ABA Blog: Top 10 Posts of 2012
by Nate Swick
As we draw ever closer to the end of 2012, many of us begin to reminisce on the year that was and look forward to 2013. Personally, I'm most looking forward to my annual tradition of staying up till midnight and counting down until my eBird year lists turn over to zero, but we all have our end/beginning of the year birding traditions running the gamut from owling on December 31st for the year's last bird or looking forward to the first bird of the new year (I'm betting House Finch for me this year. Just a hunch).
It's been a really fun year for those of us at the ABA, and it's so rewarding to see the organization continue to grow and change into something more relevant and lasting for the years ahead. The ABA has always endeavored to be a membership-driven organization, from the pages of Birding magazine to the camaraderie birders feel in the field. The blog, and the conversations and arguments and stories shared therein, has played a huge role in building that new ABA in the 21st Century.
That is, in part, because of our fantastic stable of contributors - both regular and as guests - and the community that comes to read and discuss their work in the comments section and in various other social media outlets. I'm just thankful to be a part of it.
So we've had a good time, and as a way of looking back here's a quick run-down at the 10 most popular posts from 2012. Internet "popularity" is a difficult thing to measure, and has something to do with raw traffic data, comments, virality, and a whole host of other metrics. I'm using the rather crude metric of traffic, but it's not surprising that many of the posts mentioned here are heavily commented upon and shared too. In some cases the discussion is ongoing so feel free to jump back in there if you have something to add. New perspectives and voices are always appreciated.
Without further ado, here are the 10 most popular posts for 2012, in reverse order:
10. A Black Swift Secret Revealed: Easily one of the most remarkable ornithological announcements of the year, the revelation that this most enigmatic of North American breeding birds winters in the western Amazon was a mystery over 100 years in the finding out. Not only is the answer (and their migratory route) fantastic, but every bit the equal was how researchers with the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory cracked the case. Cool bird science in action.
9. Announcing the 2012 Bird of the Year!: The ABA's Bird of the Year initiative has turned into one of the most anticipated (ar least among staff) things we do all year, an opportunity not only to spotlight one of North America's birds but to do a little bit of community building with stickers, special contests, and fantastic artwork up for auction too. We managed a very prescient choice in 2012 with the Evening Grosbeak, as the species made history staging an irruption into places where they hadn't been seen for decades. But this is the post that started it all, a video that folks are still talking about (for better or for worse). Look for the announcement for 2013 Bird of the Year coming very soon!
8. #ABArare - Citrine Wagtail - British Columbia: In 2012, John Puschock came on board with the official title of Rare Birds Guru. John keeps his ear to the ground, seeking out reports of the rarest birds in the ABA-Area (a beat the expanded to include first state/provincial records, too), and few were rarer than the Citrine Wagtail that turned up in British Columbia this fall. The Central Asian species has a short and strange history in the ABA-Area, with a single individual turning up for two days in Starkville, Mississippi (of all places), in 1992, and so there was great excitement in the wake of this bird's discovery. Not only was this bird well-covered initially (thanks to the work of John and others), but this individual has been remarkable reliable since it's discovery in mid-November. In fact, as of the writing of this post, it's still there.
7. #ABArare - Hurricane Sandy report 1 - Northern Lapwing, Ross's Gull, and more: Interconnectively in rarity finding was the name of the game this fall as Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall near New Jersey in late October, was probably the most well-followed storm in history from a birding perspective. At the ABA Blog, John Puschock was on red-alert, posting reports of notable birds almost as soon as they were reported. The first of what ended up being three Hurricane waif reports included such unexpected species as Ross's Gull and Northern Lapwings.
6. First Look: Swarovski's New ATX Scopes & Digiscoping Accessories At Hungary's Hortobágy: Swarovski Optik is synonomous with quality in the birding world, and Jeff Gordon had the good-fortune to travel to Hungary with a select group of birding media representatives to try out Swaro's newest scope, the ATX. Pretty cool stuff, and good birding too.
5. 5+2 Bird Species Added to ABA Checklist!: Though at times we may try to disguise it, many of us are, at heart, listers. So when the ABA Checklist committee releases their annual report it's big news. This post only published earlier this month so it has shot to number 5 with, as they say, a bullet, and why not? In addition to the elimination of the dreaded Fea's/Zino's slash (a change I know some birders in my neck of the woods are very excited about), we got two new flashy psitticines to count. Regardless of how you feel about exotics, that's definitely an interesting thing.
4 The big Big Year debate: What's the number to beat, anyway?: Unique among the other posts on this list, this discussion between ABA web developer (and Big Year historian) Greg Neise and Birding editor Ted Floyd on the merits of Sandy Komito's current ABA-Area record on the eve of John Vanderpoel's (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt at the top spot, was actually published at the tail end of 2011. But it has legs, as they say, and its influence stretched into this year inducing one of the most fun comment threads in ABA Blog history. Who knew we cared so much about listing arcana? He asks, tongue firmly in cheek...
3. ABA Debuts Birding News!: Certainly one of the most talked about initiatives undertaken by the ABA this year was the transition of Jack Siler's venerable Birdingonthe.net to new digs at Birding News at Jack's behest. The rollout was bumpy in spots as these things are, but in amazingly short order we had a brand new site with increased functionality and options of which Jack Siler couldn't have dreamed when he started his revolutionary aggragator when the web was still young.
2. The Cons and Pros of Digital “Photos”: Flyingfish, Jaegers, and Other Thoughts: Steve N.G. Howell is equal parts brilliant and hilarious in this supplement to his Birding interview in the August 2012 issue of the ABA's magazine. Not only does he attempt to introduce (successfully if my experiences are any indication) the concept of "chimping" into birding vernacular, but his photos of flying fish are simply breathtaking. A great post all around.
1. The Saga of the Hooded Crane(s): The Plot Thickens: Was there a more compelling bird in the ABA Area this year than the Hooded Crane that spent much of last winter in eastern Tennessee? If traffic to the blog is to be considered, the answer may well be no. The countibility of this bird is the big question, and that's something that can really only tackled by the records committees of the states in which the bird was seen, currently sitting at three. And of those three, I believe only Indiana has deigned to wrap their hands around that blade so far (correct me if I'm wrong). In any case, Ned Brinkley and company's fascinating take on the bird, and how we may or may not be able to determine its provenance, was this years top post. A worthy standard-bearer for what this blog offers, if I do say so myself.
What a great year! Thanks for reading, commenting, and supporting the blog and the ABA. If you are a member, thank you. It's your support that helps make this site possible. If you're not? Why not join? Your membership is partially tax-deductible so you can still get in under the wire.
Thanks again! Onward to 2013!