The top five posts from the first year of TWiB

From Big Years, winter finches, cardinals, grackles, juncos, cranes and more, it has been quite a year for Chicago birding.

TWiB’s first post, Nov. 6, 2020, featured Sandhill Cranes at Jasper-Pulaski State Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana. Image by Mitchell Wenkus.

So, what has happened on the local birding scene during the past year, since This Week in Birding’s first post in early November of 2020? A lot. We’ve had a historic flight of winter finches (last winter), we’ve seen the county and state big year records fall and the re-opening of Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary for 2021 spring migration after a year away from the hotspot. There were also looks at the reversal of the Chicago River from a birding point of view, environmental justice and Lake Michigan. As well as a look at species such as cardinals, grackles, juncos, nighthawks, vireos, warblers and more.

This space has pushed for the expansion of Montrose Beach Dunes by 3.1 acres, an expansion that eventually took place in the spring of 2021. I’ve kept tabs on endangered Piping Plovers Monty and Rose while releasing a micro-short documentary about another Piping Plover, Dodger, that wintered in Chicago in 2018-2019, and a new film about M & R as well. And Nish became the first Piping Plover to nest in Ohio in more than 80 years, along with Nellie. This also has been a platform for sharing information about Rockford's Bell Bowl Prairie, a fragile ecosystem that now has a temporary reprieve from development. And we had some fun with Indiana Audubon Society and March Migration Madness to commemorate the men’s college basketball tournament in the Hoosier State.

Looking back, it’s interesting to see which posts have risen to the top statistically. The top five posts are all of more recent vintage as readership has grown. I’m also glad to see that posts by two TWiB contributors are in the top five.

1. The mysteries of The Magic Stump, By Bob Dolgan, Sept. 10

This is a post I wrote introducing my new documentary about “The Magic Stump” in east-central Illinois and the astonishing array of wintering raptors there.

2. The Great Salt Lake is dying; One of America's largest shorebird refuges is drying up, By Isoo O'Brien, Aug. 27

Isoo reflects on his experiences visiting his grandmother in Utah and birding with her there.

3. Great Horned Owls become proud parents after all, By Bob Dolgan, May 21

I was fortunate to watch a nesting pair of Great Horned Owls in my neighborhood throughout winter and spring of this year.

4. Restoring connectivity between Powderhorn Lake + Wolf Lake brings marsh birds together, By Emily Torem, July 5

Emily chronicled the engineering project that will reunite two ancient waterways with the goal of enriching the marshland ecosystem.

5. Here's why birding isn't a privilege available to everyone, By Bob Dolgan, May 28

I wrote this essay reflecting my experiences as a youth and the advantages I had in getting into birding, on the occasion of Black Birders Week.

Also, here are some favorite TWiB videos, just for fun…it really has been quite a year! I want to thank videographer Mitchell Wenkus for the Sandhill Crane video, which resulted in me appearing on WGN Radio after it went semi-viral.

Join us on Saturday, Nov. 20, for a day celebrating birds, film and beer

A day of bird festivities are set for the 20th as Imperial Oak Brewing in Willow Springs releases Marsh Hawk Red Ale, a tribute to the state endangered Northern Harrier, aka the Marsh Hawk, a slim hawk of Illinois marshes, prairies and farm fields. Marsh Hawk Red Ale features hints of cranberry, cinnamon and vanilla and is designed to pair with a hearty autumn meal. The events get under way at 8:30 a.m. with a bird walk at nearby Willow Springs Woods.

At 11 a.m., Imperial Oak (501 Willow Blvd., Willow Springs) will open its doors and release the new ale. I’ll be on hand to show the trailer for my new documentary, “The Magic Stump,” featuring harriers and several other rare raptors, for the first time. Marsh Hawk Red Ale will be available in cans and on tap in Willow Springs and Brookfield (9526 Ogden). The beer release follows the success of Piping Plover Pale Ale, another bird-inspired brew from Imperial Oak that’s a tribute to “Monty” and “Rose,” the endangered Piping Plovers that have captivated Chicagoans the past three summers.

RSVP for the bird walk

Again, thank you all for reading and for making this a great year. I look forward to what’s to come in the next 12 months!