Travis and the year that was – Whirlwind review 2013

Travis begins his quest in Miami April 2014

Travis begins his quest in Miami April 2014

Leica Store Miami manager Peter Dooling ceremoniously unpacks the Traveling Trinovid and it’s off to the races. With the assistance of Rangel Diaz and Rafael Galvez the first birds are enjoyed and the Traveling Trinovid receives his name “Travis”- it’s April 7th, 2013. Forty species were seen to include Piping Plover, Brown Pelican, Anhinga, and other Florida specialties. A rare Tropical Kingbird provides a first “rarity” through these famed bins.

David La Puma preparing to add Yellow Rail

David La Puma, PhD preparing to add Yellow Rail

Near Galveston, Texas, David La Puma (new Director of Cape May Bird Observatory) adds Yellow Rail and a Ruff along with a bunch of other goodies (Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Swainson’s Hawks, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers)! The count climbs to 184 species…

Edison Buenano carrying Travis in Florida

Edison Buenano carrying Travis in Florida

Talented, Edison Buenano would host Travis next – up from South America where he guides people to see AMAZING birds – He and Kevin Laughlin of Wildside Nature Tours skirted Florida rains and add a few more.

John Sterling helps the cause

John Sterling helps the cause

California birding legend John Sterling aids the cause and after a few days birding around San Francisco the count climbs to 275 (Allen’s Hummingbirds, Wrentits, Chestnut-backed Chickadees and more…)

Victor Emanuel carrying the Traveling Trinovid

Victor Emanuel carrying the Traveling Trinovid

Over 10 days at the “Biggest Week in American Birding” in Northern Ohio. Travis receives the real celebrity treatment, birding with Victor Emanuel, Kenn & Kim Kaufman, Don & Lillian Stokes, Rafael Galvez, Erik Bruhnke, and others. Over 30 species of warblers were tallied among other migrants and the count climbs over 325 species for the year!

Kenn & Kim Kaufman

Kenn & Kim Kaufman

Still no time to rest. From Ohio a beeline to Hog Island in Maine.

Travis heads off shore in Maine with BT3!

Travis heads off shore in Maine with BT3!

Carried expertly by Bill Thompson III (editor Bird Watcher’s Digest) Travis was treated to first views of Atlantic Puffins and other north Atlantic specialties (Cory’s Shearwater, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Great Cormorant, Black Guillemot…) The next time you are with Bill check his left hand, it’s a match for the one holding Travis here! ;p

Traveling Trinovids visit the Prairie

Traveling Trinovids visit the Prairie

Same hand different habitat, Travis accompanied Bill to his next stop the Potholes & Prairie Fest in North Dakota, where Bill and Erik Bruhnke (Chris Wood & Jessie Barry – eBird were birding here as well) once again aided in adding marvelous specialties – Baird’s, Nelson’s, & Le Conte’s Sparrows, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Sprague’s Pipit…) The count climbs to 388!

Golden-cheeked Warbler country

Golden-cheeked Warbler country

Jeff Bouton (Manager of Leica Sport Optics, Birding / Nature markets) brought Travis on an Austin, TX sales call with a afternoon stop for Golden-cheeked Warblers.

Tom taking in the auklet scene on St Paul Island (© Doug Gochfeld)

Tom Johnson taking in the auklet scene on St Paul Island

From Left to Right, The Three Amigos of St Paul Island Tours: Cameron Cox, Scott Schuette and Doug Gochfeld (© Mark Garland)

From Left to Right, The Three Amigos of St Paul Island Tours: Cameron Cox, Scott Schuette and Doug Gochfeld (© Mark Garland)

Tom Johnson was our next host to carry Travis out to famed St. Paul Island in the Pribilof Islands situated between Alaska & Siberia! With assistance of talented guides Scott Schuette, Doug Gochfeld, & Cameron Cox, Travis wracks up some great birds including expected species like Red-legged Kittiwake & the 2 pacific Puffin species (sweeping that category). Count breaks 420 species after three months of birding.

Leica/ABA Camp Colorado celebrates White-tailed Ptarmigan success! (© Jeff Gordon)

Leica/ABA Camp Colorado celebrates White-tailed Ptarmigan success! (© Jeff Gordon)

At the American Birding Association’s young birder camp in Colorado, Travis birds with 20+ up and coming birding stars, and some others like Jeff Gordon (President of ABA), Steve Howell, & Jennie Duberstein to add some of Colorado’s famed montane species. The count reaches 451 species!

