It looks like my birding year is more or less done, I don’t expect to get out and do any significant birding until the new year. My year list closes at 191 species, highest since 2010. A small number for many birds (it looks like the big year record has just been broken at an unconfirmed 746 species) but it’s about where I expect my birding to end up.

I’m not a birder that chases rarities — twitch — or go out of my way to build the list count; I tend to return to a smaller number of locations because I enjoy watching how they change over the seasons; to me, birding is a recreation and a relaxation, not a competition, so my lists are there just to see what I did, not something to drive what I ought to be doing. There’s no right or wrong way to bird, it’s whatever makes you happy. My preference is to go out and relax and have a good time and see what happens.

That said, you can gain understanding from looking at the information in the lists, and they can help you plan for future trips. Since I don’t travel much, most of my birding is local to home — Santa Clara county (102 species), Merced (94), San Luis Obispo (78) San Mateo (59), Monterey (48) were the top counties for the year. Interestingly I never birded in San Benito county (Panoche Valley), primarily because the drought has hurt habitat out there. Still, that’s something I’ll fix before spring.  I also don’t bird to my north: San Francisco, Marin, and out into Alameda and Contra Costa. I don’t really know why, either, and those are areas I really ought to be exploring.

My life list for Santa Clara County is now 206 with 5 new birds: Phaenopepla, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Horned Lark, Wrentit (finally), and Lazuli Bunting. eBird shows 282 species for the year in the county, so I only found 36% of the county birds this year (the top birder for the county hit 262 species). My rank in the county is 64.

It was a good year for seeing new species — I was able to add 12 new species this year, Pacific Wren (although it may have been a Winter Wren, either would be a lifer), Bell’s Sparrow, Mountain Plover (finally — they’ve been hiding from me for four years now), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Swainson’s Hawk, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Lazuli Bunting, Pileated Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Black-capped Chickadee, Swainson’s thrush, and while sitting in Mom’s back yard after christmas, Nutmeg Mannikin when a small flock wandered by to say hi.

The Mannikin’s were an interesting find, since I wasn’t looking for them (or anything), but I noticed a flock of Bushtits had wandered into the yard and were flitting back and forth among the trees bugging — only to realize the flock was silent. Bushtits are many things, but quiet isn’t one of them. Out popped the binoculars, and one last bird gets added to the lists… Just a reminder that so much of birding is about behaviors and sounds, not how the birds look…

In 2014? Probably more of the same, although I expect the Yellowstone trip I’m planning will give me some species outside my normal range.  it’s all about fun, not about numbers… At least it is for me..