Saturday, June 22, 2013

Good year

Montrose Dunes
It's hard to think about the first six months of birding in 2013 without thinking about our baby girl. Her birth April 8 had an interesting effect on the family birding patterns, though not what you might think. The year started with a trip to Door County that yielded several great birds and a couple of lifers. I took some time off at home around then, too, but managed only one full day of birding the Chicago area. Sure, species counts are limited when birding in January in the Midwest, but I was disappointed with the 27 species I saw on my big day. Then we had Celeste, and that's when things started getting interesting. In those fragile early days, we actually birded quite a bit--I submitted 15 checklists in April. The sparrowing was great--I saw 11 sparrow species in April. The return to work in May, though, made finding time to bird more difficult. May saw only eight checklists submitted. The warbler species tally was just 14--in one day it's very possible to see more than 14 warbler species at Montrose.
Overall, this spring's weather was more normal than 2012, when trees leafed out early (making birds hard to see) and the early warm fronts threw migration patterns out of wack.

I have 117 species on my Illinois 2013 list to date. Spring migration is the top opportunity to build a list, but birds can still be added with a few strategic trips. Last weekend, we went to Illinois Beach State Park. It's not far (about an hour), and we had never been there before even though it's pretty much the only natural Great Lakes beach/dune habitat in the state. I knew we had a shot to see some typical Midwestern birds that had escaped us at Montrose. And we did: belted kingfisher, eastern bluebird, eastern meadowlark and tree swallow were all added to the list. Then we added a goody: a Brewer's blackbird in the juniper-covered dunes.

We may do some camping in coming weeks and can look for more Illinois breeding species then. And there will be opportunities in fall migration, too. But the sightings will become more scarce as fall ends and winter approaches.

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