Jennie hiking at Marshall Gulch in the Catalinas, Tucson, Arizona, 2011

Jennie hiking at Marshall Gulch in the Catalinas, Tucson, Arizona, 2011

From ABA to Victor Emanuel Nature Tour’s youth Camp Chiracahua in Arizona. Jennie is here again with additional expert guidance from mentors Michael O’Brien & Louise Zemaitis. Both are accomplished authors, artists, professional tour leaders, and like Jennie, absolutely passionate about sharing the outdoors with people of all ages! One of the campers is ABA’s Young Birder of the Year 2012, Marie McGee! Great birds like Plain-capped Starthroat & the first of the Blue-footed Boobies to be found in 2013′s unprecedented invasion is the 511th species on Travis’ big year!

the Nemesis Birders!

the Nemesis Birders take Travis offshore!

The Nemisis Bird blog crew offers to take Travis for a whirl; a look about Cape May and then offshore in the mid Atlantic. (Mike Lanzone, Alex Lamoureaux, Drew Weber…) They’d tack on 8 more species bringing the count to 519.

Travis visits the Keys!

Travis visits the Keys!

Next stop – the Florida Keys Hawkwatch to catch a part of the historic world record Peregrine Falcon count of 3956 PEFA in a single season. Travis is on the platform with Rafael Galvez, Jeff Bouton, (FL birding phenom & professional guide) David Simpson, and hawk counters Kerry & Rachel for the peak flight of the season with 429 Peregrines tallied in a single day! The year bird tally soars to 530 species and counting with addition of Shiny Cowbird, Short-tailed Hawk, White-crowned Pigeon, Common Myna…

John Puschock owner Zugunruhe Birding Tours zbirdtours.com

John Puschock owner Zugunruhe Birding Tours zbirdtours.com

Next Travis is shipped to John Puschock owner / operator of Zugunruhe Birding Tours for the incredible Barrow, Alaska trip run in conjunction with the ABA. As promised, many Ross’ Gulls were seen along with Spectacled Eider, Yellow-billed Loons, Willow Ptarmigan… the count climbs to 536.

Staff and guides at the ABA Rally San Diego, October 2013

Staff and guides at the ABA Rally San Diego, October 2013

Next John carries Travis on to the ABA Rally in San Diego, CA. ABA staffers and professional guides here include (L to R bottom) – Jeff Gordon, George Armistead, Jeff Bouton (Leica), Nate Swick, Tyler Bell, Jane Kostenko.  Top - Paul Lehman, Forrest Roland, Jon Dunn, Ben Thesing, John Puschock, Ben Lizdas, Liz Gordon (ABA), Bill Stewart (ABA) and Gary Nunn. With so much accumulated firepower and talent it’s no wonder the Travis’ list jumped to 558 species including specialties and rarities like Yellow-green Vireo, Elegant Tern, California Gnatcatcher, South Polar Skua, Least & Black Storm-Petrels and Craveri’s Murrelet.

J. Drew Lanham at the Diversity in Birding Conference

J. Drew Lanham at the Diversity in Birding Conference

David Lindo - UK's "The Urban Birder"

David Lindo – UK’s “The Urban Birder”

Next stop was a south TX whirlwind trek with back-to-back events and loads of good birds and birders. The Focus on Diversity Conference in McAllen led directly into the 20th Anniversary of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Bird Fest. Many great birders used Travis to include J. Drew Lanham, David Lindo (UK’s the Urban Birder), Tiffany Kersten, Cameron Cox, Rafael Galvez, Doug Gochfeld, Jeffrey Gordon, Kenn & Kim Kaufman, Jen Brumfield, Tom Langschied (King Ranch), Carlos Bethancourt (Canopy Tower)… a major highlight of course was adding the ABA area’s second ever Amazon Kingfisher with about a thousand other observers!

Amazon Kingfisher at the RGVBF!

Amazon Kingfisher at the RGVBF!

In the days that followed the festival Tiffany Kersten batted clean up on some of the missed specialties and rarities  - Tropical Parula, Rose-throated Becard and others and brings Travis’ year list to 588 species!

Tiffany Kersten  Leica birding Pro Staff USA

Tiffany Kersten
Leica birding Pro Staff USA

David La Puma carries Travis to Stockton, CA for the Central Valley Birding Symposium and with the help of John Sterling & Steve Howell adds some more specialties Pacific Golden-Plover, Lewis’ Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Magpie, and a Tufted Duck! The birds are coming in smaller numbers now as Travis’ list grows to 595!

