Last year I heard about the challenge to find 150 different bird species in one county in a calendar year. I had been to South Africa in December and January and by March I thought this would be a good challenge to take on. I started March 19th when I saw my first Bluebirds and Red-Winged Blackbirds. I went birding a lot, in lots of different places with lots of different habitats. By the end of December I was out there looking for anything I hadn’t found, mostly birds that come south from the far north. I found a couple in that last month. I had by then surpassed my goal and was aiming for 175. I got to 174.
This year I decided I would have two goals. The first would be to find that 175 species of birds in my county this year. The second would be to find at least 200 species of birds total anywhere. I am off to a good start.
Yesterday I took my son to baseball practice at the school. I ducked into the woods there while they practiced batting and catching. A stream flows through a strip of tall trees near the school, the athletic fields on one side and a meadow on the other. I finally saw a bunch of warblers. In fact I saw five different species within about ten minutes–Yellow-Rumped, Black and White, Yellow, Black-Throated Blue and Common Yellowthroat. Plus, I saw a bonus Alder Flycatcher. That last one I watched for a long time as there are several flycatchers that all look similar, but I finally narrowed it down. That one small venture into that patch of trees yielded five birds I had not yet seen this year. Sweet.
Today I had 20 minutes on my way home before I had to be at the end of the driveway to meet the school bus. I stopped at a nearby wetland preserve. Before I even got out of the car I saw my first Eastern Kingbird for the year, then another. I also heard a Virginia Rail. I sort of saw it, but it was hiding in the reeds and I just caught a glimpse. The call was pretty unmistakable though, so it counts. I saw a couple of ducks way off. One of them might have been something new for me, but it is easy to see what one wants when it is far away. So those ducks went un-identified.
As of today my county count is at 113. There are still plenty of birds I can count on seeing if I go looking. There are many more warblers, plus water birds and flycatchers, some hawks, several sparrows, and lots others. I am not worried about getting to 150, but 175 will still be a good challenge. My overall count for the year is 202, so that goal has been met by May. And May is the best month to go birding as all the locals are coming back and all the migrants are passing through. Even talking about it I am itching to get out there.
I will try to head out right here in the morning–rise at 5:00 as it is just getting light and the birds are just singing. Who knows what I’ll see? I certainly don’t. That is why this is so much fun.