It already seems as if 2022 is a mere dot in the rearview mirror. Before it fades even more, I want to present my annual “top birding moments of the year” column. It’s a tradition that goes back several years and is one of my favorite columns to write. I also encourage readers to send to me their favorite birding (or wildlife) moments of 2022.
10. Bears! On my drive home from looking at land in far north New Hampshire, I noticed three dark blobs at the far edge of a huge field. I hit the brakes, turned around and pulled over. The blobs were three bears — a mother and two cubs. Bears are becoming increasingly common throughout New England. I hope we learn to co-exist peacefully.
9. Rarities in the yard. I enjoy seeing the common feeder birds daily in the yard, but the excitement is turned up a notch when something not-so-common shows up. Bluebirds, red-breasted nuthatches and pine warblers were among the birds that showed up this year.
8. Hawk alert. Something darted across my field of vision in a flash as I worked from home in the winter. I diverted my eyes from the computer to the yard and noticed a young Cooper’s hawk perched on a fence post. A few weeks later, my cat was twitching and staring at something out of the window. A Cooper’s hawk, perhaps the same one, was sitting in the birdbath.
7. Loons. Any year in which I see or hear a common loon is a good year. Thankfully, that happens every year. We are blessed to live in this part of the country.
6. American redstarts. I was lucky enough this spring to find the nesting areas of several American redstarts. The males popped out of the brush to cause a diversion any time I would walk by. Redstarts are handsome black and orange warblers.
5. Estuary magazine photos. Estuary magazine, a high-gloss and terrific magazine about life along the Connecticut River, used several of my photographs to illustrate an article on brant. Brant are geese that visit New England in the winter. With print publications struggling these days, it’s nice to see one still flourishing.
Speaking of print publications, the best highlight for me of any year is being able to share my stories of birds and wildlife with my readers. Thank you for reading and for supporting your local newspaper
4. Christmas Bird Count. This makes the list any time I am able to participate in the CBC. This year’s highlights included several warblers, common goldeneye, lesser scaup and American pipit.
3. Turkeys in the cemetery. It may sound a bit morbid, but cemeteries are great places to go birdwatching. With so much land taken up by strip malls, condos and roadways, open space is at a premium these days. I was driving past a cemetery this spring when I noticed a strutting tom turkey leading a group of hens around the grave markers. Of course, I had to turn around for a closer look.
2. The warbler tree. The spring warbler walk was going rather slowly until I reached a certain tree that was full of life. The large, blooming crabapple tree held several types of warblers including northern parula, black-and-white, yellow-rumped and magnolia.
1. Blue jays and dad. My father passed away in October. He often shared with me that blue jays were his favorite bird. Now when I see a blue jay there is extra meaning attached to the sighting.
A lovely list Chris, and a great idea to recall one’s best nature sightings. #1 is of course very moving. My condolences on the passing of your father.
Might you be interested in taking a look at my own nature blog? My latest post looks at the joy that birds bring (verified by a scientific study!). Thanks! https://denzilnature.com/2023/01/28/joy-birds/