Here at Birds and Words we’re celebrating a new year. Though I’m not at all religious — unless you count Saturdays in the field or a weekday morning at the banding station, perhaps those are my most religious moments — I do like to pause and mark the start of a new year. I celebrated the dawning of Rosh Hashanah twice yesterday. Once with family, apples dipped in honey, the whole deal, and the second, perhaps more transcendent time happened earlier in the morning, watching the sun rise over Toronto from Tommy Thompson Park while setting up mist nets at the banding station. For some reason, marking the beginning of a new year in nature, with birds, at the banding station — where I extracted not one but three birds! — I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.
And so I’ve been thinking about this past year. Here’s a partial run-down, in no particular order:
- I wrote an article about my first magazine piece about my first birdathon and about birders and birding. It’s published in the ever-wonderful Maisonneuve Magazine
- I’m in the process of learning to extract birds from mist nets. It’s terrifying and exhilarating all at once. My first bird: a cedar waxwing. Yesterday’s bounty: magnolia warbler, orange-crowned warbler, white-throated sparrow. The banding station, hidden in an unsuspecting urban park downtown Toronto, is now my favorite place in the entire city. Especially an hour before sunrise.
- I completed my first birdathon!!!
- My birdsong recognition count is now up to 10. Slowly but surely.
- I’m reviewing birdy books for Birding.
- My Yiddish skills are now good enough that I can read Vini der Pu oyf Yiddish. I still have a ways to go before I’ll be fit to tackle Sholem Aleychem, but progress is being made.
- Piano progress report: Three Brahms Intermezzi, a Mozart Fantasia (c minor), and a very slow rendition of the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata (still, alas, a massive work-in-progress). Czerny studies. Always Czerny.
- A Mountain Bluebird sighting in the foothills of the mountains in Whitehorse, Yukon. Blindingly brilliant blue.
- Not one but two juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron sightings, one on Monhegan Island in Maine and the other in the west end of Toronto.
- An embarrassing misidentification: at Rondeau provincial park, I accidentally mistook a Canada warbler for a hooded warbler, called out the wrong name and suddenly found myself surrounded by a dozen (very forgiving, as it turned out)
- Great Grey Owl (that pretty much says it all). I yelped. A woman next to me cried. It’s emotional, this birding business.
- Two incredible t-shirt purchases from the great Paul Riss of PRBY Apparel. Hey, if Ken Kauffman wears his t-shirts, so will I! I opted for a RWBL (obviously) and a stunning STFL.
- 29 warbler species seen (and mostly ID’d. OK I got help. OK, a lot of help!)
- My first red-headed woodpecker sighting. It was epic.
- This thing that started out as a frivolous hobby four years ago has unexpectedly turned into a way of life. Here at Birds and Words, we bird. We make mistakes (constantly!), we misidentify, we learn, we correct ourselves, we try again, we fail to see what we set out to find, we encounter something surprising instead, and most of all, we marvel at the world.
Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to more more more of all of the above for the coming year!