A (not so) big year

A “big year” is a US birder’s idiom : trying to see as many different birds as possible in a given year (see 2011 movie “The big year” featuring Owen Wilson). At first, the playing field was limited to the US, but as  travel became more widespread, the concept opened up to other countries, continents, and of course the world. Also with interesting twists : an “eco-friendly” big year where all sightings are made around one’s home without the help of fossil fuel for travel.

Now with year end approaching, i looked at how many birds i have seen this year, and the total is a decent 1098. More interestingly, restricting the area to the Oriental region, the total is 851. Now to put things in perspectives, there are over 11000 birds in the world, and some birders manage to see close to 3000 of them in a single year, so my “performance” is rather modest after all.

Finally to the point of this post : here is a selection of the 12 best birds i have seen this year, and for which i managed to get a decent pic. Because, alas, i’ve had great sightings without being able to snap a shot (Geomalia… Bornean Ground Cuckoo…) but let’s forget about them.

1 Steller’s Eagle (Rausu, Hokkaido, Japan – February 2013) : Not a hard bird to find in Hokkaido in winter, but an ever spectacular one, and i was happy to frame it taking off in front of the rising sun.

2 Okinawa Rail (Yambaru, Okinawa, Japan – March 2013) : Amazingly, this very distinctive rail was only properly discovered 30 years ago in the jungles of North Okinawa. This confiding bird put on a great show just after a downpour.

3 White-bellied Heron (and Ibisbill) (Punakha, Bhutan – April 2013) : The future of this beautiful heron, now critically endangered,  is very bleak, as its habitat of wild forested rivers is disappearing fast, even in the remotest parts of the eastern Himalayas. I was lucky to frame this individual as it interacted with another Himalaya star bird, the bizarre Ibisbill.

4 Chestnut-bellied Tesia (Limethang Road, Bhutan – April 2013) : Not a rare bird, but surely a very pretty one, and a true skulker that very rarely sits in the open. Well this one sat for about 3 seconds, just enough tine for a single shot.

5 Blood Pheasant (Limethang Road, Bhutan – April 2013) : One of my favorite pheasant, and a rather cooperative one .

6 Sillem’s Mountain Finch (Western Qinghai, China – May 2013) : Having some sense of ownership with this mysterious finch, that i am apparently the only living person to have seen, i returned to the sighting location this year and was able to get closer views of a male bird.

7 Sabine’s Gull (Spitzbergen, Norway – July 2013) : A rare and smart looking gull breeding only in the high arctic.

8 Standardwing (Halmahera, Indonesia – September 2013) : Birding doesn’t get any better than watching Birds of Paradise at a Lek. It was very challenging to shoot pictures only using available light, but i was quite pleased with this shot.

9 Ivory-breasted Pitta (Halmahera, Indonesia – September 2013) : A year cannot be big without a Pitta. Getting clear, unobstructed views of this Ivory-breasted Pitta was certainly one of the highlights of this year.

10 Satanic Nightjar (Lore Lindu NP, Sulawesi. Indonesia – September 2013) : Nightjars don’t get more cryptic than this one, so finding a roosting bird takes a lot of time and luck, …. or a tip from a friendly local guide!

11 Whitehead’s Trogon (Mt Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia – October 2013) : Spotting this gem in the midst of thick undergrowth, and being able to dig a clean shot was the highlight of my first trip to Borneo.

12 Lesser Flamingo (Lake Nakuru, Kenya – November 2013) : With the high water levels at the time of our visits, there were “only” a few hundreds of them around when we visited Lake Nakuru, but enough to enjoy an amazing sight.

3 thoughts on “A (not so) big year

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