27 December 2008

Top Ten Lifers of 2008: Number 5

I added over 100 birds to my ABA list this year so narrowing down the select few to ten is nearly impossible. Once again I'm going to cheat a little and name these Buteos or Buteo-like (as Sibley calls them) Hawks all under Number 5: Harris's Hawk, Gray Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, and Swainson's Hawk.

The first three hawks on the list were all picked up at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. Harris's Hawks were nearly EVERYWHERE I went while in Texas but they have to make the list because they are such a beautiful hawk. I wish we had Harris's Hawks in Florida. My lifer Gray Hawk was probably one of the highlights of the Rio Grande for me. It was found on the Upper Rio trip and sat perched on a snag for over 30 minutes. Not many birds are that cooperative and I really had a chance to soak in this gorgeous bird. My lifer White-tailed Hawk was also a stunning bird to behold. What is even better about this sighting is that Bill of the Birds offered me his scope to watch this bird circle overhead. I could pick up every detail as it crossed our path. I may not have showed my excitement at the time but this was truly a wonderful gift on the King Ranch trip.

My lifer Gray Hawk perched on a snag by the Rio Grande.

The Broad-winged, Short-tailed, and Swainson's Hawks were all seen while birding with Andy. Really all the hawks on this list were found with him minus the White-tailed Hawk. I'm going to have to consider calling him my raptor magent. While Andy was living in Tallahassee, FL we successfully attempted a Big Day event where I picked up my first Broad-winged. Oddly enough it was our ONLY hawk of our Big Day, were we tallied over 100 species while fighting the rain and wind. The Short-tailed was seen circling overhead Matheson Hammock in Miami. It was one of those perfect birding experiences because a dark morph Short-tailed and a light adult were both in our binos at the same time. Comparisons like that are unforgettable.

The Swainson's Hawk was picked up just a few weeks ago in an agricultural field outside Everglades National Park. We were getting ready to leave, feeling defeated because the week before dozens of Swainson's were around when a large kettle of vultures emerged. After a brief bit of scanning I found my Swainson's in the mix. I love finding new birds easily but a little bit of searching makes the find so much more sweeter.

Tomorrow I will go back to my one bird format. The nice thing about making your own rules is you're allowed to bend them a little. The top 4 birds on the list are all singular in nature but superb finds for the year.

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