A New Year, A New List

New Year’s Eve. A time to think back on our accomplishments of the past twelve months, to remember the highlights, and look ahead to what we hope the new year will bring. For many birders, New Year’s Eve is a time to turn the page and begin a brand new year list. This is one of the highlights of winter for me, because on January 1st every bird is new again…even the pigeons and starlings, even the crows. As I start the year I wonder what new life birds I will see in 2013. Will any rarities show up in Ottawa, and will they be as long-staying as the Razorbill last year? Or will they merely be a one-day wonder like the Ivory Gull this year? Will I see any new life birds in Point Pelee in May? Will I reach 200 species in the Ottawa study area in 2013, or 300 species on my life list?

The weather forecast looks promising for tomorrow: cold, but sunny. Although I plan to stay up until midnight tonight to ring in the new year, I also plan to wake up early tomorrow morning to start my new year list. My last new bird for December (and my winter list) was a Northern Shrike seen along Barnsdale Road. Hopefully both the shrike and the Rough-legged Hawk on Brownlee Road will still be around tomorrow.

Northern Shrike

Northern Shrike – my best photo yet of this species, despite the overcast conditions

I’ve been reviewing my year lists for the past six years. The highest number of species seen on January 1st was 26 (in 2012) while the lowest was 7 (in 2008 – I didn’t stay out too long that day as a snowstorm moved in about an hour after I left home). The average number of species I’ve seen on the first day of the year is 17. I note that I’ve never seen a Rough-legged Hawk or a Northern Shrike on January 1st in any of those years!

Highlights from previous years include a White-crowned Sparrow overwintering at the Hilda Road feeders in 2007, the tame Ruffed Grouse at the Hilda Road feeders in 2008, Glaucous and Herring Gulls at Billings Bridge and White-winged Crossbills at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden in 2009, all three woodpecker species at Sarsaparilla Trail in 2010 (that was my only stop of the day, and I only tallied ten species), a Northern Goshawk at Jack Pine Trail in 2011 (a lifer!), and a Northern Flicker at Mud Lake and a Red-winged Blackbird at Hilda Road feeders in 2012.

My first bird of the day will likely be either American Crow or European Starling. Last January these two birds actually managed to tie for the first bird of 2012, as I heard both vocalizing at the same time when I rolled up the garage door on my way out of the house. I counted the European Starling as my first bird of the year as it was the one that I actually saw first. There are some good birds around this winter, and potential stops tomorrow include Bate Island for the Harlequin Duck, the Lime Kiln Trail for the Black-backed Woodpecker (though the deep snow will make walking around the burn site difficult), and the Carolina Wren at Mud Lake. I usually stop in at Jack Pine Trail or Sarsaparilla Trail for the woodpeckers and nuthatches, Hilda Road for feeder birds (as my feeder isn’t attracting anything right now), the Trail Road dump for hawks, and Mud Lake for ducks and woodland birds. We’ll see how many of these places I can hit before I succumb to either cold or exhaustion!

What will 2013 bring? I’ll find out in a few short hours!

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