Monday, October 5, 2009

Top Ten Birds and Experiences of 2009

Bird Year 2009
Participants: Craig Gough, Bob Hart, Ed Lewandowski, Bill Loomis, and Tom Shehan

2009... Here it goes... Let's start with my inspiration.
My posting to on Feb 11th.
Again, I want to thank the birding community for your support and kind words.

Hello birders,

This is not a post for me. This is to bring to light the passing of one of my favorite birders, friend, and relative. Bill Wilson, my uncle died shortly after Christmas but until now I haven't been able to bring myself to do this message its just delivery.
He may not be well known to most on this site, but he was one of those birders that could close his eyes and tell you what you were seeing. He struggled for many years with Parkinson's but it never diminished his spirit. He was always game for bird stories told or listened to, and would get a glimmer in his eye for any opportunity to get out to bird. He would always ask about my meager year count, list off birds I never seem to get while just watching the feeders at his house with his wife Joan. He talked often about his trips to Pelee with his brother, banding hawks with Tom Heatley, and would ask us out to watch birds back when watching birds was still watching birds (not birding!)
His name is not likely to be known to most like I mentioned, but he was undoubtedly one of the best birders I know and most inspiring people in my life. For those that knew him, they had a friend, and I am sure fond memories. Every year my father in law, Tom Shehan and I do a Top Ten Birds/Experiences list just for fun to reflect on the year (thanks Cathy Carroll) and every year one of my best memories of the 10 was with uncle Bill.

I am not a very religious man but I have to believe that he is getting all the lifers he deserves and can ask for.

Make this year and all of your bird years to come great and meaningful.
Happy Birding and Happy Memories
Ed Lewandowski
Auburn Hills

I set out to make this year the most memorable year possible. I dedicated Bird Year 2009 to my uncle. Sorry I never understood how great this hobby was until I was older.

To finish this posting I had to do it right playing by Jamie Cullum. Uncle Bill was singing these old tunes on the ride back from our St. Clair River trip when I landed my first "Oldsquaw" he called it, as I poured through the Sibley's to ID a Long-Tailed Duck. Potato-Potahto, Tomato-Tomahto.

I now say Oldsquaw to respect the old school.

I put myself out there as much as possible trying to make new experiences while treasuring so many great memories. Birding is a great part of who I am. To understand me at my best, you have to ride/walk around sub below temps with fogged up scopes and binoculars, bike the Moo in sweltering heat packing the awkward gear, drive around 90 mph on the backroads of "God knows where (Canada Tundra Swans)", trying to show someone a new bird or capture something magical in nature all over again, putting up with eating on the fly (Wendy's), to think looking at every cell phone tower and puddle over 600 miles is still pretty cool, always pushing for one more bird, ok damnit 5, running late (sorry babe, my excuses are used up by now), my foul language when I miss on a bird for the 8th time and/or pretty much all day anyway, my over excitement for "county and park first of the years" (yeah I got it bad man!), repeat stories... blah, blah, blah, the old beat up Red Sox hat (finally retired), and many other crazy antics I have may have left out.

Birding Rocks! Looking forward to 2010!
Here is my Top Ten...

Top Ten Birds of 2009
1. Northern Hawk Owl**
2. White-Winged Crossbill**
3. Prothontary Warbler**
4. Greater White-Fronted Goose**
5. Brewer's Blackbird**
6. Henslow's Sparrow**
7. Little Gull**
8. Ross' Goose (OC*)
9. Clay-Colored Sparrow (MAC*)
10. Little Blue Heron*

Top Ten Experiences of 2009
1. 114 Bird Day

May is the month for being on a mission. When isn't right? May has new meaning for me though. Last year we finished a 99 bird day scrambling for one last bird in the dark at Suarez Nature Center. This year we were up very early to surpass the century mark.
Our first stop at Rondeau was no let down. We missed on the Townsend's Warbler that day but I ID'd a lifer Prothonotary by its call and then got a crystal clear look. We continued to rack up birds optimistically at Blenheim Sewage Lagoons (Dowitchers, Marbled Godwit) tagging onto a guided bird group. We made a stop at Wheatley, and then Point Pelee to add to our already 100+ list!
For all the greatness of this trip we still got clobbered by Sean Bachman and I think Lyle Hamilton never even leaving their own county. Ouch! Good job on your record too.

