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World Year Listing Review of 2005

Once again, the annual Surfbirds year listing review reminds us of the wonderful diversity of birds inhabiting this planet. Last year, we asked if it was possible to see 3000 species in one year. In 2004, South African Ian Sinclair and US Kim Risen fell short by a few hundred. However, in 2005, this milestone was handily surpassed by South African Jonathan Rossouw, who also managed a very high score in 2004. Will we ever see 3500 or even 4000 species in one year? We asked some of the high-scoring year listers from around the world to share their highs and lows of 2005. You can read their experiences below.

If you keep a life or year list for your country, state or even your local patch, why not enter your totals online in to the Surfbirds Rankings.

Click here to See a Complete Archive of 2005 Year Lists

2005 World Year List Title

No. 1 Jonathan Rossouw (Total 3024) - South Africa

Another brilliant year on the Bird Planet produced my highest ever year tally and hauled my annual average for the past 5 years above 2500. The total reflects travel through almost 30 countries on 6 continents (no Antarctica), of which just over 2000 species in 25 countries were whilst guiding tours for Eco-Expeditions and ZEGRAHM Expeditions. The balance came from personal birding trips through New Guinea and SE Australia, and local birding around home in S Africa. A lifer haul of 443 was my highest in over 10 years.

The birding year started with a couple of trips in Guyana that yielded Guianan goodies such as Crimson Topaz, Capuchinbird, Purple-breasted and Pompadour cotingas, and perhaps best of all, 5 species of potoo (Rufous, White-winged & Long-tailed, plus Great and Common) in 2 nights of spotlighting in Iwokrama. 3 awesome Jaguars, numerous Brazilian Tapirs, Giant Anteaters and Giant Otters, 8 species of primate including Guianan Saki and Brown Bearded Saki, Pale-throated 3-toed Sloth, and 4 spp of caiman weren’t too shabby, either.

Our annual pilgrimage to India produced a fine Sociable Lapwing at Bharatpur, as well as a Baikal Teal in Kaziranga, and a total of 18 tiger sightings for the trip. A ship-based expedition in March, from Belem to Port-of-Spain, was most memorable for its exploration of the Amazon Delta and a visit to Angel Falls in Venezuela, but also netted a superb Black-chested Tyrant in the Orinoco Delta, and a long-awaited Pygmy Anteater on the Scarlet Ibis cruise in Caroni Swamp.

A whistle-stop air program around S America produced a rash of good year birds, amongst them Horned Coot and Titicaca Flightless Grebe, as well as lifer Purus Jacamar and White-browed Hawk in Manu, and Peruvian Huemul Deer near Colca Canyon.Back to Borneo in May, with bogey Barred Eagle-Owl settled in Danum, along with a crippling Clouded Leopard and Banded Palm Civet. The Kinabatangan River produced Flat-headed Cat for the fourth trip in a row, as well as magnificent Reticulated Pythons and my biggest dip of the year (life?): a vocalising Bornean Ground-Cuckoo that was seen, dropping to the ground from a perch, by members of the group while I was fiddling with the ****ing tape recorder!

A first trip to New Guinea, in June and July, exceeded my wildest expectations. This truly is birding in Paradise, with relative rarities such as NG Harpy, Forest Bittern, Dusky Woodcock, Doria’s Hawk, Spotted Berrypecker and Fire-maned Bowerbird competing with the just-plain-spectacular Birds-of-Paradise (26 spp), each one amazing, plus all the paradise-kingfishers, Vulturine Parrot, Painted Quail-Thrush, the exquisite jewel-babblers, and lesser beauties like Wallace’s Fairy-Wren, Crested and Tit Berrypeckers, and a rash of gaudy fruit-doves and parrots. The top 3? An adult male Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise, watched for 2 hours cleaning his arena; 8 Flame Bowerbirds perched together in atop tree after a cloud burst; and the crowned-pigeon hat-trick.

