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December 31, 2022

My birding and nature photography highlights for 2022

This narrative account accompanies a selection of forty photos compiled in a Flickr album. My favorite way to view the photos is to open this Flickr album viewer in a separate window and advancing the photos along with the narrative. Or you can scroll through using the slideshow below.

2022 Favorites

In 2022, the birds seemed to notice that the world was opening back up, and a healthy number of vagrants and rare birds made their way to San Diego. As usual, I was only free to pursue a fraction of them, and photo opportunities were not always satisfying. But this Prothonotary Warbler (1) near the mouth of the San Diego river takes the top spot for being exceptionally photogenic while appearing and disappearing in dense foliage. This Tufted Duck (2) with just a wisp of a tuft at Lake Miramar was my first in San Diego, while this Yellow-billed Loon (3) was a new addition to my life list, and the first ever for San Diego county!

A pelagic (off-shore) birding trip gave great looks at some uncommon boobies, Nazca (4) and Red-footed (5). A local birder Gary Nunn found a top-notch rarity for San Diego, this Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (6), a bird that could have easily been overlooked or misidentified. And a Philadelphia Vireo (7) at Mission Trails was a treat; I had only previously seen one once in Montreal.  

I took my first international trip since the pandemic in the summer, to South Korea. While the trip was not focused on birding, I was able to squeeze in some birding opportunities in various parts of the country, adding nineteen species to my life list. Bird photography there was a challenge, as often in Asia in the summer, under cloudy or rainy conditions, with birds hiding under layers of foliage. Although it is a common bird, and I found them in multiple places in Seoul, I was especially happy to add Vinous-throated Parrotbill (8) to my life list, my first from family Paradoxornithidae. Daurian Redstart (9) and Azure-winged Magpie (10) are famous and common East Asian birds, while Gray-headed Woodpeckers (11) live across Europe and Asia. Luckier finds were this Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker (12), my fourth of the seven species of pymgy woodpecker in Asia, and two thrushes. Chinese Blackbird (13) is expanding into the northwest corner of South Korea, with a small breeding population in Seoul that was not there even a decade ago, while Gray-backed Thrush (14) is widespread. Here's an audio recording from Seokguram Grotto in Gyeongju Province where this photo was taken, with a large temple bell ringing in the background while the bird sings and tourists chatter. White Wagtails (15) are common and urban-adapted, but it was still fun to watch this one gather insects to feed its young (16) as they clamored on the rooftops of a traditional palace.

This fall in San Diego, some uncommon species appeared in larger numbers than usual, giving some better opportunities to get photos. Even so, this close-up of a Townsend's Solitaire (17) in Mission Trails Regional Park was especially lucky (and was shot in deep late-afternoon shadow). Greater White-fronted Geese (18) are everywhere, including a flock of 125 in my local patch, and this White-throated Sparrow (19) was one of multiple individuals just a short drive away. Although I got some shots of the bird out in the open, I like this shot that shows how well it blends into its habitat, and captures its typically wary nature.

Likewise well-blended into their typical habitat are Golden-crowned Sparrow (20), Fox Sparrow (21), and even a flashy and noisy American Robin (22). Feeding in the same tree at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge and shot just moments later was this handsome Cedar Waxwing (23). This Orange-crowned Warbler (24) gathering webs looks almost like a leaf, and while this Snowy Plover (25) stands out among the pickleweed, they can disappear when they want to.

Common species provide ample photo opportunities, so I've selected some nice portraits of familiar San Diego birds, like Black Phoebe (26), White-crowned Sparrow (27), Allen's Hummingbird (28), Western Bluebird (29), a Rock Wren (30) in the desert, an Acorn Woodpecker (31) contemplating the best place to stash an acorn, and a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (32) gobbling down crabs.

The San Diego National Wildlife Refuge is a local treasure and one of my favorite places to go birding. The Waxwing, Robin and Golden-crowned Sparrow photos were taken there, as was this Hermit Thrush (33) and this Red-shouldered Hawk (34). This Gray-headed Dark-eyed Junco (35) was a good bird on an otherwise routine day in Balboa Park for the San Diego Christmas Bird Count.

Some birds giving cute looks were a Pelagic Cormorant (36) looking out from its usual perch at the end of Imperial Beach Pier, and a Plumbeous Vireo (37) in my local community park that unforutnately has not reappeared this winter. Young birds are cute, too, like this Killdeer (38) and these Common Gallinules (39) at Lake Murray. Finally, here's a nice iPhone portrait of a Weed's Mariposa Lily (40), because not everything is a bird. Happy New Year!


Christopher Adler, University of San Diego Music Program, 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, 92110-2492

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