The January Questions
Birders working on a “year list” undoubtedly grapple with two related questions in January: 1. How much time and energy do I spend finding birds which will much easier to find in a few months? 2. How much time and energy do I spend finding birds that may show up again in December?
There are many angles to tackle these questions. Neither question is likely to be settled by a simple either-or equation. On the continuum, my posture this year leans towards “find them now while you can”.
I may indeed be wasting some energy (and warmth!) on birds just as easily (or more easily) found in another part of the year. On the flip side, though, we don’t know the future. Who knows what weather will be like or what bird movements will be like? Who knows how busy I will be later in the year? Who knows what life holds in store?
Regarding question #1, there’s something to be said for the satisfaction of finding a bird when it is less commonly seen. Regarding question #2, for some species December may not be a safe bet. There is certain satisfaction and safety in checking it off now.
A Recap of January
January was a descent start to this “birding year”, totaling 71 species in Essex county–19 ahead of last year. This total includes two lifers (Lapland Longspur and Great Horned Owl) and one first for Essex County (Pine Siskin). The Pine Siskin was my lifetime Essex County bird #199 and the Great Horned Owl was #200!
The most fruitful birding venues have been the Little River Area (east Windsor), which added 24 species to my year list, and the Ojibway Prairie Complex, which added 17 species to my year list.
From the perspective of reaching 200 Essex County species in 2018, I think I can afford to slow down slightly in February. I hope to reach 100 species in Essex County in March and so my main hope for February is to continue to push toward that number with a small handful of FOY (“First of Year”) species.
Some February Targets
In February I’ll focus mostly on some somewhat common birds which have eluded me in January (none of which are lifers), such as the Red-winged Blackbird, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Kildeer, and Eastern Screech Owl.
A few less common birds will also be on my radar. They’ve also eluded me in January and include the Short-eared Owl, Ross’s Goose, Rough-legged Hawk, Ring-necked Pheasant, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Great Horned Owl, and the Sharp-shinned Hawk.
With some focused effort and determination, I believe knocking off half of these in February is possible.
I hope February treats you well. Spring migration is near!!
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