Numbers, it’s always fun to look back at the year’s numbers. 2012 was the first time I decided to keep a year list. I sort of aimed for 200, but thought realistically 175 was more likely. In fact I came in at 189, all in New York, mostly in the 11 counties of the Hudson-Mohawk region.
I took unsuccessful runs on several rarities: two tries for Pine Grosbeaks in Queensbury, and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch in Boonville (275 mile round trip, to learn the bird was last seen 20 minutes before we got there). I passed on others: first state records for Lucy’s Warbler in Queens, and Common Pochard on Lake Champlain. I concluded chasing is not for me unless the bird is within a reasonable distance. Of course, ‘reasonable’ is a flexible term…
In spite of the dips, I added 17 new species to my life list. The loveliest was the elegant American Avocet, well worth a trip to Montezuma NWR. I saw the brick-red Orchard Oriole, the truly Cerulean Warbler, and the deep radiant sapphire Indigo Bunting. Eastern Meadowlarks had been nemesis birds for years, until I saw them singing from fenceposts in the Washington County grasslands. Most unexpected — the oddball sighting of the year — was the nesting pair of Monk Parakeets in Watervliet. (Post with their story to follow.)
17 new species! That’s great, right? It means I’m a better birder, right?
No. In fact I was lazier this year. I went along on too many field trips accepting IDs without putting in any work. Sedge Wren? Marsh Wren? I heard them both for the first time this year, but I couldn’t recognise either of their calls now. I may have added them to the list, but I haven’t added them to my mind. I haven’t earned them.
I began 2012 disabled, and ended it struggling with depression. Through it all observing birds has brought joy to my life, inspired me to research and study, introduced me to other birders who have become friends. Birds have, quite literally, been the only things to get me out of bed many days. I cache the memories against dark days, from the sleepy cat-face of a Screech Owl to the heart-stirring clamor of 10,000 Snow Geese, like a Blue Jay storing acorns against the winter.