Steve Howell ends day 1 of the Peru Bird Rally

Steve Howell ends day 1 of the Peru Bird Rally

John Puschock is making another run to Alaska to chase some year birds with a few others on a big year and asks if Travis would like to ride along. Among the other guests on this trip are Jay Lehman & Neil Hayward (Accidental Big Year), two guys making serious Big Year runs themselves that have caught the attention of the birding community through their efforts. It’s now early December and these guys have a doozy of a trip starting with a Dusky Thrush (Siberian bird) in Anchorage, Emperor Goose, Whooper Swan, Rock Ptarmigan, Whiskered Auklet, Brambling, and then there was something about an Accipiter seen on Adak….

accipiter

The accipiter. Not gracing any covers anytime soon.

If accepted by the records committees the bird seen in the fuzzy image above would be the first North American record of a European Sparrowhawk!!!! The count stands and 604 when they return on 8 December.

 Figure 2: Isn't this what you'd want on the snowbank behind your house? Luke DeCicco (L) and Scott Schuette w/ an obscured Travis (R) enjoying the Rustic Bunting. Photo by Wendy Holman


Luke DeCicco (L) and Scott Schuette w/ an obscured Travis (R) enjoying the Rustic Bunting. Photo by Wendy Holman

As it turns out Travis and Neil Hayward – the “Accidental Big Year” birder who was threatening to potentially set a new ABA area Big Year record in 2013 - keep running into each other. First in McKinleyville, CA for a Little Bunting with John Puschock & Rob Fowler, then again back in Alaska where a Rustic Bunting has staked out a feeder in Homer. Scott Schuette of St. Paul Island Tours takes the run and meets up with Aaron Lang of Wilderness Birding Adventures. Once again in the hands of pro’s success is guaranteed, Rustic Bunting, CHECK! along with other great winter birds from Alaska that had eluded detection thus far… Boreal Chickadee, American Tree Sparrow, Varied Thrush, Northwestern Crow, Gray Jay, Pine Grosbeak, & Great Gray Owl. With such amazing clean-up work by these talented guides, Travis’ list has grown to 613!!!

Accidental Big Year

It’s December 22 & Neil Hayward is now at the cusp of setting a new Big Year Record he needs one more to reach the existing ABA Big Day mark. He has three provisional species on his list that will count if accepted, but does not want to rely solely on records committees for his success. He decides to try one last desperate attempt to get the Big Day record in earnest. A “Hail Mary” pass on December 28, an impromptu pelagic trip off of Hatteras in hopes of scoring the elusive “Bonxie” – the Great Skua!!

Read the whole story on Neil’s Blog here:

Travis in Bed

Travis in Bed

It seems Neil has noted that every time he is using or even with Travis of late, his success has been guaranteed. Not leaving anything to chance he calls on Travis once again to join him for this major effort, even treating our celebrated binocular to a big meal and insuring he gets proper rest the night before. He’ll need Travis to provide his best spotting the next morning!

Read Neil’s well written story here!

the crew 12/28/13

the crew 12/28/13

Neil’s paranoia is so great he even insists on a boat named “Skua” which is expertly run by Hatteras gulfstream birding legend Brian Patteson. First mate duties fall to Kate Sutherland, and also aboard are Nate Swick (the ABA’s social media guru there to document potential history in the making), Lynn Miller & Bruce Richardson (hoping to add the Bonxie to their life lists), Jay Lehman, Neil & Travis. The hype surrounding Neil’s amazing big year run has reached fever pitch and with his near daily blogging many birders were following and eagerly awaiting the news from this trek (Nate provided blow by blow commentary on a regular basis which much of the birding community was following). The Bonxie did indeed finally show, bringing Neil to 747 species for the year with 3 provisionals hanging in the balance yet (Common Redstart, Rufous-necked Wood Rail, Eurasian Sparrowhawk). ABA area firsts still in need of acceptance by state and ABA records committees before they are deemed countable.

It brought Jay’s count to 733 (+2 provisionals) and Travis’ year ended at 614 species in just under 9 months of birding.

Travis’ next chapter will soon begin when he is officially presented to his new owner. The winner of the essay contest co-sponsored by BirdWatching magazine: 10 judges from BirdWatching Magazine and the Leica Birding Team read and rated each of the essays, the numerical ratings were tallied and a winner has been selected. The announcement will appear in short order in the October issue of BirdWatching Magazine. So stay tuned!