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2013 wrap up

December 31, 2013

It is 11:00 pm, December 30.   One day more to wrap up my second big year from our apartment before beginning another!   That Great Horned Owl reported in the last post was my last addition.   I thought for a moment that I had species 86 on Christmas day, but reading the ABA rules carefully, I learned that Christmas turkey cannot be 2013-12-28 09.29.12counted unless it is one of these in the image (which was not at our place, but in a small town near Cornwall on December 27).

So tomorrow, I vow to spend a minimum of 60 minutes birding in a final push to get 86 for 2013.   In reflecting upon my second big year from the balcony, I must admit how enjoyable and very relaxed it has been.  Perhaps too relaxed one could argue, as likely the majority of species were identified from bed.  I think that I would have a chance to better Al in that category!

With the onset of a very cold and snowy winter, our feeders have been active, but more-or-less taken over by House sparrows and even Starlings at times.  The finches we had last year (Redpolls especially) are entirely absent, much to Cris’s disappointment.

European Starling giving me the eye

European Starling giving me the eye

That said, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches, Juncos, Cardinals, and even Blue Jays are regular balcony visitors, and the trees around us attract the occasional surprise like a Brown Creeper or Pileated Woodpecker.

If I am feeling out of sorts (and I think it works this way for Cris), a bit of time with our feathered friends and our Pretinhos (the Black – Gray Squirrels), and life is very good once again.

I doubt that I will ever get a year tally close to what Al observes at his Camp Heidleburg, but I really believe that 100 species is possible from here.  Next year, that is my goal.   After all, 2014 will have only a few distractions in addition to everyday life . . . World Cup, trips to James Bay, last year of Quebec Breeding Bird Atlas, a trip to Europe, and likely a surprise or two, but . .. . well  . . . uh . . . maybe 87 is a more realistic goal for 2014.

Pileated Woodpecker across the street

Pileated Woodpecker across the street

I conclude this post with contributions from my dear friend Al who teaches outdoor education to students in Waterloo Region, Ontario.  The first I received on December 12, and the second 10 days later.

Dec 3rd…  I will try to set the scene…  We were studying biodiversity, with
a focus on trees in the morning, and were on our way back from the pond area to
have some lunch.  One of the students asked about perhaps seeing a Bald Eagle
that day.  I began to tell him about the first Bald Eagle I had seen on the

It was around 2003.  Grade 4’s were with me to study Habitats
and Communities, and we using birds as the context.  I was explaining how
students often study a particular bird for a project for that unit and one boy
was studying the Bald Eagle.  He got off the bus, walked right up to me and
asked ‘Are we going to see a Bald Eagle today?’  I replied by telling him that I
had not had one on the property since my time began on the property in 1999…
but added that there was always a chance and you never know.  We began our
morning with some bird watching, seeing a number of species, describing their
association with a particular habitat, and looking for adaptations for survival
within them.  We walked over to a hill that overlooks an agricultural field
where I often see Red-tailed Hawks.  We scanned from one end of the horizon to
the other, but no luck, so I suggested we move on.  As I turned to head in
another direction I caught a glimpse of a large bird cruising right to left from
behind some trees.  I turned and looked, and sure enough, it was a Bald
Eagle…  that boy was beside himself with joy – his bird!!

So…  back
to Dec 3rd…  I told that exact story to this particular student in order to
explain that you just never know.  Our next stop was to try to ID an American
Beech.  I was giving a quick couple of tips when the students father said ‘what
is that big bird up there?’…  sure enough, about 3 mins and 30 meters after
his son had asked the question, Bald Eagle!

I still need Great Horned  Owl, but time is ticking by quickly…  As an aside, I have been keeping my eyes open for a Snowy Owl, also ; )”

10 days later:

“I posted to our OE Blog, a small report of some raptors seen within 45mins of
each other, including Great Horned Owl, species 116 for the year!  I will be in
to work Mon and Tues, but that will be it for 2013…  would have to be a rarity
now…  Snowy would be great!  Or a longspur, but I can’t really spend the time
scanning the fields with the scope, so a longspur seems unlikely.”  (Al)

Happy New Year/ Bonne Annee/ Felix ano novo  to all bird lovers/bird conservationists/birders/field ornithologists like me.


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