If you have been following my blog (thanks), you probably know that I set out to do a “big year” in the state of Indiana in 2013. My goal was to see 250 species in the state, but those plans quickly fell apart when I got a new job, moved to a new city, bought a new (old) house, and had a new baby. So the big year simply became a year list, but I still went chasing after new things. I had 38 life birds in 2013, bringing my total to 220, up from 182 on January 1, 2013. And on January 1, 2012 my life list numbered 109 species. So although where I sit may not be particularly impressive, I am pleased with the birding prowess I have gained in the past two years.
Many of the new birds that I saw in 2013 were particularly noteworthy: Evening Grosbeak, Long-Tailed Duck, or the Snowy Owl that I just saw today. However, I was guided to those birds (and quite a few others) by precise directions to known locations where others had already staked out the bird and observed its habits in enough detail to post reliable instructions online for rookies like me to find them. While seeing new and rare birds is always great, doing it in this way leaves something to be desired. That is why none of the birds previously listed are my best of 2013. The one I am choosing is one I found myself:
This American Bittern was the 90th of the 151 species of birds that I saw this year. I saw it in its expected range and habitat during its expected time of year in the spring at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, not far from my home at the time. It was the last bird I saw on my last birding outing in Indy before moving to Fort Wayne, and I found it myself. I was so excited to see it because it was uncommon enough to be something I was not expecting, I was able to get a great photo despite these birds’ reputations for hiding out in tall reeds, and it is a big impressive predator. And I found it myself. Did I mention that? Stumbling across a bird in this way and appreciating it in the moment easily trumps following a list-serv to get to some Wal-Mart parking lot to find somebody else’s bird. Here’s to more encounters like this in 2014!