The new year means it’s time to start a new bird list. I’ve been keeping annual bird lists for several years now, and I find it injects a new level of fun into the birding experience. January is particularly fun, because the slate is blank and every bird has a decent chance of being a new one for the list, even birds in the back yard.
even the starling
gets appreciative notice
when it’s first of year
So far I’ve seen 9 different kinds of birds in my backyard and 21 total. Even better, I’ve already added a life bird this year! Last Saturday my friend Eliot and I headed up north to see if we could find the ivory gull that has been seen in the Duluth harbor for more than two weeks now. We lucked out and saw it almost right away.
There were about 20 other birders there when we arrived (fewer than I expected since it was warmish—almost 30 degrees—and I’ve heard people have been coming from as far away as Australia to see this rare bird); the gull was not there at the moment but had been earlier in the day. We checked out the other birds (ring-bill, herring, and great black-backed gulls; and common goldeneyes), and when we turned around, nearly all the other birders had their binoculars and scopes focused in the same direction. And there it was, the ivory gull. Sitting on the pier in its beautiful rare glory.
Usually when a rare bird is spotted, there is an undercurrent of excitement. A murmering, a whispering, a quiet but urgent “hey hey here it is!”; but not this day. This was a silent group. It felt very like being in church or a library. A woman passed in front of me and whispered “excuse me.” Otherwise, it was silent. I’m not sure if it was a religious experience, but there was definitely that sense of awe, and reverence.
And the birders showed their appreciation. There were many gifts of salmon thrown out on the ice.
Outside the harbor, we also saw lots of common ravens, tons of black-capped chickadees, a bald eagle, and a red-tailed hawk—all new birds for the 2016 list. Overall a very happy-making day.
On a completely different note, having so much trouble over several months with the computer and internet has moved me to rely more on the U.S. mail. My friends have responded in kind, and these days it is just as likely as not that I will get something personal (e.g., a postcard, a clipping, a letter) in the mail. Some days I get more than one! I am finding it so fun to get real mail that I don’t know how much I will go back to email when we finally get our internet problems resolved. I do miss the internet. But I also like where the lack of access is taking me.
Happy reading, happy birding, happy winter!