Rather than do an AB recap this month, I’m going to do what everyone loves doing at this time of year, write a list! Warblers in a sprinkler, an American Redstart building a nest, a finch invasion – it’s all here (with videos!) Here are my 6 most memorable birding experiences of the year.
1. American Dipper getting its dip on
I spent New Years Eve 2016 in the beautiful mountain town of Fernie, British Columbia. My first bird of 2016 was a lifer American Dipper which was a fantastic way to kick off the year! I went for a walk along the Elk River in temperatures hovering around -20 degrees Celsius, but amazingly the river still had moving water. I quickly noticed a small bird repeatedly dunking itself in the water – my first dipper!
Here it is caught on video, one of my best birding experiences of the year:
2. American Redstart building a nest
In the late spring of 2016, I was walking through my local conservation area and I saw a female American Redstart flitting between some branches. I looked more closely and I noticed she had some fluff in her beak. I then saw her land and start moving her body in a strange way, like she was using her stomach to smooth something down. It took me a second to figure out what was happening, but eventually it clicked “she has nesting material and she’s building her nest!”
Luckily I took a video and captured this amazing moment:
Read more about my adventures looking for and photographing nests in my article: The Agony and Ecstasy of Photographing Baby Birds
3. Warblers in a Sprinkler
During fall warbler migration, I started walking a new trail that ran along the backyards of a row houses. On a warm day walking this trail, I heard warblers calling in some low scrub beside the fence of someone’s yard. As I looked more closely, I noticed they had a sprinkler on in their backyard and a variety of warblers were happily flying in and out of the water!
Some, like the Nashvilles and Blackpoll in this video, were actually bathing in the puddles that had formed. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
The sprinkler was just the icing on the cake of what had already been a great day of birding.
I also got to work on my fall warbler id skills which you can read about in my article Identifying Confusing Fall Warblers: 5 Case Studies.
4. Finch Invasion
I spent the winter of 2016 living up at Mont Tremblant, Quebec. I had a feeder up in my backyard which had been fairly quiet over the winter, but in late March I had two Purple Finches and a Pine Siskin visit. I was ecstatic! Little did I know, that was just the beginning.
The following morning, I looked out my window and my feeder was literally overrun with hundreds of Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches and Common Redpolls. I spread seeds all over the ground and, for the next week, I was inundated! I’ve never experienced such numbers before.
5. Eastern Kingbird Cuteness Overload
Late summer 2016, I got word from a friend that an Eastern Kingbird nest had been seen at our local conservation area. I went a couple of times to check it out, but there wasn’t much to see except for the female sitting very quietly on the nest.
On my third visit, I was lucky enough to see the hatchlings almost big enough to fledge the nest. They were adorable! One of those unique moments in nature that I was overjoyed to be a part of and one of my best birding experiences of 2016.
6. Trekking for Redheads
One of the most awesome birding experiences I had this year was bushwhacking for 20 minutes through thick vegetation to get closer to a large raft of Ring-necked Ducks and lifer Redheads.
Our group had been checking out the raft of ducks from the far shore and, at a certain point, the decision was made we had get closer. The walk ended up being a bit more intense than any of us had expected, but once you’re en route you don’t want to stop. The mission was successful and we had great views of the ducks!
Adventure + Birding = 2 of my favourite things! To read more about my 2016 experiences with duck photography, check out 8 Useful Tips for Photographing Ducks.
I’ve left my trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks off the list because it happened so recently, but it would definitely be there otherwise!
Happy New Year’s everyone!
I don’t know about you, but I’m really excited to see what fantastic birding experiences await me in 2017! I have some pretty cool trips lined up for the first half of the year including Vancouver for hundreds of over-wintering waterfowl and raptors and Point Pelee for spring migration. Some international trips are in the works, but I’ll keep those a secret until confirmed 🙂
Where are you birding this year? Comment below ↓