Sticking in Australasia, I moved southwards to SE Oz. A loop down from Brisbane produced a rash of Outback specialties, such as Bourke’s Parrot and Hall’s Babbler, climaxing in Deniliquin, where a night with Phil Maher fulfilled a life-long dream of seeing a Plainswanderer. Other goodies were Oz Bittern (for the 2005 Botaurus sweep), Cape Barren Goose, Eastern Bristlebird and Regent Honeyeater, as well as lifer Koala and Short-beaked Echidna.

Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise
Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise © Jonathan Rossouw

Mongolia in August produced the usual goodies, notably Mongolian Ground Jay, Saxaul Sparrow and confiding Wallcreepers, then back to southern Brazil for a couple of trips in September where highlights were unusually plentiful Swallow-tailed Cotingas at Caraca NP, nesting Buff-throated Purpletufts, and the Transpantaneira itself, where exceptionally dry conditions resulted in a spectacle even more awesome than usual: dense concentrations of waterbirds and Yacare Caimans and no less than 11 mammal species on a single spotlighting excursion, plus a phenomenally confiding and photogenic female Jaguar.

Last tour of the year, from Cape Town to Casablanca, covered 10 countries at breakneck speed, with avian highlights in the form of Congo River Martin and Rosy Bee-eater breeding colonies, Black-headed Bee-eater (for the world bee-eater sweep) and a co-operative White-crested Tiger Heron in Loango NP, Gabon. Mammalian honours went to a pair of hogs: a huge, tame group of cool Red River Hogs in Loango, and a small family of Giant Forest Hogs in Dzanga-Sangha NP, Central African Republic. A pre-Christmas tally of the list revealed a total just short of the Big 3, forcing a last gasp trip up through the Kalahari to the Kruger NP, where a fine Lilac-breasted Roller made a fitting 3000.

Jonathan guides for Eco-Expeditions and ZEGRAHM Expeditions

(click photo to enlarge)

See 2004 Review to see Jonathan's total and highlights last year

No. 3 Nick Athanas (Total 2121) - USA

Looks like Jose beat me - not a very nice thing to do after I showed him all my sites! Now he owes me more than a few beers and caipirinhas. But I can't really call mine a world year list, as I basically did not bird outside the neotropics this year. That entire total came from between Costa Rica and Brazil. I did visit my family in Connecticut for a few days and saw a handful of North American birds, but that wasn't a birding trip and I didn't include those sightings in this total. I wasn't trying to set any records, just happened to have a very busy and varied tour schedule in 2006; I led a bunch of trips for Tropical Birding to four different countries and did scouting trips in several others. There were so many highlights, but two that stand out are that magnificent Crested Eagle in Manu that made a horribly long journey(thanks to a cancelled flight) bearable, and the Gray-winged Cotinga that came in so close I could almost touch it, but couldn't photograph it because Jose fell out of a tree and scared it away (really). Almost all of it was fun, and thanks to all of you who came along to share in all the great moments.

Bare-faced Curassow, Brazil © Nick Athanas

Nick guides for Tropical Birding

Ian Sinclair

(click photo to enlarge)

See 2004 Review to see Ian's total and highlights last year

No. 4 Dave Klauber (Total 2101) - USA

2005 was my best birding year, and will probably remain so. The first big trip was 6 weeks in Ecuador; 30 days was with Janos Olah (also in the top 10) and Mike Watson (who encouraged me to submit my list) led by Jonas Nilsson concentrating on antpittas and specialties. An excellent trip, with over 800 species and some great birds: 13 seen antpittas, including Jocotoco, Giant, & Crescent-faced, Chestnut-bellied and Black-necked Red Cotingas, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, and many, many more.

The Ecuador trip was flanked by Boreal and Great Gray Owls in my home state of New York. Outstanding US pelagics were Bermuda’s and Fea’s Petrels in North Carolina and Murphy’s Petrel out of San Diego, preceded by Gunnison’s Sage Grouse and all 3 Rosy-Finches at a Colorado feeder.

Three weeks in SE Brazil, mostly Minas Gerais, with my friend Carlos Eduardo Carvalho got me some local endemics like Brazilian Merganser, Cipo Canastero, Banded & White-winged Cotingas, White-browed Antpitta, Hyacinth Visorbearer, and Horned Sungem among others.

