January 05, 2006

A honking new year

1 Canada goose*
2 American robin
3 black-capped chickadee
4 white-breasted nuthatch
5 northern flicker
6 hairy woodpecker
7 red-bellied woodpecker
8 tufted titmouse
9 blue jay
10 American goldfinch
11 downy woodpecker
12 turkey vulture
13 barred owl
14 American tree sparrow
15 white-throated sparrow
16 northern cardinal
17 American crow
* birds are listed in the order identified

JAN. 1, GRINDSTONE PARK, party sunny, 45A Big Year always has to begin on Jan. 1. Not that I've ever done a Big Year. In fact, I'm still deciding what to call this. Miniature Big Year? Fairly Small Year? Would Be a Bigger Year if I Had More Money and Time? Not a Bad Year Under the Circumstances?

Whatever I call it, my Year began while I washed dishes. A small flock of Canada geese honked over the rooftopa good and noisy start. For this debut day I chose Grindstone Park, just minutes away from home, an old farmstead turned city park with oak-hickory woods and a grassy bowl in the center. Hinkson and Grindstone creeks rim the center bowl, so there are lots of habitats and edges.

I saw usual midwest winter-resident birds today. I especially like the goldfinch (its yellow toned down for the season) and titmouse (love the tuft and huge black eyes). A slightly out of the ordinary bird is the barred owl, which I saw fly down Grindstone Creek as I watched from a high bluff. The barred is much more active during the day than other owls, and easily flushed.

No need for a long introduction. The main idea is that I'll go birding roughly once a week, also picking up birds wherever I happen to find them. Depending on trips away from Missouri, my daydream target is 300, more than half of the 572 species Roger Tory Peterson found in 1953, the first known Big Year in North American history.

The record is 745. Any number approaching that involves tens of thousands of dollars, pilgrimages to farflung bird hotspots, and frequent spur of the moment airplane flights to see accidental individualsas in accidentally in the wrong place, often storm-blown to the wrong continent. My goals are modest: to have fun, get outside regularly, learn more about birds and other wildlife, and use the incentive of birds to see new places.


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