Thursday, January 7, 2010


As with Jacob, my last bird of 2009 was an 'Oregon' Dark-eyed Junco, as I was standing right beside him when it flew past. My first bird, however, was somewhat less exciting than his: a European Starling in my backyard. At least 2010 got off to a bit better of a start!

2009 was a year of not much travel - I was in Ontario or Michigan for the entire year except the last two days when I flew out to Colorado to go birding with Jacob Cooper. More on that later. The plus side of not going anywhere was that I added quite a few species to both my Michigan and Ontario lists, as well as boosting my SSM list considerably. I only got 3 lifers all year, all in the last 2 months surprisingly!

January - Went birding over in Michigan quite a bit, ended the month with 49 species, the highlights of which were Northern Hawk-Owl, Greater Scaup, Red-necked Grebe, Golden Eagle (yard bird!), and Rusty Blackbird, all new for my winter list. Also went skiing a lot!

February - Only added a few new ones, ended the month with 55 species, but most of the new ones were highlights! Horned Grebe, Gray Jay, Great Gray Owl, and Black-backed Woodpecker (at my school).

March - The first spring migrants arrive, in the form of Ring-billed Gulls on the 7th. After that, got Peregrine Falcon, Boreal Owl, House Finch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and several of the common early migrants for a month's end 69 species.

April - Along with the last ski day of the season, April held at least two surprises - in the form of American Avocet and Ross's Goose! I also got Spruce Grouse for my SSM list, along with many migrant species, ending the month with 123 species for the year. Almost halfway to my total! Another highlight for me in April was getting my full driver's license - hello freedom! (almost)

May - Almost always the best birding month of the year, my first year bird in May was a Northern Rough-winged Swallow. A few of May's rarities were Piping Plover, American White Pelican, Green Heron, Northern Mockingbird, Forster's Tern, another Boreal Owl, Algoma's first-ever Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (found by me!), Yellow-headed Blackbird, and finally adding Olive-sided Flycatcher to my SSM list. I also broke the Algoma Big Day record yet again by finding 148 species in a single calendar day! That's a record that will take a while to beat. The month ended with 210 species, my highest-ever total for SSM by that point in the year.

June - The start of a fairly cold and wet summer, my highschool prom and graduation, another summer of work, and a failed attempt at finding Kirtland's Warbler in SSM - maybe 2010 will be different. The good side of the Kirtland's surveys was Field Sparrow, Common Nighthawk (not so common in SSM), Connecticut Warbler, and Great Egret. I got a day off later in June and found Black Tern (best breeding year for them in SSM ever that I know of) and Yellow-billed Cuckoo as well. 219 species for the year.

July - no birds to add to the year but I did turn 18 and can now legally vote (and drink in 3 provinces!).

August - a lot of work, preparation for university, and only two birding outings, the highlight for the month being Pectoral Sandpiper. 223 species for the year.

September - a month of change for me, as I moved into residence at the University of Guelph. New rules, new school, new lifestyle, and new friends - a great learning experience and the start of an amazing first semester! Also some new birds (you didn't think I'd leave those out did you?). On move-in day, I skipped out and went birding in Hamilton with Chris Street and my mom, getting Carolina Wren and Trumpeter Swan for the year, and adding Field Sparrow to my Ontario list. One warm September day walking to the Bullring for lunch found me a Blue-winged Warbler at 8 feet - an amazing experience, and one I'm sorry I didn't have my camera for. Also one of the later Ontario dates for this bird. Later in September I went around southern Ontario, again with Chris Street and Tom Thompson, getting Long-billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Common Moorhen for my ON list. Ended with 229 species.

October - midterms, parties, and homework was pretty much it for this month - had a fun time but no new birds. Also went to Sudbury for Thanksgiving, my first time seeing my family in over a month.

November - My first lifer for the year came on November 12, in the form of 'the ghost' - a Barn Owl, a highly endangered bird in Ontario that I managed to find while out with Josh Vandermeulen looking for saw-whets. Two days later I was in Brampton with Chris Street looking at Canada's (and Ontario's) second-ever Phainopepla - a juvenile male that wandered up from somewhere in the southwestern USA. He was there for over a month before disappearing during a storm in December. My brother also came down for a visit, and had to sit around with my friends for a few hours while I chased this mega-rarity. Later in November I made two trips to Niagara - once with John Ralston and once with the Guelph wildlife club. I also got my second lifer for 2009 in the form of two Brant at Spencer Smith Park in Burlington. Ten species of gulls including California and Tufted Titmouse for Ontario were the other highlights of these adventures. Ended with 240 species.

December - Final exams, and then home for the first time in three and a half months! I was only home for a short time and then it was off to Sudbury for christmas, and a short time after that December 30 came around, and I was boarding a plane headed for Detroit. I stopped in Kansas City, MO, and Denver, CO, before arriving at my final destination of Grand Junction, CO to go birding with Jacob Cooper. My first night there I got two year birds - Eurasian Collared-Dove and Western Screech-Owl. The owl was especially good because it was my first-ever seen Screech! I'd heard all three ABA species but never seen one before that point. The next day we birded around his place and Colorado National Monument, picking up my last lifer for the year - Pinyon Jay, as well as getting another heard-only off my back - Juniper Titmouse. We then headed off to Arches National Park, which despite the cloudy conditions was amazing. A Ferruginous Hawk sitting on a signpost just outside the Utah state line was my last new year bird, #250, a great milestone bird. I ended the year at 555 for the ABA - quite a good total for someone my age!

Then it was off to bed in anticipation of a new year, (new decade), new adventures, new birds, and hopefully many new experiences! Happy new year's 2010 everyone!