First birds won't be the last birds of the year
Plus, feeder drama and a fresh batch of TWiB Notes
Some reflections on the thread I posted on New Year’s Day about the first bird of the year. In corralling sightings from Substack, Facebook, and Twitter, it was interesting to see how many people avoided the mundane House Sparrow, which of course was the first bird for some. (The standout to me was the sighting of a Buzzard, shared byfrom the UK.)
Then days after Jan. 1, my 9-year-old announced she still hadn’t seen a bird in 2023. Soon after, a Red-bellied Woodpecker appeared in the tree outside her bedroom, and we quickly took a look to make THAT her first bird.
The “first bird” is really in the eye of the beholder. What might literally be the first bird—the House Sparrow at the feeder—may not be the first bird that leaves any sort of impression (unless House Sparrows are your thing). In the end, maybe that’s what the first bird exercise should be about. Or maybe it’s just the first bird one intentionally looks for, or the first time seeing your favorite bird in that year—and that could be months after the first of January.
Anyway, here’s the list of first birds from the thread, including some really fun ones!
American Tree Sparrow
Costa’s Hummingbird (California)
Northern Mockingbird (Florida)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Georgia)
Ruffed Grouse (Wisconsin)
Tufted Titmouse (Ohio)
Extraordinary birds of 2022
Jeff Reiter’s column “Extraordinary birds of 2022” is an extraordinary compilation of all that happened in area birding last year. The piece features top sightings from throughout the year—including the above Purple Sandpiper—and summarizes an array of conservation news items. Reiter’s “Words on Birds” column has appeared in the Daily Herald since 2004, and he’ll be presenting on 20 Years of Words on Birds on Wednesday as part of the DuPage Birding Club’s monthly meeting.
Bird feeder drama
As I shared recently, I’ve been experimenting with a trail camera around my yard. The camera is motion-activated, night and day, and takes short video clips and picks up some sound, too.
On many days last summer, our suet feeder would be found on the ground in the morning. We couldn’t quite figure out what creature was doing this until we put the camera on the feeder at night. Here’s a 57-second video—which reveals the culprit and a few other nocturnal beings.
Kelly Ballantyne and Audrey Carl found a Spotted Towhee, a western species, along the I & M Trail in southwest Cook County on Dec. 18. It was the third in the 74 years of the Lisle-Arboretum Christmas Bird Count, which is sponsored by Chicago Ornithological Society.
Some good news from the count is that sparrows were on the rebound from recent years. It was an above-average count for American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos, perhaps due to the cold weather.
The half-sister of Chicago Piping Plover Monty has been seen on the wintering grounds. Gogurt was spotted in Duval County, Fla., in mid-December.
Brian “Fox” Ellis becomes legendary ornithologist Robert Ridgway for an event on Wednesday night with Peoria Audubon Society, “When Amateur Birdwatching Became Rigorous Science.”
Will County Audubon Society will present my film, “The Magic Stump,” on Thursday night as part of a virtual event.
Chicago Ornithological Society’s annual meeting takes place on Jan. 19 and (spoiler alert) includes a segment brought to you by this author.
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Thanks for the mention, Bob!