This year I’ve set my sights on a Milwaukee County Big Year. It gives me an excuse to explore parts of the county that I might not visit otherwise. It will also highlight the natural diversity one can find in even the most urban of settings. There will be birders who see more birds than me this year. I’m ok with that. I’m just paying attention to what I see on my day to day adventures.
A Big Year gives you 12 months to see as many species of birds as possible. On the one hand it is like a marathon. You’ve got plenty of time to find birds. While some species are abundant residents all year long, others are just here for a season or even just passing through on migration. This creates a bit of urgency to spot some species, making it more like a 12 monthly sprints.
In the first three months of 2013 I’ve seen 49 species of birds. In addition to the backyard feeder birds, I’ve mostly found winter gulls and waterfowl. As the temperatures rise, there has been a decrease in some of these species. Some birds that overwinter in Milwaukee are headed back north for a short nesting seasons. I saw a pair of Snow Bunting yesterday at Lakeshore State Park, and I swear they were melting before my eyes as the temperatures reached 50 degrees for the first time this year. Earlier this week I saw Common Redpoll another visitor that won’t be lingering around much longer.
Here we are on the 1st of April. I’m starting to see an increase in sparrows. These seedeaters often winter in the southern United States and are some of the earliest migrants to show back up in the northern tier states. No joke a stunning rufous red Fox Sparrow was a delight to see this morning. It was the 50th species of bird I’ve seen in Milwaukee County this year!
As the sprint of spring migration picks up, I hope it doesn’t take 3 months to see my next 50 species of birds. Either way, I’m in it for the long haul. I missed out on some winter visitors, so I’m already looking forward to November and December.