As of yesterday, 27 days in to the new year, that's where I am with regard to my goal for the Big Year. A great birding trip (and, admittedly, some luck at Mandi's parents' house) yesterday yielded 5 new species for my list, bringing the total so far to a whopping 50. And while that doesn't sound like a lot, I feel like I'm well on my way to the goal of 150 I set for myself before the year began.
We went down to Charlotte with the goals of letting the girls spend some time with Grandma and Grandpa, scouring the retail scene for some Crocs for Mandi to wear to work, and potentially spending some time at Freedom Park looking for birds. Freedom Park turned into Mandi wanting to show me around Myers Park High School, her old stomping grounds as it were. We walked out behind the Auto Mechanics building and were immediately overtaken by a raucous symphony of singing birds. There were so many unique songs it was difficult for us to stop and focus on just one. We heard a few familiar ones, like the Carolina Chickadee and Northern Cardinal, but the overwhelming majority were strangers to my still-untrained ear. Our first new addition was the Hermit Thrush pictured above. He was playing around in the leaves and generally making himself as conspicuous as could be. He may have been trying to bring our attention to the litter left behind by the teenagers that do, well, whatever it is they do back in those woods.
Then, in the scraggly pine trees we spent a good bit of time identifying a Golden-crowned Kinglet. He was a jumpy little bugger who did not make an easy task of photographing him, but he hung out long enough for us to be absolutely sure of our ID. We saw at least 25 more species in that trip that are already on the list, and I considered our morning a huge success just for the two names we were adding. Then it was time to go pick up the girls, and we were heading inside as I noticed a large bird under a tree in the neighbor's back yard. I scurried back to the car to get my binoculars and when I got back I saw the most gorgeous Northern Flicker "flicking" around the leaves and foraging for ants. I watched him for a few minutes as he made his way across the yard and jumped the fence. As I turned to go inside I saw some movement in one of the tall pines in the same neighbor's yard. I followed the elusive little bugger around the branches for a while, struggling to get a full view in profile through the pine needles, when right before he flew off he stopped, as if to concede to me what he'd been teasing me with, and he showed himself in perfect light. He was a Pine Warbler, behaving precisely as my Field Guide promised he would and showing a beautiful yellow color from his head and nape all the way down his belly. Score!
As if that wasn't enough, as I walked to the car to put the binoculars away, I startled a Carolina Wren that was sneaking around in the other neighbor's back yard. He flew quickly under their covered grill, but he stayed in view long enough for me to make the easy ID. Five new additions in one day was a total thrill, especially considering I had woken up that morning not expecting to go birding at all!