Friday, January 1, 2010

First Bird Of The Year


Since undergraduate school I have played this little game on New Year's Day where I have sought out and recorded the first species of bird that I found that year. Many times back then I would have a House Sparrow be the first bird of the year - to me always an omen of a bad year coming up!

On January 1 1975, in an attempt to break this string of bad luck with House Sparrows, my ex wife and I slid out of bed at 0 dark 30 in River Falls Wisconsin and drove down to Prescott where we perched high on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers. It was our intention to sit there and get Bald Eagle as the first bird of the year. Ruth and I sat there freezing our collective asses off (hers being much nicer than mine) as we waited for sunlight to appear. As luck would have it, long before the first Bald Eagle made an appearance we heard the depressing "chirp" of House Sparrows. Once again it was the first species of the year.

My luck changed in 1980 when I walked outside our house in Jamestown North Dakota at 12:01 a.m. and listened. It was way too early for House Sparrows to be calling and instead I heard a flock of Lapland Longspurs migrating south overhead and in advance of an incoming snow storm.

On January 1 1983 I dragged Ruth away from a New Year's Eve party in Jamestown and we went to McElroy Park where we had Eastern Screech-Owl calling just after midnight. Ruth and I separated two months later and I've often wondered if dragging her out into the woods at midnight on New Years could have contributed. Probably not LOL.

As years have passed I have kept this silliness going. New Years morning 2009 I awoke in Naples, Florida, looked out my window and saw a Wood Stork foraging on the wetland in front of my home. This was a sure sign that it was going to be a good year.

For New Years 2010 I had visions of standing on my lanai at sunrise and listening to my flock of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks that consistently fly over my house each morning, and getting them as my first bird of the year. How cool would that have been??

Those visions faded this morning at 12:10 a.m. when someone blew off some firecrackers nearby and it scared the wits out of every Common Moorhen trying to sleep on the wetland 30 feet from my house. Right on cue what seemed like all of them started squawking and belching and making all sorts of noises like Common Moorhen's make. You can hear one of its most common voices at this link.

So, despite my disappointment at not getting Black-bellied Whistling-Duck for my first bird of 2010, I can be thankful that I didn't get a House Sparrow. I think 2010 is going to be a very good year.

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