Friday, January 2, 2009

Ringing in 2009: First 10 birds of the New Year

Male White-tailed Deer, Point Pelee National Park. Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Well another year has come and gone. 2008 was pretty interesting with many new sightings for me in the Pelee area including birds such as Lark Bunting, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and Spotted Towhee, and interesting butterfly species such as Wild Indigo Dusky-wing, Horace's Duskywing, and White-M Hairstreak (that one I unfortunately didn't see). 2009, I'm sure will be just as exciting.

Every January 1st I like to go out and find my first birds of the year, and what better way to get a jump start on getting really good birds, than to spend the night in a well known area that has these species!

Aaron and I decided to camp out on New Years Eve. Negative 15 Celsius temperature and a cold light breeze is what we had to contend with, but with 2 sleeping bags zipped together, and wearing our clothes to bed (insulated coveralls for me) kept us relatively warm throughout the night.

I always love hearing wildlife in the night when I'm camping. So far experience has shown me that camping out in Essex County produces more activity than in Algonquin or Killarney in central Ontario. This makes sense as more natural areas farther north lets nature spread out as opposed to down here where wildlife is clustered to what little natural areas we have left.

The first thing that found our tent was a White-tailed Deer. We set up our tent right on a deer path and we could here this particular deer sounding a little confused. It gave a little grunt and wandered off. Later on as darkness set in, a nearby pack of coyotes howled and barked to communicate together before going out for a new years eve prowl. This made my heart beat rapidly in excitement. One coyote must have seen our tent as it started barking extremely close to the tent, and circled around a few times continuously barking. It eventually got bored and wandered off to join its buddies.
The mating calls of the local Great Horned Owls, was the first bird I heard that night and checking the time it was January 1st. Not a bad first bird for 2009! Later the whistling wings of a flock of Goldeneye flew high over our tent. Hmmm, didn't know they could see in the dark.

Dawn came and we stretched and looked over the situation in our tent. The inside was frosted, our water bottles were frozen, my binoculars were frosted, and I didn't even attempt to turn on the camera. Northern Cardinal, the call of an Eastern-Screech Owl, Dark-eyed Junco and a White-throated Sparrow were birds number 3-6. We packed up the tent, loaded everything into our backpacks and went on a hike to find a spot to have breakfast. American Robin, and Golden-crowned Kinglet were birds number 7 and 8. First mammal of 2009, was, of course, a Gray Squirrel.
After breakfast which was pasta primevera, and hot chocolate, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and Red-breasted nuthatch rounded out the top for birds 9 and 10.

Not a bad list if I do say so myself.

I got a couple of awesome books during the holidays including "Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeast Ohio" and the second edition of "The Moth Book". This year I would like to start an insect collection. I have looked online at supplies, and have done a little bit of research on where to start. If anyone has any tips or info, it would be very much appreciated.
I hope everyone who is reading this had a great holiday season. I has a happy new year!!


  1. Hey Pelee Chickadee!
    How interesting to go camping.
    I think my first bird of 2009 was a Mourning Dove. It was dark!
    I just had a flock of 25-30 White-Winged Crossbills in the yard! Ha Ha!

  2. Marianne ... for now, just a quick Hi and Happy New Year 2009! I'm getting ready to head out the door here for a nature walk and birding.

    Take care. Hopefully we will get to meet at some point this year!

    Jo-Anne :)