2020 Year in Review

What can I even say about 2020? It was a year like no other, that’s for sure. The Covid-19 pandemic changed our lives in many ways, including birding. In early March I started working from home. It was the most time during daylight hours that I’d ever spent at home – my usual routine was go to work during the weekdays and go to birding locations in the evenings and on the weekends. Being home every day, I was amazed at how many good birds could be seen right in my own yard.

~Lincoln’s Sparrow in my yard, 05/03/20.~

Our yard, of course, had plenty of the usuals – chickadees, titmice, wrens etc… but we also had some more interesting birds. I was shocked to see that a pair of Wood Ducks had taken to roosting in the trees in our yard for short time at the end of April. A Wood Thrush spent the morning in our side garden on May 1st; I thought that was pretty cool but it was easily topped by my “Yard Bird of The Year”, a LINCOLN’S SPARROW in the back yard just two days later. Spending time on the back deck and looking to the sky after wrapping up work proved to be productive, with some interesting flyovers: Common Nighthawk, Great Egret, SANDHILL CRANE, and many Bald Eagles. The vultures continued to roost in the evergreens in the backyard. We had success with a hummingbird feeder for the first time. We watched Blue Jays successfully fledge their young in the backyard, while sadly all the eggs were taken one night from the American Robin’s nest in the front yard. In the fall, we had Red-breasted Nuthatches hanging around. It was a silver lining of the pandemic to be able to get a better picture of just what goes on around here when I’m gone.

~Lesser Black-backed Gull on the Hudson River in Newburgh, 05/23/20.~

YEAR OF THE GULL IN ORANGE COUNTY

I had an amazing year with gulls in Orange County, having observed eight different species in 2020. Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed are expected and were seen many times throughout the year. Bonaparte’s are reliable most every year and I had a couple of sitings in April. I had only one Iceland for the year, in January. At the end of March, Bruce Nott located a beautiful young LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. I was able to track that bird down on three occasions. On July 10th, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Fay, I went to Kowawese Unique Area and scanned for gulls in the rain. I was rewarded with a fly-by FRANKLIN’S GULL. It was not only a county bird for me, but a lifer as well (my only life bird of 2020!). Then, on August 4th, in the evening, at the tail end of Tropical Storm Isaias, I had my eighth and final gull species in the county for the year: a hatch year LAUGHING GULL.

~Franklin’s Gull at Kowawese Unique Area on the Hudson River, 07/10/20.~
~Laughing Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 08/04/20.~
~What a joy to have a GOLDEN EAGLE hanging around the black dirt. February 2020.~

There were, of course, many other highlights for me through the year. In January there was a Greater White-fronted Goose at Skinner Lane. In February, there was a gorgeous young GOLDEN EAGLE hanging around the black dirt terrorizing Snow Geese. I couldn’t believe that bird was around and I couldn’t get enough of it. In March I ran for a Eurasian Wigeon at the Bashakill; it wasn’t the greatest look but that’s always an excellent bird to see. In April I had a FORSTER’S TERN as well as a Caspian Tern in Newburgh, as well as a pair of Surf Scoters at Wickham Lake.

On May 18th, Bruce Nott found another great bird, a BLACK TERN in breeding plumage at the Liberty Loop. In early June Rob Stone found a Wilson’s Phalarope at the Camel Farm. I ran for that bird at lunchtime; it was my 260th life bird in Orange County. In late July, when the pandemic was seemingly starting to get under control, we took our only trip of the year and spent just over a week on the Maine coast. We enjoyed taking the Puffin Watch Cruise out to Eastern Egg Rock Island, where I got my best looks and photos of puffins yet.

~The infamous Carson C. Waxwing, August 15, 2020.~

August, which is typically associated with the doldrums of birding, brought one of my favorite stories of the year. While birding at Beaver Pond on August 15th, a fledging Cedar Waxwing (later to be named Carson C. Waxwing) flew down and landed on my scope and then hopped onto my hand. I eventually rescued Carson and delivered him to The Avian Wildlife Center for rehabilitation. If you missed this story the first time around, you can catch up here, here, and here. I think it’s worth a read. I spoke with Giselle at the center today, and the latest update is that Carson is still at the center, where it has molted and now will over-winter before being released in the spring. So, it’s still looking good for a successful recovery… touch wood, fingers crossed, etc…

~Always a favorite – Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Skinner’s Lane 09/13/20.~

In early September I enjoyed a couple of BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS out at Skinner’s Lane, always a favorite. Later in the month I spent a weekend in the Adirondacks, where I did really well getting many of my target species: Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Canada Jay, and my first ever decent look at a Ruffed Grouse. In October I counted the only GOLDEN EAGLE of the season at Mount Peter Hawkwatch on the 17th. At the end of the month I got a fantastic look at a LAPLAND LONGSPUR at Skinner’s. November was pretty exciting with my first ever BARNACLE GOOSE and RED CROSSBILLS in Orange County. I have been waiting for ages to get a Barnacle in the county! December has been a good month too, with another Lapland Longspur (this one at Turtle Bay), and a worthwhile trip to Rye, NY where I saw my first ever Glaucous Gull in NYS.

~Very cool bird. LAPLAND LONGSPUR at Skinner’s Lane, 10/31/20.~

TOP TEN PHOTOS

This is my favorite part. I really enjoy looking back and picking out the photographs which speak to me and seem to have held up; I hope you enjoy my choices.

~Pic of the year for me. Great Blue Heron in the Adirondacks, 09/19/20.~
~Atlantic Puffin in flight, Eastern Egg Rock Island 07/20/20.~
~A yard bird made the list! Baltimore Oriole in my backyard, 07/04/20.~
~Red-winged Blackbird at Knapp’s View on 06/25/20.~
~American Golden-Plover at Morningside Park, 08/30/20.~
~Canada Jay in the Adirondacks, 09/20/20.~
~Field Sparrow with a bill-full. Hamptonburgh Preserve, 06/07/20.~
~Bay-breasted Warbler at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 05/16/20.~
~Prairie Warbler at Goosepond Mountain, 05/25/20.~
~Common Loon at Follensby Clear Pond, 09/19/20.~

So, I guess that’s a wrap on 2020. As always, I’d like to thank everyone who reads the blog . I’d also like to thank all my birding friends out there for yet another excellent year of birding, you know who you are. Happy New Year to everyone out there, here’s hoping that 2021 will be a better, birdier year.

10 thoughts on “2020 Year in Review”

  1. FABULOUS review< Matt, and perfectly done in both word and photo. I was reflecting on my bird year, as I do every New Years Eve and smiling at those wonderful birds that I never would have predicted at the end of last year. One of the great highlights, as you have also mentioned, is the people with whom we have shared the joys of sightings or even misses because the times together are worth much more than gold.
    Have a Happy New Year and stay safe and happy and healthy.

  2. I just love reading your blog and looking at the pictures. Thank you for sharing! I agree with the heron picture being your picture of the year- it’s stunning!

    1. Thanks, I love that photograph. We had it printed relatively large (30″x20″) and are just waiting for it to be framed – can’t wait! Matt

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