Hello readers, and welcome to the mandatory year-end review post! I only blogged a dozen times or so last year, so I feel as though this is mostly unnecessary, but it is always fun just the same.
My 2018 goal, as it has been for the last several years, was to maximize my green birding. In the fourth complete year that I have been tracking green birding, I came up with 138 species. Far from my best effort but also not my worst. Among those were five entirely new species for my green life list, bringing the total to 192. I also had one lifer while going green this year: a nemesis Veery seen at Franke Park in May.
If I had to choose a bird of the year it would be the Red-necked Grebe that I found at the water treatment ponds on March 19th. I got off work early that day and decided to ride my bike down to check out the waterfowl, resulting in this bird and my only legitimately “rare” find of the year. Red-necked Grebes are quite uncommon in Indiana away from Lake Michigan. This one hung around for over a week, and many other birders from as far away as Indianapolis were able to successfully see it.
March was unquestionably my best birding month. A couple of weeks before the grebe, I biked to Eagle Marsh for the afternoon and came up with a Northern Shrike. While not considered “rare” to flag the eBird filter or make the Indiana Rare Bird Alert, shrikes are scarce even if they are regular in the state. I happened to be hiking a relatively under-birded trail, and this bird hopped up into view for only about 20 seconds before disappearing. It was not refound by anyone else, and it ended up being the only one eBirded in Allen County all year, so I am glad I had my camera with me.
In May I attempted a Big Green Weekend with plans to ride my bike 120 miles over the course of three days to bird in five different Northeast Indiana counties. The weather forecast in the week leading up to my trip kept getting more and more ominous, but I decided to follow through anyway. I made it to Ouabache State Park in Adams County, where I had a productive morning with 50 species including my lifer Alder Flycatcher. Then the rain started. I tried to race it to my Air BnB the next town over, but by the time I got there two hours later I was thoroughly soaked, with the forecast calling for unrelenting rain and thunderstorms for the next two days. With my best laid plans dashed, I called Jaime to come pick me up from Berne, about 50 miles from home. While disappointing, the trip was my single longest distance bike birding outing to date even if my car ride home meant it didn’t count for my green list.
2018 was the first year where I really got plugged in to the local birding community. I joined Fort Wayne’s Stockbridge Audubon Society and helped lead several field trips, including the one where we all saw the above hummingbird guarding her nest. I was a counter in the Fort Wayne Christmas Bird Count, and I was a section leader for the first time on the Southwest Allen County Christmas Bird Count. I also met a few other local birders through Facebook and had a great time birding with new friends.
I made some birding improvements to my home in 2018. In April I made a bird bubbler to try and attract some more migrants to my yard. A full recap with instructions can be found here. I have only seen three species actually use it so far, but it was a fun project, and I got some cool new yard birds this year nonetheless to bring that list up to 65 species.
Work also had a few bird-related moments. I worked on a housing development outside of Indianapolis that I made sure included a Chimney Swift tower, with plans and information for our carpenters generously provided by Indianapolis’s Amos Butler Audubon Society. At the grand opening in October, I got to tell more than a few people what exactly this structure was for, what Chimney Swifts are, and why they are good to have around. (In case you are wondering it looks better now. It still needed to be painted when I took this photo.)
Both of my kids are now also fully into birds! This more than anything might be the best birding thing of 2018. My 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter both have life lists that they have started on their own initiative, and even though Alice’s also includes “squirrel” several times, I am letting them run with them however they want to, because they like nature and that is awesome. They are both getting old enough that I can now take them out to look for birds without any other sort of catch or incentive (like tricking them into birding while visiting a park, which may have happened a few times before).
In 2019 I am looking forward to several birding goals. First, I am going to Albuquerque, New Mexico in two weeks. I have only been out west twice and never as a birder, so I am really looking forward to getting a bunch of ridiculously common birds as lifers, including such things as White-winged Dove and Common Raven. And you can bet I will also be trying for really cool specialties like Rosy-finches, too! My life list is a meager 283 species right now, but I fully hope to be at 300 or above by the end of January.
After I get home, the rest of my birding year will be preoccupied by the 5-Mile Radius Challenge! This pairs extremely well with my green birding, which I also intend to keep up with this year. The emphasis of this challenge is to record as many species as possible within five miles from home, meaning that I will have to explore all the nooks and crannies of Fort Wayne for hidden pockets of nature. I will elaborate on my plans for this more in my next post. Until then, happy New Year!