Friday, December 13, 2013

It was the best of times, it was...Birding in 2013!

It’s that time of year again. The winter solstice is rapidly approaching, which means the days will soon be growing longer. And THAT means spring migration is right around the corner, and…

Before I get ahead of myself, it would be fun to look back on 2013. I came into the year determined to throw down 500 eBird checklists. That didn’t happen. Life got in the way of birding through the mid-summer and I’m rolling into the New Year with 270 lists. Still, there were good birds all year and some new birding destinations were explored.
Northern Harrier, Muskegon County, Michigan in November

My first bird of the year was a Rock Pigeon (two of them, actually) that flew over my house on January 1. My last year bird was a Purple Sandpiper on November 30th. That was a glorious victory, having not gotten one since 2011, and my lovely wife had been looking for her lifer ever since I snagged one on a solo trip. The total stands at 330 birds for 2013, and isn’t likely to change unless something extraordinary happens in Michigan in the next 18 days. (Gyrfalcon, please!)
This fledgling House Wren was impersonating a Kiwi in Arizona's Santa Catalina Mountains.
I birded in some weather extremes this year. February found me in Chippewa County, Michigan looking at a Great Gray Owl with the thermometer at -7°F (-22°C).  Six months later I caught sight of a Greater Roadrunner crossing a dirt road in Saguaro National Park with the mercury reading 108°F (42°C).
I got to bird eight states this year (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and New Mexico). Didn’t make it out of the country.
Great Gray Owls make sub-zero temperatures feel like a warm blanket...almost.
What was the best day of birding in 2013? I have five candidates for that title:

February 16. Driving around Chippewa County, Michigan ticking boreal birds right and left. A Great Gray Owl, A Northern Hawk-owl, and more Snowy Owls than you could shake your binoculars at. And Pine Grosbeaks – my favorite finch!
Northern Hawk-owls also warm up a birding outing...who am I kidding, it was COLD!
April 29. Exploring Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. A day that begins in a forest literally littered with Red-headed Woodpeckers is bound to be a great one. It ended with a late-afternoon walk through the sycamores of a river valley with Yellow-throated Warblers so unconcerned with our presence they took to copulating within arm’s reach at one point. (Sorry, no pictures of that. It happens really fast.)
When Red-headed Woodpeckers are the trash bird, it's a good place. (Indiana Dunes)
 June 2. I wrote about this here last month. An absolutely perfect day in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.

August 18. A hike up Madera Canyon in Arizona’s Santa Rita Mountains. We were searching for Elegant Trogon, but failed to find any. Still, this day makes the Top 5 list. Plumbeous Vireos serenaded us as Magnificent Hummingbirds buzzed by our heads like miniature yet insanely maneuverable helicopters. Arizona Woodpecker and Sulfur-bellied Flycatcher lifers rounded out the day.

Not a Great Gray Owl, nor a Hawk-owl, but a Gray Hawk!
November 30. The aforementioned Purple Sandpiper lifer for Sarah started off our day in Muskegon County, Michigan. We had a birding newcomer in the car with us who racked up six lifers. In fact, of four people in the car, I was the only one without a lifer on the day, and I was just fine with that. The only thing that rivals the thrill of getting a lifer is getting one for someone else and watching them go bonkers.
This Northern Flicker really wants me to eBird hard in 2014
Goals for next year?

  • Get the ABA list over 500 (49 to go!).
  • Enter 500 checklists at eBird.
  • Have fun birding, wherever and with whomever. See you out there in 2014!


  1. Sounds like a good year even if you didn't achieve all your goals. The bird recording list that I use in Australia is merging with eBird in February so I'll be using it too then, but don't know about 500 lists!

  2. Ton post est tout à fait charmant et j'aime beaucoup!
    Very attractive comment! I like your blog,
    Thank you for your visit and for your kind comments on my pages, Thank you, have a nice day!

  3. Your bird pictures are really amazing. Thank you for sharing them.

  4. Love your bird pix for 2013! Thank you for sharing and for encouraging me to work on a checklist! That will be my birding goal for 2014!

  5. Great pictures and goals! Good luck in 2013. any trips planned to help you get the 49?

  6. The flicker wanted to show you his good side. Looks like you had a good year. But burr!

  7. Very exciting finds in lovely cool temps!

  8. You've got some fabulous bird shots here Eileen. Birding offers so much to so many.

    I wanted to send you my best wishes for a Very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!

  9. A Very Happy Holidays and if you celebrate Christmas, then a Very Merry Christmas :-). Also, have a great New Year.