It's mid April.. spring migration time. Exactly one year ago I was sitting at 253 bird species for my Junior Big Year, gearing up for spring migration, one of the few 'make or brake' parts of any Big Year attempt. Last year, spring migration treated me well, I went from 250 bird species at the beginning of spring migration on ahead to around 310 once it was all said and done. While this year, 2012 is not another Junior Big Year attempt by any means it's still an exciting time. Warblers, thrushes, buntings, and tanagers, our colorful, tiny feathered friends are returning from their wintering grounds in the Southern US, Mexico, and South America. And they make a wonderful addition to any year list, a Junior Big Year one or not. I was out birding with a good friend and excellent birder Vic Laubach this past weekend and with my mom today and had 9 warbler species in the 3 days, including 6 FOY. My 2012 year total now sits at a comfortable 156 species. This is 97 (call it 100) species behind what I had at this date in 2011. The gap will continue to grow. In January the number was only about 30 apart. Now it's 100 apart. I expect that I'll end 2012 with approximately 300 species, which would put me 137 behind last year. That may not sound huge, but it is. The 300 birds I will see this year will all be mostly expected eastern birds along with maybe 40 rocky mountain species (I am going to Glacier NP in Montana this summer) Compare that to the 437 species, which included some Alaskan, Arizonian, Californian, Texan, and Floridian species as well as east coast species. While it may be only 137 behind last year, the "quality" of the birds is far different. Last year the "best" sighting could be considered either Gyrfalcon, Brown Shrike, or one of the other "super" birds from 2011. So far the "best" bird in 2012 is probably the White-winged Dove. That's a nice bird, especially for Virginia, where I found my 2012 individual. But it doesn't compare with my "best" bird as of April 16 2011, Brown Shrike or Black-veneted Oriole.
These are just a few reflections on how amazing 2011 really was. I look forward to adding more spring arrives to my 2012 year list and the question that's in my mind now is once again "when can I go birding?"