Saturday, December 31, 2011

Annual report

It was a great birding year, starting with a late migrating american pipit at Montrose on Jan. 2. One thread throughout 2011 was my use of the eBird tracking tool. For no reason in particular, I embarked on a slow-speed chase to be one of the top 100 eBirders in Illinois. I fell short on my quest, ending up 113th with 119 species at the time of this writing. But I can count strange achievements like being the 73rd-ranked eBirder in the state of South Dakota, because of our week-long trip there, and 47th in the Bahamas.

I added seven birds to my life list: Bell's vireo, Henslow's sparrow, american dipper, upland sandpiper, mountain bluebird, plumbeous vireo and snowy owl. A snow-less winter, ironically, capped by a snowy owl sighting. Our trip to the Bahamas yielded a number of island specialities and a tally of 33 species, including LaSagra's flycatcher and thick-billed vireo--both common in Eleuthera but resident only on a couple of other islands.

The birding adventure starts over again tomorrow, starting at zero species for 2012. Should be fun.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Snowy haven

A snowy owl is a good reason to end a blog hiatus. Snowy owls are invading the Midwest this winter, with perhaps the largest surge in more than a decade. Two weeks ago, two were photographed at Montrose Point. I went out to search for them the next morning. I saw a couple of photographers who helped point me to an owl on the end of the fishhook pier. It was several hundred yards away, but I had an okay look at my first-ever snowy owl.

Then, this past weekend, an even better look. The owls had continued to hang around the point for days. We went Saturday afternoon. We didn't see the owls in the dune area, or near the pier. As we walked toward the beach house, a passerby said the owl was just ahead. Just a few yards away, the owl was sitting atop a light post in plain view. One needn't binoculars to make out many details. A small crowd had gathered, photographing the bird from every angle. Amazing stuff and a great way to cap an eventful 2011 of birding.