Despite my tradition of renouncing New Year’s resolutions, I’ve made several this year. Yes, the normal lose five pounds, get organized, consume less caffeine, exercise more often… but also to beat last year's record: 80 days. That’s how long I lasted in 2011’s Bird-A-Day challenge, a contest to see a new bird species for every day of the year.
Many birders keep lists. Life lists, backyard lists, year lists, trip lists, state lists, and on and on. I don’t list—with the exception of this contest. Maybe it’s the scavenger hunt that appeals to me. Or the challenge itself. I like that it coaxes me outside, even on the coldest days when I’d rather stay in. It also takes me to new places with good birding spots, but also great eateries and museums.
Floridian Trey Mitchell created a BirdaDay website (BirdaDay.net) when the challenge began in 2008. That year one Texan lasted until November 12—317 days. In 2009 another birdwatcher from the Lone Star State made it all the way until December 31. (Texans, it must be said, have an edge—at least 622 species have been spotted within that state alone. About 925 species have been seen in the entire United States and Canada.)
Still, the Bird-A-Day challenge is a nationwide competition, and it’s not limited to the birds you can see in North America—travel the globe if you like. What’s more, it’s on the honor system.
Today is Day 6, and some birders are already finding some real rarities, including a common chaffinch (more common in Europe) that popped up in Hunterdon County, New Jersey and today’s La Sagra's Flycatcher taking a short trip north to Florida’s Miami-Dade. I haven’t seen anything very rare yet, but I’m doing all right (see list below), and I’m looking forward to hanging in for as long as I can.
New Year’s Day: Red-Throated Loon
Day 2: Greater Scaup
Day 3: Common Merganser
Day 4: Black Duck
Day 5: Red-shouldered Hawk
Day 6: Canvasback