A year of storytelling in review
Plus, what will be your first bird of 2023?
I thought I’d look back at 2022 today and share a bit about the year as a whole. This drifts a little from birding at times, but hopefully will give you a more complete picture of the year from this author’s perspective—and what I do when I’m not birding, writing about birding, or making films about birding.
TWiB featured Chicagoan-turned-Floridian Mia Majetschak and how she looks for wintering Piping Plovers via catamaran. Little did we know that this would be one of the last sightings of Rose.
The Skokie Village Board approved the construction of an all-glass Carvana “car vending machine” right next to Harms Woods, a state nature preserve. Experts described the proposed building as a “bird killer” due to the likelihood of a high number of deadly collisions. In a stunning turn of events, the project was paused when Carvana lost its business license in Illinois.
My second documentary, “Monty and Rose 2: The World of Monty and Rose,” released on DVD in March. Looking back, I’m amazed at how quickly this film came together on the heels of the first “Monty and Rose.” And as much as I loved that film, the second one is much more complete at 50 minutes and in my opinion a more substantial final product.
I’m proud to share the results of this consulting project that highlighted the need for more educators of color in Chicago Public Schools. There’s a vast disparity between the races of students and the educators who teach them, and the impact is shown in terms of mentorship, graduation rate, and many other intangibles.
The sudden loss of Monty on May 13 was a blow to many of us. We could take solace, though, in the outpouring of support for a Piping Plover that inspired so many during three breeding seasons in Chicago.
I was part of the team that helped release the results of a 22-year study of breeding birds in northeastern Illinois. The report showed good news and bad news— some breeding bird species are stable or expanding, while others face declines. The piece that sticks with me is just how many people—hundreds of volunteers—go out and monitor for these birds each year. Without those efforts, we simply wouldn’t has as much information about local birds.
I took the summer off from TWiB, but the news didn’t stop coming. Monty and Rose’s chick, Imani, surprised everyone by showing up and spending more than a month at Montrose Beach before departing in July.
I’m really pleased with the writing I did for a community development organization headquartered in the original Sears Tower, the brick one on Homan Avenue that dates to 1906. I had a chance to interview longtime residents about why they take pride in living on the West Side. You can view some of that work here.
Nearly 100 people gathered in a wooded area of Coles County, Ill., for the debut of “The Magic Stump,” my documentary short about a mysterious tree stump that’s attracted an incredible array of raptors through the years. It was a fabulous event organized by Grand Prairie Friends, and really crystallized for me what’s possible when partners and storytelling come together.
I’m constantly impressed by the devotion of habitat restoration volunteers who quietly go about their work throughout Chicagoland. Some of that work was imperiled by vandalism at LaBagh Woods that left shrubs vulnerable to deer browsing. The destruction seems to have subsided now, but the episode underscored just how much goes into re-establishing the ecosystems that we’ve mostly lost.
One of the things I did this year was experiment with a trail camera for the first time. This is a little clip of all the antics from squirrels and opossums on my front porch in the days after Halloween.
The Christmas Bird Count is always a highlight of the birding seasonal round, and this year was no exception. The Chicago Tribune published a piece I wrote about anticipating the count and the insights it provides into bird populations.
What’s coming in 2023?
I expect TWiB will surpass its goal of 36 posts for 2022-2023, so we’re aiming for 52 posts for the calendar year! On the filmmaking front, I’ll have more to share about my fourth film, “Fluddles,” including a trailer release in early 2023. You can expect more in the way of field trips and subscriber meet-ups. And expect more TWiB posts from writers other than me! This newsletter is a team effort, and some of TWiB’s highest-performing posts have been written by the likes of Kelly Ball, Bill Davison, and Emily Torem.
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By the numbers
These were the top five This Week in Birding posts in 2022. Missed one of these when they came out? Click on the link to read it now.
What I did this summer, aka neighborhood birding | August 29
What is going on with all the RVs? | September 12
Remembering Monty | May 16
Where the wood warblers are in summertime | September 5
Ivory-billed Woodpecker rediscovery is wishful thinking | September 26
What will be your first bird of the year?
Many folks roll out of bed on New Year’s Day and tally a House Sparrow as the first bird of the year. I can recall the sparrows that hung around my back alley for years. They chirped all winter, it seemed.
But why not make seeing or hearing that first bird an experience? Set the year off on an avian highlight.
Some people partake in midnight owl vigils in the woods. Others wear blindfolds while walking past an urban bird feeder. They stay away from windows. Don noise-cancelling headphones. These are all tactics related to identifying the first bird of the year—and ensuring that the first bird is an interesting one at that.
There’s a good bet I’ll be greeted by a Red-bellied Woodpecker at the suet feeder. If I’m lucky, I might espy a Dark-eyed Junco, or a Northern Cardinal in the shrubs. There’s also a good chance I’ll see one of those pesky sparrows first, too. It’s darn hard to avoid them.
I’ll be back on New Year’s morning with a discussion thread so we can share those first-of-the-year observations.
What will be your first bird of the year? Let us know on New Year’s Day.
Thanks to everyone for reading in 2022! If you’re enjoying these posts and would like to support my work, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.