In late October back-to-back trips in Madagascar and South Africa were next with Rockjumper Tours, my first to Africa and the Indian Ocean. It was overwhelming with over 500 lifers. Helmet Vanga, Dusky Bulbul, and the Ground-Rollers in Madagscar and the Rockjumpers and raptors in South Africa were highlights. Seeing completely new avifauna including twenty new bird families was fascinating.

Finally two days in Panama at the end of the year included a Spectacled Owl family with some other final year birds.

Giant Antpitta © Sam Woods, Tropical Birding from the Surfbirds Galleries

Keith Barnes

(click photo to enlarge)

No. 7 Paul Passant (Total 1803) - UK (resident in Switzerland)

Prior to the trip I had no interest in birding or birders and so the itinerary was put together without any thought of seeing feathered friends.

Visiting a book shop on a rainy day in Lusaka in Dec 2003 I bought the only book in the entire shop - Collin's Guide to Birds of Southern Africa. And so the passion began....

The itinerary for 2005 was Argentina, Trinidad & Tobago, Costa Rica, England, Sri Lanka, Malawi, Uganda, Singapore, Borneo, Sulawesi, Helmahera, and Australia.

Impossible to single out highlights, there were so many, but seeing Green Breasted Pitta in Uganda was a good day.

Green-breasted Pitta
Green-breasted Pitta © Pete Morris/Birdquest from the Surfbirds Galleries

Pete Morris

(click photo to enlarge)

No. 8 Petri Hottola (Total 1713) - Finland

Working for the Finnish University Network for Tourism Studies (FUNTS) allows me to do some work related birding in addition to vacations spent abroad. Nevertheless, I am an odd bird among the professional tour guide listers. In fact, I do my best to avoid guided tours and prefer not to use tapes to attract birds - admittedly an attitude problem for person working in the field of tourism.

Quantitatively, year 2005 was my best birding year ever, with 5000th species (Giant Wren) in Mexico, and a year total of 1713, both new Finnish records. The 2005 birdwatching destinations included Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Brazil (Rio, Sao Paulo, Parana, Santa Caterina, Mato Grosso do Sul), Ecuador, Thailand and Mexico, with a plenitude of wonderful experiences and a number of drawbacks mostly forgotten.

Well, I do remember the USD 100 bribe I was forced to pay in Rio to enter Brazil, having been classified as a potential job seeker. My outdoors outfit apparently was not touristic enough. Moreover, fainting out of fatigue in a restaurant table in Cozumel, after a literally feverish full day of birding, comes to my mind. And then there was that huge tarantula which climbed out of my boot in a boat full of people at heavily flooded Rio Napo, and the consequent chaos on board...

The highlights of the year in Finland included a number of personal discoveries such as a Short-toed Lark, the first Hooded Merganser for North Karelia, the latest ever Northern Gannet (December, 41st for Finland) and the sixth Green Woodpecker for Finland. Otherwise, more or less the usual species were seen, with the exceptions of a Southern Martin in Penedo, Rio state and a juvenile Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Thailand.

The most bizarre birding experiences included being most eagerly helped by a group of local hunters, and two dogs, in Eastern Moravia (Czech Republic), while looking for the 'wild and free' core population of the introduced Reeve's Pheasants. Beating the forest, they did not rest before I could see the pheasants not only on ground, but also in flight, again and again. Another member of the same bird family, an Ocellated Turkey, surprised me in Calakmul, Yucatan, by defending its harem against a potential suitor. Going in and out, I could hear the sound of its beak hitting various sensitive parts of the vehicle, the massive bird flying right by the car. Calakmul is The Place to see the turkey, with dozens of birds by the access road.

The best experience, without a doubt, was a full week spent at Yuturi Lodge, Rio Napo, Ecuador, as a sole visitor with a birding programme. In there, being guided was a necessity and I made the exception, without regrets. We birded with Jaime Grefa, the well-known local specialist, mostly in silence and relying on hand gestures, as only the people of forests can do, and saw an astonishing array of birds and animals. River Otters dived under the canoe, Giant Otters came to inspect us, Monk Saki Monkeys, Tamarins and many others made the mammal part of the visit unforgettable.

