January 17, 2013


At first, we were second guessing ourselves.

"Play it again, but just the ending," I whispered.  

With stiff, cold fingers, Andy played the call again off his Ipod.  Reverberating off the cold oak ravine walls, the eerie wail belted out.  We stopped.  We listened.


It was the same whine, but this time closer.  The routine repeated twice, and twice more we got the same response.  

"I really can't think of it being anything else."
Andy nodded in agreement and we moved on.  Shaking of the near sub zero temps we crunched through the ice laden grass alongside the ravine edge, happy with the first bird of 2013 -- a calling Northern Saw-whet Owl.  

Not only was this CBC bird a first for the year, it was a first for the county.  As we stood in silence attempting to solicit a response from the resident pair screech-owls (thankfully they called back), my mind drifted into thoughts of avian resolutions.

Outside of birding, this is proving to be a busy year in my life.  This will most likely be my first year of having my own classroom, leading to weekends spent grading, not lake watching.  I had originally planned on making this my time to tackle a Lake County Big Year, but my schedule is taking me in another direction.

It is impossible, however, for me to start a new year of birding without specific goals in mind.  Being so busy, it has led me to become more creative in my goals and will keep my closer to home.  If you're a birder who keeps lists, I encourage to make goals for the new year that go beyond lifers.  I enjoy being competitive with myself and I find that I end up spending more time in the field studying birds if I have fun challenges for myself.   Also, making them public on a blog keeps me honest in my ventures forward...

1. Local Patch Big Year: I've decided that, if I can't see as many species as possible in Lake County, why not try to set a record for a location?  I've chosen to try and see as many species as possible at Waukegan Beach.  This lakefront site has a previous year high of 164 species set by Eric Walters in 2009.  I believe this location, if birded regularly and scrupulously,  could yield close to 200 species.  The combination of lakefront, dunes, and "park" habitat lend it to be a great migration hot spot.  Breeding species is lacking, but most of the regular breeders can be picked up during migration.  My life list for the park is currently 165.  I have my work cut out for me :)

2. County Ticks to 1,000:  County listing is new territory.  Biring with some of the best in Illinois has given me the bug for county listing.  This is the one goal that will take effort and time.  I'm currently sitting at 749 county ticks.  I know this is inaccurate, as I just didn't take as detailed notes in the past of birds seen.  However, I'd rather start clean and go from here.  I believe I can easily reach 1,000 ticks by birding McHenry and Cook county in the right seasons this year.

3. 350 Year List:  This year list is including the entire ABA region.  I have a few trips I know I'm taking that could boost me to this level.  Without trying for most of the year, I reached 301 in 2012.  It was thrilling to reach that milestone, so I'd love to get farther with a more concerted effort.

I have other minor goals that include state lifers to 315 and adding ten new county lifers, but these would just be added bonus to my 3 goals for the year.  Even writing this, I can feel my mind drifting out into the field.  I'll post my progress here.

What are your goals for the year?

Good Birding,