Saturday, January 31, 2015

January in Review - A Month for the Buddy List

I knew I wasn't going to be able to spend as much time birding this January as I did last year, but I at least assumed I would have been able to get out more than three times in Illinois. The semester began with the pace of life accelerating from 0-60 in no time at all, with work and school keeping me from any sort of consistency in my birding life. This turned out to be alright actually, and I found myself really being able to appreciate getting out since I wasn't able to do so as often as I would have preferred.

I wound up taking three day trips, all of them with Andrew, which gave us a chance to work on the buddy list. We wound up with five new birds for the buddy list, and for my review of the month I will rank them in order.

1) Of course, the highlight of the month, and probably the year, and maybe the decade, was the Ivory Gull in Quincy that so many got to see at the beginning of the month. This was our milestone 275th buddy list bird!

2) The next highlight goes to this pair of Northern Saw-whet Owls. Andrew and I have both had the same individual bird on two occasions in Illinois, but never at the same time, so it was great to get this buddy list addition and get such fantastic views too! (Can't/won't divulge location)

The first one kept sleeping:

And the second one was watching us before we even saw it. I found a seat at a distance and watched this little guy quietly for a few minutes. The alert eyes slowly closed, then one pried open. It was a fantastic moment.

3) We were able to track down the Sand Ridge Red Crossbills, which is already the second bird I've seen this year that I didn't get for my Illinois Big Year - funny how that goes. We were working the section of road where they'd been reliable recently, and after about a half hour of waiting and trying for them, the flock of 15 appeared out of nowhere. We only got flyover views, but it was still an exciting add to the buddy list!

4) At long last, we finally ticked the Northern Shrike off our nemesis list. We haven't spent a great deal of time specifically targeting the species, but every time we had tried we came up empty. And, with the amount of time we've spent birding together the past two years, we really should have seen one by now. Ironically enough, it took a trip to central Illinois to get the job done, as the bird that's been reliably hanging out around Spring Lake recently cooperated nicely for us. We got nice views of the bird, though after just a few seconds of watching, it darted into a nearby bush and we weren't able to relocate it. We were reminded in that moment why we had missed this species on so many occasions. In my opinion, the Northern Shrike is probably the easiest bird to not find when specifically looking for it.

5) The Harlequin Duck is another case in which Andrew and I have both seen the exact same individuals (in Kane, Cook, and Lake), just not together. So, after one of our slower outings of the month, we picked this guy up in Elgin on the way home. Always a delight to see!

These five top birds of January have our buddy list at 279, which is nothing to complain about in less than two years!

Other fun sightings included this month included this gorgeous Rough-legged Hawk:

And another beautiful Red Fox:

In only three outings, my Illinois year list is up to 72. I managed 79 species in Washington in the first couple days of the year there, and between the two my ABA list is at 115. I'm excited to see what adventures February holds!