In 2013 I birded in two countries, submitted eBird checklists for seven U.S. states and thirty-seven counties, and added a whopping ninety-two species to my life list. At the beginning of the year I said the following about my goals for the year’s birding:

I start 2013 with 297 birds on my Queens Life List, 500 birds on my ABA Life List, and 1,096 birds on my World Life List. I would like to end 2013 with 303, 512, and 1,150 birds on those lists.

I only got my Queens Life List up to 302, which means I fell one short of that goal.

I managed to get my ABA Life List up to exactly 512, which means I did actually manage to meet that goal, but barely.

My World Life List ended the year at 1,188, which means that I smashed through that goal with relative ease. (Though I have been badly lazy and still haven’t updated my list on the blog.)

But what were my top ten birding moments of 2013? I didn’t travel much this year, with a June family trip to California and Nevada and a four-day trip in July to Trinidad and Tobago being my only opportunities to get birds not in the northeastern United States. Despite that, I managed to see 511 species in 2013, which is not half-bad. Hopefully I will see at least that many species in 2014! Anyway, on to my top ten birding moments of 2013…

Honorable Mentions – Twitching Northern Lapwings in New Jersey, a mini-Big Day in Queens, another mini-Big Day in Queens, digiscoping with my new spotting scope, seeing a bunch of owls in one day in New York City, spending quality time with a Black-throated Sparrow, learning the common birds of Tobago, an Arctic Loon in southern Califonia in summer, a great trip to Santa Cruz Island, hiking at Mt. Baldy, enjoying my local birds at the Forest Park waterhole, an hour in autumn at Tanner’s Spring in Central Park, a pretty rough pelagic trip in New York waters, compiling the Queens County CBC, finally seeing a guillemot in New York, a spunky Winter Wren

10. Birding Staten Island with Jeff Gordon during the 17-Year Cicada Explosion

I had a great half-day out with Jeff in Staten Island enjoying one of the coolest natural phenomena that the New York City region has to offer. The Mississippi Kite certainly didn’t hurt either but it couldn’t top the awesomeness that is more insects than you can count all making eerie noises. (It’s worth the click-through just to listen to the audio on the videos in the post.)

a 17-Year Cicada

9. Getting my first-ever King Rail in my hometown

Rails are cool birds to begin with and to see one on a relatively long-distance twitch to my hometown made this one all the cooler. Now if I could only find a Black Rail somewhere.

8. Doing battle with the cat crazies and fighting to get Ted Williams back at Audubon Magazine

Sure, this wasn’t a “birding moment” in the strictest sense but it is related to birding and it is one of my top accomplishments for the year. We birders must push back against the uninformed, ignorant, hordes who seek to put their obsession with a non-native predator over that of native species.

7. Checking out Red-breasted Blackbirds at the Aripo Agricultural Research Station

Really, my entire last day in Trinidad and Tobago should qualify here but I haven’t that full day up so the Red-breasted Blackbirds will stand in. It was a great day loaded with great birds!

Red-breasted Blackbird

6. Seeing the first state record of Elegant Tern in New York

Elegant Terns are, well, elegant, and getting to see the first one ever to appear in the Empire State was wonderfully rewarding, the more so for it taking me two tries.

New York State’s first Elegant Tern

5. Enjoying the City of Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve

My first trip to Nevada since I became a birder was pretty awesome. The City of Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve was the highlight, with so many birds in so short a time that my head is still spinning.

Verdin at the City of Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve

4. The Scarlet Ibis show at Caroni Swamp

Every birder should get to witness this amazing spectacle. Seriously, go to Trinidad and Tobago right now and see the ibis. You will not be disappointed.

3. Finally seeing my 300th species in Queens

Though the looks at the Western Kingbird were lousy the fact that I finally reached the 300-bird level in Queens meant that, well, that I had seen 300 species in Queens!

2. My life Gyrfalcon

Do I really need to explain why my first encounter with a Gyrfalcon would rank very high on my list of birding moments in 2013? I didn’t think so.

1. The Snowy Owl invasion and everything that came with it

The most exciting part of 2013 was the insane numbers of Snowy Owls that irrupted to the eastern and midwestern United States. The blogosphere erupted in Snowy Owl posts, interactions between Snowy Owls and other species were shared, they started shooting Snowy Owls at JFK Airport, and, within twelve hours of that news becoming public, birders forced them to stop. Not only that, but I learned that Snowy Owls can fly!

Snowy Owl in flight

What were your top birding moments of 2013? And what do you think they will be in 2014?

Whatever you saw this year or plan to see next year we at 10,000 Birds wish you a happy, healthy, and bird-full 2014!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.