Monday, March 3, 2014

February Recap

Two months into my attempt at 300 in Illinois, I'm feeling an interesting mix of emotion. On the one hand, I could not have picked a worse winter weather wise to start out a big year effort. I say that as I fittingly woke up to a fresh layer of snow these first few days of March. On the other hand, I'm five birds ahead of where I wanted to be at the end of February. I've managed to take care of all the winter lakefront specialties, including gulls and waterfowl. I have all the swans and geese. I really don't have any room to complain.

I divided up the year by two month segments, indicated by color on my Google Spreadsheet. You can see here what I anticipated to get in Jan/Feb, and you can see here that things followed suit pretty closely. I got a couple Mar/Apr birds earlier than I expected, and missed a few I would have anticipated seeing by this point. Birds in Tier 1 (first two columns) are birds I'm all but guaranteed to see this year, and Tier 2 is stuff that I should get, but will take more effort to find. I need a minimum of 6 birds in Tiers 3-4 to hit 300, and I'd love to hit 10 if I could. With Snowy Owl, Townsend's Solitaire, and Slaty-backed Gull, I already have 3 of those.

The most glaring misses at this point are Northern Saw-whet Owl and Pine Siskin (or any winter finch for that matter). I'm not worried about getting either of these in Nov/Dec, though the thought of another bad finch year makes me a little uneasy.

Here are a couple of the pictorial highlights from the month.

A Brown Creeper in flight:

The long tail of a Long-tailed Duck:

And a stunning pair of drakes:

This gorgeous adult Iceland Gull:

An inland Red-throated Loon:

Friendly White-breasted Nuthatch on a day when the temps actually got into the 40s:

White-front in flight:

All five species of geese in one shot:

And no doubt the bird of the month, Amar's Slaty-backed Gull. Something absolutely crazy will have to happen to keep this from being the bird of the year. ABA lifer #529 for me on a truly amazing day of birding.

Fun fact: I had exactly 92 birds in Illinois in January and February. I'm curious to see how March stacks up against these. As the month begins, I'm not terribly optimistic. I have very few winter gaps to fill in, which is a nice problem to have. However, what am I supposed to do in the ages between now and Spring? Below average temperatures for the duration of the month are the current projection, and it's hard to imagine phoebes and woodcocks showing up with this much snow on the ground. As of right now, I'm planning on doing a little more writing, filling in some local county gaps, beginning to do a refresher on my calls for Spring, and studying for my Arizona trip (don't even know where to start!). I've also thought about hitting a couple counties where I did some good damage last summer to try to round out those lists with winter species. Do I have another run at the Prairie Falcon in me? We'll see.

Anyway, enough rambling. Here's the number breakdown as of the end of February:

ABA Year: 138
ABA Life: 529

Illinois Year: 110
Illinois Life: 294
Illinois County Ticks: 2,657

Will, IL: 67
Cook, IL: 62
Kane, IL: 56
DuPage, IL: 49
Shelby, IL: 43
Coles, IL: 42

Also, in my patch competition with my dad and uncle, I have 98 birds (Cook, Kane, Will, and Dupage combined), surprisingly only trailing each of them (in Washington and Texas, respectively) by a handful. I'll fall further behind in March, then start catching up in April and May. Another fun fact: my dad is currently #6 in the country, with 287 birds already this year.

Good birding!