I started birding in May of 2011 but only started taking it seriously last Fall. I found myself picking up ID features and a few calls but was determined to learn more – I was hooked. I spent a lot of time on the hawk tower at Holiday Beach last fall and I found myself birding at every opportunity and keeping track on e-bird (you should be too if you’re not!). I didn’t care what the weather was, it was just great to be outside and I was loving the challenge of IDing new birds. I’ve also joined a few birding organizations – Holiday Beach Migration Observatory and OFO – it really is an addictive pastime.
I went out to see the movie The Big Year with a large group of local birders. It got me thinking and asking the question – How many birds could I ID in one year in Essex County? I knew I wouldn’t be able to travel all over North America but I could definitely swing my own ‘backyard’. With areas like Point Pelee, Ojibway Park, Holiday Beach, and Hillman Marsh in my territory, I figured I should go for it. I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any records, but I needed a new challenge and it would force me to study the birds. I set a goal in March of 250 birds – just an arbitrary number.
Well, low and behold, I’m right on track (fingers crossed) to hit my target. As of last night, I hit 247 species that I was able to ID myself either by call or visual. The last two birds being a Virginia Rail and a Northern Saw-whet Owl. Both species that I was trying hard for early in the year and through the spring. I “knew” in my brain that I saw a Virginia on Pelee Island in the spring, but the view was so quick and no one else in the group noticed it, I didn’t count it. That one was really bugging me all spring and summer because I wasn’t seeing or hearing any in the area. They were being reported, I just didn’t find one.
I ran into Dwayne Murphy the other day at Point Pelee and he mentioned that he had seen a Virginia off the marsh boardwalk. I was determined to get that bird. I tried for about 30 minutes with no luck – lots of Soras though. The next morning, that bird was my goal – this time I wasn’t disappointed. It popped out of the reeds 2 times for me. First time I got enough on it to call it but I stuck around to get a better look. I didn’t get any good pics but I did get my “ID” shot – good enough!
The next night I got word that Northern Saw-whet owls are on the move in the area. I headed out to the banding station to help out. I knew I couldn’t count the bird if it was in the net, banded, or released but at least I could get a look at these little guys. Well just before the banding process was set up and started, one started calling! Tick! Bird number 247. Two new birds in 2 days. Both Lifers. What a great week.
Even if I don’t hit 250, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish so far, especially since I’m just a year and half in to my birding “career”. I’m hoping for some snow in December – I still need that pesky Snow Bunting! They eluded me in the area last winter. It won’t be a lifer, but a new winter bird.
In case you’re interested, here’s a list of my birds so far…
Next bird prediction – Golden Eagle (or a Swainson’s Hawk would be nice!)