Thursday, January 1, 2015

End of the Year Birding

It has been a great year of Mecklenburg County birding for me. Last January I set a goal of seeing 200 species within the county. I figured that was a challenging yet realistic endeavor to undertake. So on January 23rd I recorded my first bird, a great horned owl in my back yard. On December 31st I recorded my last one, a Northern pintail along the Catawba River across from Mount Holly.
In between I saw 202 species. I saw the 200th on December 13th at Richard Barry Park off Beatties Ford Road, a Wilson’s snipe.
Many birders will attempt similar challenges for themselves. Some will search for birds in a certain state, or the whole United States, or North America. I was reminded that there are a lot of places to go and a lot of birds to see right here in Mecklenburg County.
I experienced much more than those 204 birds. I spent more time in field and incidentally found cool butterflies and moths, rare plants, reptiles, amphibians, secretive mammals and much more. I found out that local birders are exceedingly eager to help others find target birds. I received tips on the whereabouts of birds, was able to tag along on boat excursions on Lake Norman, crashed local field trips with no complaints from the leaders, and was granted access to some private and restricted properties.
I got to see the excitement in other birders when they saw something they had been looking for, or perhaps had never seen before in their lives. I grew to appreciate the incredible skills that area birders possess, and I was humbled to take advantage of their better eyesight and relentless enthusiasm.
I renewed and continued birding relationships established long ago. I get to bird with a handful of people only one time a year, usually during the just completed Christmas bird Counts. I am thankful those folks continued the tradition this year.

So what started as a quest to experience the birds of Mecklenburg County became an experience of the people who pursue this passion. So to the everyday birders, to the sometime birders, to the window watchers; Thanks for a great year!

Northern pintail was the last bird I recorded in 2014. The males are exceedingly handsome, with the females being more muted, as in most waterfowl. The bird I saw was a lone female, but she was beautiful to me. The bird on the right is a female Northern pintail.
Northern Pintail by Phil Fowler