2008: Untold stories

2009 January 16
by David J. Ringer

DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — 2008 is gone. (Actually it’s been gone for two weeks. How did that happen?) My 2008 year list finished up at a fairly respectable 721 species, from Greater Rhea (Argentina) to Painted Bunting (Texas); from Acorn Woodpecker (Costa Rica) to Zebra Finch (Timor); from Common Starling (Oklahoma) to Ross’s Goose (Missouri).

I shared a lot of the adventure with you along the way: There were the motmots; the quetzals and the hummingbirds; the shama and the hornbills; the Kagus (oh, the Kagus!); the pitta and the kangaroos; the reflections on a season; the shrikes and crossbills ….

But there was a lot more too. Here are a few glimpses of what you missed:


I started 2008 on the plains of western Oklahoma with good friends Charley Burwick and Lisa Berger. We had more Ferruginous Hawks (shown here) than we could imagine, plus Rough-legged Hawks, Prairie Falcons, Mountain Chickadees (irrupting down from the mountains), Bushtits, a Sage Thrasher, Golden Eagles, and a Black-billed Magpie. It was a great way to start the year. More photos here.


Just before I left the States in February, white trout lilies (Erythronium albidum) had started to bloom. They are one of the earliest harbingers of spring in north-central Texas. More photos (including snipe and cedars) in the gallery.


I became acquainted with horneros in Argentina and Paraguay. Horneros are small and rather nondescript, but they are very, very noisy. This nest belonged to a Rufous Hornero in Naranjal, Paraguay. In Spanish, ‘hornero’ means someone having to do with ovens — a name inspired by the resemblance of their nests to clay ovens.


I spent a few days in the agricultural community of Naranjal, Paraguay. Once covered in tropical forest, this eastern part of the country is now largely stripped of native vegetation and planted with soybean fields. Which is good for doves: Eared Doves, Ruddy Ground Doves, Picui Ground Doves, and Picazuro Pigeons. And Smooth-billed Anis, which lurk in the hedgerows.


I got to see more of Paraguay by road. This is the dry, spiny chaco. We spent most of three days in a truck, and the moments when we were outside, I was battling food poisoning and clouds of mosquitoes and trying to work. But I got a spectacular Southern Screamer sitting by a farm pond, and I saw Jabirus and flocks (yes, flocks!) of Snail Kites over the wet palm savannas. I’ve got to go back!


I think I found Rufous-collared Sparrows at nearly every spot I stopped in Latin America, from Costa Rica to Buenos Aires and from sea level to 11,000 feet. Apparently, they are quite happy around people. They are congeners with White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows.


I got a chance to visit Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where this sunning Guira Cuckoo (Guira guira) posed for a portrait. I had good birding at the reserve: Great Grebe, Gray-necked Wood Rail, Pampa Finch, White-lined Tanager, etc. But unfortunately, the pools that often hold large numbers of waterfowl were dry.


Chalk-browed Mockingbird (Mimus saturninus) was another species I encountered in the reserve and in the plazas of Buenos Aires. There are more photos in my Costanera Sur gallery.


During a stopover at a linguistics training program in Córdoba, Argentina, I was entertained by a family of Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia). If I got to close, they didn’t hesitate to let me know.


And there were Southern Lapwings too, a very noisy, conspicuous, and entertaining plover relative. More photos in the Córdoba gallery.


Chile in mid-March: Kelp Gulls (Larus dominicanus) were abundant, and I saw my first cinclodes and Chimango Caracaras. Whirlwind trip with no serious birding time. A few more photos.


Missouri in September: The story was terns and shorebirds. This immature Caspian Tern was still begging food from its parents. More late-summer Missouri shots.


My first encounter with aspens in Colorado just about blew my mind. More color and mountains.


Back in Dallas, long lines of Double-crested Cormorants grunted across the sky. The year was nearly through.

Related posts:

  1. Birdless Buenos Aires
4 Responses
  1. January 16, 2009

    Stunning photos. I need to get out of DFW more often as I’m amazed at the wonders you find only a few hours away from home, let alone with your travels outside the country.

    I wonder how many of us have untold stories like these (although perhaps not as exquisite or remote)… I know I’ve been going through photos and journals from last year and keep finding things that deserved more attention than they received.

  2. January 21, 2009

    Thank you, Jason.

  3. January 28, 2009

    What a year you’ve had, David. Following your global adventures has been great fun. Here’s hoping 2009 is at least as exciting!

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