2012: Year of Birds

After birding most days of 2012 in or near Plainville, and birding some in all of the other New England states, I observed 233 Year Birds, 81 of which were Life Birds. Only four species – Ruffed Grouse, Black-billed Cuckoo, Evening Grosbeak, and Short-eared Owl – which I'd seen in previous years went unrecorded in 2012. My Life List now rests at 237 species, a number which, for some reason, keeps turning up in my life. But that's a story for another day.

Photo of Northern Cardinal (female)
Northern Cardinal (female)

This year, I met local breeding birds, like Orchard Oriole, Bank Swallow, Cooper's Hawk, and Red-shouldered Hawk.

I spent hours scoping along the coast for shorebirds, and found Red Knot, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover, Willet, and Whimbrel. I walked the length of Plymouth Beach on a South Shore Bird Club outing and saw four tern species – Black, Common, Least, and Roseate.

I sorted out more than twenty warblers by sight and/or sound, including Worm-eating, Nashville, Hooded, Magnolia, and Northern Waterthrush. I look forward to refreshing and refining my skills this spring when these species pass through or return to the region.

I identified several new-to-me species of sparrows, including Lincoln's, Swamp, Saltmarsh, Grasshopper, Vesper, and Lark. And I also found some great local spots for breeding Field and Savannah Sparrows.

Adding rare birds to my list wasn't a priority, but I did have the chance to see several Massachusetts rarities, including a Tufted Duck (North Attleborough), Northern Lapwing (Middleborough), Ross's Goose (Sharon) and Purple Gallinule (Norfolk). Perhaps in 2013, a rarity will surface right here in Plainville.

Photo of Large flock of European Starlings
Large flock of European Starlings

Some birds I saw only briefly, like Dovekie, Cattle Egret, Bohemian Waxwing, and Greater White-fronted Goose. Others were seen on only one occasion, but allowed extensive close-up views, like Red Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, and American Avocet.

But perhaps the birds to whom I am most thankful are those who joined me on so many neighborhood walks. The local gang of European Starlings, the ever-present American Goldfinches, the shy but vocal Song Sparrows and the soaring Red-tailed Hawks. I must also thank the American Woodcocks and Killdeer who got me outside to enjoy so many twilights and the many owls who reminded me that life goes on while most birders are sleeping.

I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the Common Raven who started off this whole year of birding by waking me at dawn repeatedly last winter, and who appeared to me throughout the year to help me stay firm to my path.

Photo of Common Raven in flight
Common Raven in flight

To these birds, those who I have not mentioned, and those who I've yet to meet, thank you for making this a year to remember. Happy New Year!

P.S. If you'd like to kick-start your birding in 2013, consider joining eBird.

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