A Reflection on 3 Years of Sitka Birding

Lapland Longspur

I got my my first telephoto lens for my first Canon digital Rebel in Fall 2003. Shortly after that time I got a little more serious about trying to photograph and identify birds in the Sitka area. I had taken a few pictures here and there, when the opportunity presented itself, but I never specifically tried to find birds to photograph. For that reason, October 2003 stands as the marker for the start of my Sitka birding adventure.

The Lapland Longspur pictured above represents the 130th species of bird I have photographed around Sitka in the 3 years since I got serious (well, as serious as I get, anyway). Although there are a few birds that are seen relatively frequently around Sitka that I have not yet photographed, I think I’ve pretty much managed to capture all the easy ones. I’m sure I’ll pick up a few more in the next year. If I’m lucky, I might even crack 150 species by the end of 2007. After that, I’ll probably gradually pick up the occasional, casual, or accidental birds that happen to show up at a time and place that I can see them. A few years of this and I might even push up toward 180 or so species. I suppose in the long run, there’s an outside shot that I could crack 200 species, but at this point I consider it kind of unlikely.

Of course the fascination with birds is not just about seeing and photographing new (for me) species. Getting better looks and photos of birds previously seen is always exciting. It’s also interesting to spend time watching what the birds are doing. Where and when do they show up? How do they interact with other birds and the rest of their environment? What can their actions tell me about the environment I am in? What variations are there in their songs? More than enough questions to keep me interested for a long time.

The birds (roughly in the order I first got a photograph which I was able to identify):
Fall/Winter 2003

  1. Harlequin Duck
  2. Great Blue Heron
  3. Surfbird
  4. Bald Eagle
  5. Common Merganser
  6. Black Turnstone
  7. American Dipper
  8. Belted Kingfisher
  9. Double-crested Cormorant
  10. Barrow’s Goldeneye
  11. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  12. Song Sparrow
  13. Willow Ptarmigan

Winter/Spring 2004 (through mid-May)

  1. American Coot
  2. Common Murre
  3. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  4. Common Raven
  5. Northwestern Crow
  6. Dark-eyed Junco
  7. Pine Siskin
  8. Mallard
  9. Winter Wren
  10. Ring-necked Duck
  11. Hairy Woodpecker
  12. Fox Sparrow
  13. Golden-crowned Sparrow
  14. Rufous Hummingbird
  15. Brant
  16. Red-breasted Sapsucker
  17. Savannah Sparrow
  18. American Robin
  19. Short-billed Dowitcher
  20. Dunlin
  21. Black-bellied Plover
  22. Northern Pintail
  23. Semipalmated Plover
  24. Marbled Godwit
  25. Northern Shoveler
  26. Greater Yellowlegs
  27. Western Sandpiper

Summer 2004 (mid-May through mid-August)

  1. Hermit Thrush
  2. Pectoral Sandpiper
  3. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  4. Wilson’s Warbler
  5. Bonaparte’s Gull
  6. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  7. Townsend’s Warbler
  8. Varied Thrush
  9. Spotted Sandpiper

Fall/Winter 2004 (mid-August through December)

  1. Brown-headed Cowbird
  2. Yellow Warbler
  3. White-crowned Sparrow
  4. Steller’s Jay
  5. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  6. Northern Flicker
  7. Hooded Merganser
  8. Bufflehead
  9. Mourning Dove
  10. Pacific Loon
  11. Pine Grosbeak
  12. Long-tailed Duck
  13. Red-breasted Merganser

Winter/Spring 2005 (January through mid-May)

  1. Rusty Blackbird
  2. Red Crossbill
  3. Baird’s Sandpiper
  4. Least Sandpiper
  5. Greater White-fronted Goose
  6. Lesser Scaup
  7. Orange-crowned Warbler
  8. Pacific Golden Plover
  9. Hudsonian Godwit
  10. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  11. Green-winged Teal
  12. Rock Sandpiper
  13. American Wigeon
  14. Red Knot

Summer 2005 (mid-May through mid-August)

  1. Tree Swallow
  2. Swainson’s Thrush
  3. Downy Woodpecker
  4. Red-winged Blackbird

Fall/Winter 2005 (mid-August through December)

  1. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  2. Mew Gull
  3. Common Loon
  4. Red-necked Grebe
  5. Surf Scoter
  6. Black Scoter
  7. Trumpeter Swan
  8. Cackling Goose
  9. Greater Scaup
  10. Canvasback
  11. Pelagic Cormorant
  12. Brown Creeper
  13. White-winged Crossbill
  14. Black Oystercatcher
  15. Common Goldeneye
  16. Horned Grebe

Winter/Spring 2006 (January through mid-May)

  1. Bohemian Waxwing
  2. Rhinocerous Auklet
  3. Slaty-backed Gull
  4. Glaucous Gull
  5. Northern Shrike
  6. American Pipit
  7. Glaucous-winged Gull
  8. Herring Gull
  9. Thayer’s Gull
  10. Rock Dove
  11. European Starling
  12. Marbled Murrelet
  13. Wilson’s Snipe
  14. Killdeer
  15. Northern Harrier
  16. Canada Goose
  17. Whimbrel
  18. Pigeon Guillemot
  19. Black-legged Kittiwake
  20. Ruddy Turnstone

Summer 2006 (mid-May through mid-August)

  1. Peregrine Falcon
  2. Tufted Puffin
  3. Red-necked Phalarope
  4. Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  5. Lesser Yellowlegs
  6. Red-tailed Hawk
  7. Long-billed Dowitcher

Fall/Winter 2006 (mid-August to mid-November)

  1. Horned Puffin
  2. Wandering Tattler
  3. Fork-tailed Storm-petrel
  4. Thick-billed Murre
  5. Snow Goose
  6. Nashville Warbler
  7. Lapland Longspur

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