|Look closely - that red eye = White-faced Ibis|
It sounded interesting to me, so I decided to give it a shot. Now, I know I won't make it through the year - not even close. Until 2014 I never had a year in my life with as many as 365 species - and the idea of getting them to fall just right so I had a unique one to add each day is absurd. On the other hand, I've had as many as 20 species in my back yard on a weekend, so getting through a month would actually be pretty easy. So I set a goal of 100 days ... that should certainly be possible, and if I make it that far I'll keep at it as long as I can. I also decided to add a little wrinkle for January to make it more interesting. I set a goal of using only birds that are winter residents of this area or migrants passing through during the first month of the year. No Northern Cardinals or Mockingbirds, no Red-bellied or Downy Woodpeckers, no Turkey or Black Vultures, no Carolina Wrens or Chickadees, etc. If I could do that, February would be easy and by then I'd be more than half way to the 100 mark.
The next day was easier. I visited a friend who had a Bullock's Oriole coming to his feeders. Easy, rare and gorgeous - that's the best way to do it! The rest of the week was also easy, if not quite so spectacular. I picked off the Rusty Blackbirds that were making their annual visit to Magnolia Park just a couple of miles away. A Black-and-white Warbler, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Hooded Merganser were all quite cooperative and right where I needed them to be, so one week was in the books!
Then on January 10 I joined other members of Alachua Audubon on our annual winter trip to St. Marks NWR. Again, the frustrating aspect of this challenge reared its ugly head. I had dozens of winter birds to choose from, but I could only use one. And I couldn't even open an escrow account and bank a couple of good ones. In the end I used a White-throated Sparrow. I had missed the species in 2014 and I hoped I would have more opportunities to see the ducks elsewhere later in the month. I did not use a Chuck-wills-widow either because I know I can get one in June. Still ... so many birds and I could only use one ... ARGH!
|This Whooping Crane has spent the winter here.|
[Here's an aside for you non-birders. The Whooping Crane pictured here appears to be wearing some colorful jewelry. In fact, they are banding rings that identify this specific individual. They are placed on the bird prior to its release into the wild and the color and placement are unique to this bird. I submitted the data to a banding website and learned about his unique and fascinating life story. If you're interested, you can read about it here: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/crane/13/BandingCodes_1309.html ]
The third week started with another of those "feast" days when I led a field trip into the Sheetflow area. This time I counted a secretive American Bittern and turned down a bunch of great ducks. Two days later I had another famine and had to count a Baltimore Oriole that visits my feeders. I was thinking of my feeder birds as my emergency stash, and this was the first time I had to dip in. The rest of the week was a blur of trips to Hague Dairy chasing an apparently invisible Lark Sparrow. I struck out a couple of times, but finally saw it while adding American Pipit and Savannah Sparrow to the list as well as an Orange-crowned Warbler seen in a yard in Alachua. The week ended with a trip to Merritt Island and a beautiful Northern Pintail.
The last ten days proved that using only winter species was indeed a challenge for me. I saw several good species in or near the town of Alachua - Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, Blue-headed Vireo and Ring-billed Gull. I added a White Pelican on a miserably cold day at Alligator Lake in Columbia County. And I got lucky with a Lincoln's Sparrow on La Chua Trail on Paynes Prairie. A small but ferocious Sharp-shinned Hawk finished off the fourth week.
|Lousy day - lousy photo of White Pelicans|
As I write this, I'm still in the competition after 47 days. I've added some pretty cool birds to my Bird a Day list, but I've used a few 12-month resident birds along the way. That, however, is a story best saved for next month.
Full disclosure: All of these photos were taken during January, but not all on the day I actually counted the species. I just like the pictures!
|January 31 - A month of winter birds was successfully concluded when this Palm Warbler visited my feeders.|
|January 30: This Gray Catbird consumes huge quantities of suet every day at my feeders.|
|One of my favorite birds - the elegant Northern Pintail.|
|This Black Scoter was a nice Dixie County surprise.|