|Sign in Clinton, IL City Hall building|
This year was to be my ultimate birding year for Illinois, the year in which I was to demolish all my previous records and see so many different species I would barely have time to count them all.
Did I succeed? On one level, certainly. I slapped my previous year record silly and made it cry "uncle," I chased birds all over the central part of the state, and for the most part, had a great time doing it. I got 25 life birds and added an additional 12 to my Illinois state list. (You can see all 233 species on the "Year List 2012" page if you are curious.) But you know how it is. It always could have been better, and the last six weeks kind of fizzled out, with the exception of an amazing northern saw-whet owl.
If I had to chose five birding high-lights from the past year, they would be:
1. Shorebird madness! This was my year for shore-birds, a whole group of birds that I had previously not had much luck with, starting with a Wilson's phalarope at Emiquon, then proceeding to a fortuitous trip to the El Paso sewage lagoon, continuing with a whimbrel, a sanderling and other awesome life birds at Lake Decatur over the summer, and finishing with an amazing American avocet at Clinton Lake.
2. In fact, Sportsman's Park and the boat ramp down the road at Lake Decatur get a mention all of their own in my top five. I haven't made any secret of the fact that I loathe Decatur and consider working there to be one of my current misfortunes. But the birding bonanza that I could get on my lunch break did go a ways to making up for it. Yeah, mud flats!
3. A couple of nemesis birds were vanquished -- well, not literally. I just saw them at last. The most triumphant was doubtless the yellow-headed blackbird, as I had been chasing that one for a couple of years; black tern was another good species that had been approaching nemesis status, finally seen. Alas, I think I have a new nemesis starting with the loggerhead shrike, as a second trip to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in search of it dipped out. I'm not sure how many failed attempts are needed to officially declare a nemesis bird, but one more and the shrike is on my list.
4. My local patch. Weldon Springs State Park, a mere ten minute drive from my home, produced some real treats this year, such as finding blue grosbeak, American redstart and northern parula as probable breeding species, and a nice bobolink and upland sandpiper in migration.
5. It's hard to pick a favorite life bird sighting, but some of my favorites this year were snowy owl, monk parakeet and upland sandpiper.
My other goal for 2012, to work on making my backyard an Avian Haven, went absolutely nowhere. It remains a scraggly mess of hideous bamboo and other invasive species. I blame a lack of funds and horribly hot summer.
So what's up for 2013? Of course I hope for many more life birds and madcap birding adventures around the state, but I'm not going to try to break any records this year. Instead, I plan to focus on ways that I can give back to the birds and also try to pursue some other life goals, that are only partially related to birding. More on that later, perhaps.
What was your best moment from 2012? Did you find your fantastic bird?