Scope scans and luck brought out a completely unexpected array of eagles; Harpy, Crested Eagle, Black-and-White and Ornate Hawk-Eagles, all around the Yuturi lodge and with prolonged views, the immature Harpy being seen above the northern shore of Rio Napo.

Giant Otter © Sam Woods, Tropical Birding from the Surfbirds Galleries

Pete Morris

(click photo to enlarge)

No. 10 Skip and Lyn Nelson (Total 1584) - Independent

Early February Lyn and I flew north to Minnesota to witness the owl invasion. A count of 43 Great Gray Owls on the 8th was our highest count of the trip. A Boreal Owl only eight feet from our car window at Rice Lake Wildlife Management was a superb find as were Northern Hawk Owls, Black-backed Woodpeckers, Northern Shrikes, Ruffed Grouse, and a Spruce Grouse.

We participated in the Frederick County Midwinter Bird Count. After counting thousands of starlings and crows we manage to pull one rough diamond out of the lot; a Northern Lapwing which turned out to be a first Maryland State Record. Thanks to all of the wonderful people of the Frederick MOS, many people were able to add this beautiful plover to their life and ABA list (Special thanks to Gary Smyle and Barbara Gearhart).

Flew to Venezuela. Chris Sharpe set up a 15 day birding trip for Lyn and I. Everything about Venezuela was a highlight. Top birds were Handsome Fruiteater, Venezuelan Wood-Quail, Red-eared Parakeet, Venezuelan Bristle-Tyrant, White-fronted Redstart, Gray-capped Hemispingus and Rufous-cheeked Tanager.

Colorado and Wyoming to visit Bob and Suzanne Hargis. Highlights include Barrow’s Goldeneye, 100’s of Sage Grouse displaying on lek, White-tailed Ptarmigan, Sage Thrasher, and Chestnut-collared Longspur.

Trip to Iceland and Norway. Birding on our own. Birds included Harlequin Duck, Steller’s and King Eiders, Willow Grouse, Rock Ptarmigan, Hazel Grouse, Great Skua, and Bluethroat.

Fly to Oregon to attend a three day American Bird Conservancy tour of the Oregon Birding Trail. Lyn’s perseverance pays off as she locates White-headed Woodpecker for the group.

Leave for a 17 day trip to Brazil. We visit the Pantanal, Chapada Dos Guimaraes and the Rio Cristalino Reserve. This trip with Neblina Forest,Ecuador, trip leader, Lelis Navarrete, who over the last couple of years has become a close friend. A total of 482 species were tallied.

A Magnificent Frigate Bird at Stone Harbor, New Jersey gave us another chance to write up a Rare Bird Report.

Flying into Santa Cruz, Bolivia we meet up with Lelis Navarrete of Neblina Forest . We have a fantastic trip tallying 565 species including 185 new lifers and 12 of the 17 endemic birds.

Fly to Cusco from La Paz and spend 41 days traveling and birding Peru. In Lima we have a 10 day trip with Kolibri Expeditions on the Central Highway route. Highlights included Golden-back Mountain Tanager, Junin Grebe, Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, Band-bellied Owl, Oil Bird, White-bellied Cinclodes, Rufous-breasted Warbling-Finch, Great and Rufous-backed Inca Finches.

Lima to Quito, Ecuador and then to Coca to start a 5 day trip to La Selva. A fantastic birding spot as we were able to get our target bird which was the Cocha Antshrike. Playa de Oro in Northwest Ecuador completed our Ecuador trip, the birding was some of the most enjoyable of our lives.

White-bellied Cinclodes
White-bellied Cinclodes, Peru © Simon Woolley from the Surfbirds Galleries

Mark Van Beirs

(click photo to enlarge)

See the complete list of 2005 World Year Listers

Read More for ABA, British, French, Irish, Welsh and European Year Listers >>