Welcome to my 2018 Twelve Days of Photos, where I look at one of the images I chose to include in my best of year selection and talk a bit about it. To see the entire list of images I chose and learn more about my year in photography, please check out my 2018 Best Photos of the Year post. You can also look at all of the images over on my Smugmug Portfolio Site, and I’ve embedded a slideshow at the end of this post. To see a larger version of the image, you can click on it.

Tropical Kingbird, San Joaquin Reserve, Irvine, California

After a nice and relaxing trip through Oregon and a bit of Washington, we got home, and about then my sister had her first chemotherapy treatment, and things didn’t go well. By the time I got on the road for Southern California she and the doctors had decided to shift to hospice treatment and now we were thinking about making her comfortable, spending time with her and helping her partner and family deal with this sudden change in everyone’s life.

So over the next couple of months I made multiple trips south as I could, trying to juggle home life, work life (they were amazingly patient and supportive) and all of the little bits and pieces of trying to be helpful but not in the way with my sister and her care and everyone around her. In some ways it’s all a bit of a blur, but on most trips I tried to carve out some time to go off birding, often at Irvine’s San Joaquin Marsh preserve, one of the best birding locations in Orange County. It is a former sewage treatment plant settling pond area converted back to managed open space with swimming ponds for ducks and water birds and wading ponds for shorebirds, and walking trails around them for those that want to go out and look and explore.

This is a bird I saw early in my first trip, which I made notes to myself as a Western Kingbird, and took some shots, but as soon as I saw the photos I realized that was wrong, and after some research decided was a Tropical Kingbird, rather rare for that location in winter, but we’re seeing a higher number than normal of the birds at various locations in the state this year for some reason (it happens). I reported it to eBird, and later got a confirmation from the reviewer that it was in fact a Tropical Kingbird, which was a fun bird to be able to tick off my list for the year (another bird I thought was also a Tropical Kingbird was in fact a Cassin’s Kingbird, more common for that area but another species to tick off the annual list).

This bird, as you can see, has just caught a nice-sized bug, which it is about to eat. There’s a reason they birds are placed in the Flycatcher world of the bird family tree.