Saturday, January 7, 2012

Big January Birding Fun

Lesser Goldfinch in my Tucson Backyard January 2008
When I first started to get serious about birding and blogging I was encouraged by a fellow blogger named Larry from the Brownstone Birding Blog.  Not only was he one of the first people to comment on my first blog, Sycamore Canyon, he was also the person who got me started on doing a Big January. Part of the challenge he gave us in that first year of 2008 was to enter our data into eBird. Though I had participated in The Great Backyard Bird Count and Project Feederwatch, I had not yet tried eBird. That January I did and I was amazed at how much fun it was to have all my lists in one location, separated by date, location, county and state. I quickly became an eBird enthusiast. I have also played the Big January Game every year since.

Female Great-tailed Grackle January 2008 Tucson, AZ
Big January is played by counting all the bird species you can see in your own state starting at midnight of January 1st  through Midnight of January 31st. You can count birds anywhere and everywhere in your own state and, if you want to, you can have a friendly competition with other birds from other states, or just with yourself. However, by submitting your bird counts to eBird, you not only have fun, you also help the birds!

Here are some of the highlights from my previous Big Januarys: 
Great Egret in Christopher Columbus Park Tucson, AZ 2008
Costa's Hummingbird January 2008 Tucson, AZ
Kathie birding at the Ina Road Wetlands January 31, 2008
Whitewater Draw January 2009
One of my favorite birding places in Arizona is Whitewater Draw. Every winter thousands of Sandhill Cranes gather here to overwinter and often snow geese join them with a couple of Ross' geese thrown in.
Chestnut-sided warbler January 2009 Sabino Canyon, AZ
Sabino Canyon in Tucson is another favorite spot and in January of 2009 I was with three other birders from Tucson Audubon doing a bird survey where we spotted this Chestnut-sided warbler in the willows above the dam. It is these unexpected surprises that make birding so much fun! (I know the photo is fuzzy but it is proof I saw the bird!)
Townsend's Warbler January 2009 Madera Canyon, AZ
If you are ever in Southeast Arizona, you must visit Madera Canyon. All my visits to Madera Canyon have added greatly to my Big January Lists in the years that I lived in Arizona.
Northern Pintail Reid Park January 2009 Tucson, AZ
Of course, Reid park in central Tucson has helped me out also!
Scaled Quail January 2010 Corona de Tucson, AZ
But often I can find some of the best birds right in my own neighborhood, like this Scaled Quail I found at a friend's house in my Corona de Tucson neighborhood of Sycamore Canyon!

Leucisitic Vermilion flycatcher January 2010 Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson, AZ
January 2010 brought a big surprise when I spotted this Leucisitic Vermilion flycatcher at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson.
Mexican Jay January 2010 Madera Canyon
Red-breasted Nuthatch Andover yard 2011
In January of 2011 we had snow storm after snow storm after snow storm! I never shoveled so much snow in my life! However, all that snow drove the one and only Red-breasted Nuthatch I saw all year in Massachusetts into my yard and to my suet feeder. The photos I took verify that I actually saw it! Otherwise I might doubt it myself! I never saw another in Massachusetts all year!
Red-bellied Woodpecker January 2011 My Andover Yard
Carolina Wren January 2011 Andover Yard
Cooper's Hawk January 2011 Andover Yard
Mute Swan January 20ll Turner Falls, MA Power Canal
With all that snow and the accompanying freezing temperatures we had to drive to places that had open water to see ducks and other waterfowl. So one day Gus and I took a drive out Route 2 to Turner Falls along the Connecticut River where this Mute Swan was just one of several birds we saw that day. 
Swamp Sparrow January 1, 2012 Stirling Street Bog, Andover, MA
I was not sure that I was going to do a Big January this year. I thought of just letting this one ride, but then when I saw Larry post that he was going to do one also, I could not resist. As I started to record the data from the first day of January it got me wondering how I fared in other years. I decided to do a little research and see what I could come up with. The first three years I participated I lived in Arizona where the weather was fine and the birding was easy. Then, late I the fall of 2010 we moved here to Andover, Massachusetts where it was a whole new territory and a whole new game. That January of 2011 we had record snow fall. Add to that I was just beginning to bird in this state and learn where to find various species. As a result, my big January from last year pales in comparison to the year before. I have posted the results below. I hope it will spur you on to your own Birding Fun and in case you are interested, it is not too late to join this year’s game!

My Big January Totals
If you are wondering how eBird uses all that data, well, they just had an article published by a peer-reviewed online journal the Public Library of Science. You can read that article here: eBird PloS Biology

And if you are not quite up to a Big January count yet, then, let me encourage you to participate in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count in February. It is not only easy; it is four days of Birding Fun! 


  1. Great article, and amazing photos. Well done.

  2. Excellent post and photos Kathie, some wonderful birds there

  3. Very thorough. Seems like a great way to start off every new year--you've certainly set a precedent of diligent birding and excellent photography here.

  4. Another great post, Kathie! It's really fun to view your images taken in Arizona since I never get to see any of those beautiful birds here in Chicago. You are quite the dedicated birder! I'm looking forward to participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count this February.

  5. Great shots! WOW! This is exciting because I live here and have been going to most of your places mentioned. Everytime, there's something different out there that waiting to be seen. I really like the Sweetwater area because there is such a collection of birds that hang out there. A great place for an amateur birder to go. However, I have not been to the place of snow geese or cranes....but it's on my list:) Have a good weekend. I'm off to Sabino Canyon today.

  6. So wonderful to see all your Arizona birds and read about my familiar birding spots. Although I have participated in the GBBC and the Tucson Bird Count, I have not really gotten into e-bird. Maybe I'll make that one of my resolutions for 2012. Thank you for the encouragement!

  7. Kathie, Great post! Love your enthusiasm and photos. I am so glad that you are an eBirder. I'm sitting at 57 species on the year so far, all reported to eBird.

  8. So many species.. loved it... :) All the best with you bird count... :)

    You really must visit India, and do let me know if you plan to come down... :)

    Angad Achappa
    Angad Achappa Photography

  9. Great post and photos, Kathie! Good luck with your January count!

  10. Mia, Thank you. It took a long time but was fun to assemble this post.

    Bob, thank you for your visit and your comment.

    KaHolly, thank you also!

    Dan, I miss seeing some of those AZ birds!

    Laurence and Maria, you are too kind!

    Julie G, I hope we will see photos and posts about it! Good for you!

    Roherbot, okay, rub my nose in it! I hope you had fun! Tucson is a great place!

    Carole, even a list submitted every now and then helps. what is really nice is eBird then keeps track of all your lists for you!

    Robert, you are my hero! I was so glad to meet another eBird fanatic when I met you! BTW, somewhere you asked if I ever submit a zero count to eBird and the answer is yes! I submitted several for yesterday and Saturday. eBird wants to know where the birds AREN'T as well as where they are. The first eBirder they ever featured was chosen for all the zero counts she had submitted.

    Angad Acchappa, that is so sweet of you to invite me! Thank you!

    Eileen, I need to get out there today. I have not added any new birds since last week and I feel like I am falling behind!

  11. Wow! Just amazing photos! I started out with 68 species in the first week but then only added a few more over the next few days. I'm going to click on your list to see how your doing now.

  12. Oh my gosh....I just saw a Chestnut sided warbler today at the Sweetwater. Very cool. Strange day to spot several, but they were there:)