As I do every year, I wrote my Top 10 Birding Highlights of the Year column a few weeks ago for the New England newspapers that run For the Birds. Thing is, I forgot to post it here. So, without further delay (I think three weeks is enough delay), here it is …
I almost forgot to write my favorite column of the year: A look back at my year’s top birding highlights.
With Christmas and New Year’s falling on Mondays, I got a brief reprieve from my column, and last week I was eager to share the results of the local Christmas Bird Counts.
What should I write about for my next column, I thought one day last week? Oh yeah, I never did get to my 2017 top 10 birding moments, did I? Thankfully, I remembered just in time.
10. Camping with my son and his friend. Between coaching baseball and other excuses, it had been a few years since I had taken my boys camping. This past summer, my older son, Andrew, got done with school a week before my younger son, Will, so I took the opportunity to visit my favorite spot in Pittsburg. Andrew brought a friend with him. and we swam, hiked, canoed and talked by the fire. They are also old enough now that I was able to leave them alone for a few hours while I went looking for birds.
9. The spring got off to a good start as a good number of eastern towhees showed up before the warbler rush. This April, as I eagerly awaited the return of the warblers, tanagers and buntings, a good number of towhees were reliable sightings at one of my favorite nearby haunts.
8. Missing American woodcock again. It may seem strange to put not seeing a bird on this list, but hear me out. Each March I hear and read about everyone seeing American woodcocks in their yards, woods or fields. I miss out every year for some reason or another. But, it’s something that keeps me going and gives me something to anticipate each March. If birding were easy, why would anyone do it?
7. Hearing the owls when I slept on the screened-in porch. I don’t have great luck in finding owls during the day to get good looks at them, but when I was sleeping on my porch in late summer/early fall, I heard barred and great-horned owls nearly every night. I’m not still sleeping on the porch these days, but fully plan to return there in the spring.
6. This list wouldn’t be complete without a few backyard highlights. While no new birds showed up on the scene, rose-breasted grosbeaks, scarlet tanagers and pileated woodpeckers were some of the highlights. So as to not take them for granted, I also appreciate my daily sightings of chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and downy woodpeckers.
5. Seeing a great gray owl. Remember the great gray owl that hung around Newport for a few weeks last March? I got up at 2 a.m. one morning to make the drive to see it. I picked up Steve Hooper along the way and the owl was there to delight us and a small group that had gathered that day. I’m not a chaser of birds, but this one was too much to resist. The bird was worth it for sure.
3. Seeing the vultures at the highway pull off. I finally got the courage to pull off the highway and onto DOT property to check out the large group of vultures that I saw there daily. The closer look didn’t disappoint, as dozens of turkey and black vultures gathered at the spot. I also found out why the vultures liked that spot so much — it was a dumping ground for roadkill.
2. Hearing from readers. I like hearing what others are seeing out there as much as I like sharing what I have seen. Keep the letters and emails coming on your sightings.
1. Getting reacquainted with bobolinks. When I lived in New Hampshire, I used to visit a field almost daily in June to see nesting bobolinks. With large fields disappearing at a rapid rate, so too is the breeding habitat for these handsome birds. Thankfully, this summer I discovered a field that had dozens of nesting bobolinks. They are as awesome as I remember.