As we are about to close out 2021 and start touring all over again for 2022, I thought it would be nice to take a look back through my photo collection for the year and pull out a few of my personal highlights from each month. 2021 turned out to be a great year as far as birding and wildlife-watching goes, and we ran some incredible tours all over North America. I racked up my highest ABA year list in 2021 actually, with 620 species seen! At the start of the year my lifer target was Baird’s Sparrow – the final remaining nesting species in the Lower 48 that I hadn’t yet seen – and Chris and I nailed that one on our Montana tour back in June! I was also very lucky to snag 7 very rare ABA lifers this year including Steller’s Sea-Eagle, Redwing, Social Flycatcher, Short-tailed Albatross, Tundra Bean-Goose, and Gray-breasted Martin! So check out some of my highlights below… these aren’t necessarily my best photos from 2021, but they represent special and exciting moments out in the field. To see my full collection of bird photos from 2021, check out my eBird library. Hope to see you out there in 2022! Happy New Year!
This Redwing was my first lifer of 2021 and a major rarity to the Lower 48. We saw it in Maine among a large flock of American Robins. A fairly notable invasion of these Eurasian thrushes occurred in the Northeast with multiple sightings from Maine to Nova Scotia. Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
Another nice winter rarity, this adult Pink-footed Goose was incredibly cooperative for photos at a small, mostly frozen pond in Rhode Island. I’ve seen this increasing vagrant a handful of times, but never this well! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
The winter of 2020/2021 was probably most notable among birders as being a ‘superflight’ of finches, with 1000s of redpolls, crossbills, grosbeaks, and other northern songbirds moving south into the eastern US. Having spent much of the winter in New England we were treated to some great moments with finches, but this encounter with ‘Black Spruce’ Red Crossbills along the coast of Massachusetts was a major highlight for me! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
For much of April you can often find me in southern Texas, and in 2021 that was particularly true because we ran my RGV tour twice! The undeniable highlight for me was seeing this adult male Hook-billed Kite soaring low over the Bentsen State Park hawkwatch tower! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
May was full of warblers and other beautiful songbirds migrating north, but for me a definitive highlight was being able to finally add my 3rd and final phalarope species to my PA life list – my home state, and a very cherished list for me! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
Each June we run our Maine: Mountains to Coast tour, and it’s always so peaceful and relaxing to spend time up there on the rocky shorelines and visit some incredible seabird colonies. An early morning trip out to Petit Manan Island made for a truly special encounter with this close-up Atlantic Puffin. Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
This past summer, particularly July, was marked by a major northward invasion of southern herons, egrets, and spoonbills. Most notable among them was this stunning “Great White Heron” found in urban Philadelphia. This all-white form of the Great Blue Heron should really only occur in the southern third of Florida, so seeing one mid-summer in Philly was mind-blowing! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
August included an incredible time spent leading our annual tour to Arizona’s Sky Islands, but on a personal level it marked a return for our second fall in a row to Cape May – a much beloved place for me, and many other birders. Lauren led the songbird banding operation there and we enjoyed a wonderful fall there. It’s always great to take a stroll on the beach and see shorebirds up close, including the adorable Piping Plovers. Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
My favorite moments from September primarily involve being out on the open ocean. In late September we had an absolutely awesome pelagic out of Westport, Washington which included some of the best experiences I could ever wish to have with Short-tailed Shearwater! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
In September, during a short gap between by CA and WA tours, I was able to jump on a whale-watching boat to chase down a super rare seabird (which I’ll get to in a moment) but the trip was also highlighted by being able to watch Humpback Whales feeding! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
This juvenile Short-tailed Albatross was my most unexpected lifer of 2021. It had been sighted off the coast of LA earlier in the fall and then randomly popped up in Monterey, so I jumped on the next whale watch and we were lucky to get right on the bird! This is one of the World’s rarest seabirds. Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
This Monterey whale-watching trip was just off the charts…. Humpback Whales feeding, a close encounter with the Short-tailed Albatross, and then we also saw 2 Orcas!! This big guy is “Fatfin” aka CA171B; a large male Bigg’s Transient Orca that spent a few weeks in Monterey Bay. Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
October in Cape May is of course famous for the raptor migration, and this close view of a juvenile Northern Harrier was a fun moment! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
I got back out on the sea in October too, this time off the coast of NJ where the seabirding was slow but the 30+ Loggerhead Sea Turtles made it a trip to remember! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
November is the month of crazy rarities springing up across the US, and here’s one that was on no one’s radar – a stunning hybrid between Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Couch’s/Tropical Kingbird found in coastal New Hampshire! Wow! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.
In December, Lauren and I attempted to delay the start of winter by escaping to Florida. We led some fieldtrips at the North Shore Birding Festival and then spent a relaxing week on the Gulf Coast with her family. The birding highlight was being able to see this major Florida rarity – an Elegant Tern which should be in southern CA or the Baja Peninsula! Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.