, if not the beak. This one happened to be the first male of this species I had seen in some time; they are distinguished by bold orange feathers among the yellow ones, but sometimes they are more prominent than others. I also saw a Ruby-crowned kinglet nearby. Kinglets are tiny, even smaller than chickadees, but move very rapidly in search of small insects. Finally, there was a group of three screaming Red-tailed hawks, possibly warming up for courtship season, as well as several White-breasted nuthatches, Downy woodpeckers, a Red-bellied woodpecker, many titmice, cardinals, and all the other usuals except for no juncos at all.

As in the year before, nearly all the new life birds I saw in 2004 were in Latin America, 31 of 35 to be exact. I looked at the annual data on my Life bird list and noticed that, after declining steadily from 1997 to 2001, the annual number of new birds I've seen has been increasing by greater and greater increments each year. That pace will be hard to maintain in 2005, but there is a strong possibility of another venture south of the border...