Sunday, January 1, 2023:
It was, as in 2012 and 2016, when I had previously done Big Years, another very good year. But it had come to an end. On December 29 I took one last trip up north, trying to pick up at least one more bird, a Sharp-tailed Grouse that I didn’t see in the previous 11 months and 28 days. I spent the day driving to Sault Ste. Marie and the penultimate day of 2022 driving the agricultural roads, and checking eBird Hotspots, looking for the grouse. I had found many other grouse this year, so no reason, with 8 hours of daylight, I couldn’t locate just one. And I was successful, first thing in the morning, which gave me a pleasing 456 species for the year and left me only one short of the all time record. Alas, I was unable to get a photo, as grouse tend shoot into the woods as soon as you see them,
I then had a big choice to make. It was the morning of December 30 and there was a Hermit Warbler, not in British Columbia, but in Newfoundland. I didn’t get one out west,(they rarely cross over into Canada), so maybe I could fly east and see it. St. John’s is no stranger to western species, having hosted a Western Tanager last winter. That one I did see. I checked flights and prices and weighed the pros and cons and just couldn’t bring myself to take one more trip that, yes, could have tied the record, but would have had me spend money that was no longer part of the original budget and the warbler might not even be there when I arrived. Besides, travel post Christmas and New Year’s might not be so advisable. Maybe something else would show up in Ontario before sunset on New Years Eve, and I did want to stick around and try get a photo of the Sharp-tailed Grouse.
It was not to be. I tried for a photo when I saw a second one later in the afternoon, but all I got was a blob through my front windshield of the car. By the time I got out of the car it had, as many other grouse I have seen, scurried off into the woods, then flew into a tree, about a hundred yards deep in the shadows, with, I presume, some of its mates.
And so began my drive back to Brantford and a saner and more restful life to look forward to in 2023. I made it as far as Sudbury by sunset on December 30 and kept checking Ontario rare bird alerts every time I stopped on my way back home the morning of New Year’s Eve. There was an unconfirmed sighting of an Ivory Gull near Ottawa, but it never panned out. I arrived home with a few hours left before the sun would set on my 2022 Canada Big Year, did one more eBird list and went home to spend the last evening of the year in my living room with Sue, rather than alone in another hotel room. I still ordered dinner delivery. Hard habit to break.
As is the habit of submitting eBird lists every day. I began a streak of eBirding every day on January 1, 2018. Previously I had a streak approaching 900 consecutive days that ended on Halloween eve in 2017, when I checked into the hospital for spinal surgery. I spent a day in ICU and had no windows to see through, thus ending that streak.
I began a new one in 2018 and haven’t stopped until, well, today. 1826 consecutive days, that included hospital stays for another spinal surgery, a heart attack and kidney stones. I had windows for all those stays and almost always brought my binoculars. I decided that I’d do it for one more year, as part of this Big Year. Time to give it a bit of a rest. I actually enjoyed birding in Hamilton with Sue this afternoon, with just binoculars and found it very soothing after the intensity of the previous 365 days.
So, yes, I fell one short of the Canadian eBird record of 457 species seen or heard in one year in Canada, but I never expected to even reach 450. Birders all across the country and a few locals here in Ontario, some of them doing their own Ontario Big Years, kept me going. Oh and there was that other fellow doing his own Canada Big Year. He kept me on my toes too. I’ll take second place all time. I’ve never been one to chase records. Just to do the best I was capable of. Not to mention I finished on top of the eBird list for Canada in 2022.
Not bad for a skinny 62 year old with stents in his heart, chronic kidney stones, Post Concussion Syndrome, and an alphabet soup of cognitive and mental disorders. For starters. I could go on, but this is about my birding journey, and I will leave discussions of my health issues for another time.
Some of my favourite birds of 2022:
So, I will leave it at that tonight. In the coming days I will gather my thoughts and share some favourite photos and memories, and look back at the places I traveled to and the people I encountered along the way. And update you on what’s next for this obsessive birder and former videographer, that may not always involve getting out in the field.