2. UP trip
Kid in a candy store! I had only been semi-birding in the UP once before, but this was just awesome. So many good birds right off the get go it is hard to write a list for them all.
The only two-day trip of the year did not disappoint and set me up for my best year ever.
Missed on some good birds, but I intend to return for Sharp-Tailed Grouse and Great Gray Owl. I felt so alive getting things lined up for this run up north and so many things about the trip turned out the way I planned. I felt proud throughout the journey.

3. Season Opener
Everyone and their brother made their way out to see every Crossbill posting at Cedar Lake Campground and so did the Featherless Five! This turned out to be only one of two trips of the year all together, we got out to see a Cbill for the first time. They were fun to watch, and it was awesome to land a lifer within the first week of the new year. We dipped on the Varied Thrush in Ann Arbor unfortunately, but it was a great day to be a birder. Thanks again to the Hotaling family for your patience and hospitality to the birding community.

4. My little one and a Ross' Goose
Been meaning to get my daughter out to feed the chickadees and little birdies by hand at Kensington.
Little did she know that she was also along for a county first Ross' Goose. She saw it and said "Goose", so yep it counts! She had fun throwing seed around but wasn't sure about the Chickadees getting THAT close. Pretty cute stuff.

5.Viva La Mexico!
How can birding in a tropical climate be a bad thing? Nothing beats birding in a Hawaiian shirt drinking cervezas at pool side with your family! The birds kept coming here and there but I did better on the last day walking around the more manicured resort as opposed to the sanctuary of a resort we stayed at. FYI-Adding to your WORLD LIST is pretty cool too!

An Immature Yucatan Jay harassing our morning feast on the balcony.
They were helarious!

6. Pt. Moo- New level of birding
Well, I sure had every intention to win the damn trophy this year, so I made ample effort to get out to Pt. Moo to do it. My last trip was most meaningful. I picked up quite a few co. firsts and first of the years, but more importantly I ran into Caleb Putnam and Adam Byrne (yep... the guy that fine tooth combs my eBird postings!) Watching these guys in action is really impressive. I learned 1. I just aint as good as I may think I am at this birding thing. 2. Buy a better freaking scope. 3. Listening to real birders talk is like hearing a different language. You can make out some of the words, follow along here and there, but hell no way was I going to find that White-Rumped Sandpiper on my own. These guys are just awesome. I have some more birding to do apparently or bird in a little different way.

7. Curious about that noise!?
Over at Nana and Papa's, Tom just mentioned he ought to be getting a Screech Owl soon. We went into the study after dinner, checked the postings, played some owl songs. My daughter stopped playing with whatever my wife and Nana were doing and came running into the study to investigate this unusual phenomena. We had to up the ante and bring an owl to her. This was more than cool to her and the look on her face was unforgetable. For weeks afterward she was still hooting so we had to take her to hawk fest for the owl and hawk exhibit guy. The interest continues...

8. W. Michigan Trip
This recent trip came unexpectedly as Craig, Tom, and I planned to go to Harrisville, Oscoda, Tawas area, but Rich Brigham's posting from the week before was too much to pass up for November. The winds weren't cooperative for us but it was awesome getting out to new birding locations, getting a few more birds for the year and enough to tie my all time best annual total with over a month to go. I intend to bird more on this coast in the next few years, Warren Dunes in May is next.

9. Last Bird?!
Found a report from the Belle Isle trip stating that the Saw-Whet Owl is back at old reliable and would be my best ever bird #228. I left work right away being overly anxious to beat my old record. This is more significant to me than it probably sounds because I realize in the grand scheme of things, 227 birds in a year isn't exactly earth shattering to the top birders but meaningful to me. I have hit 200+ every year but those years included somewhere... Delaware, Maryland, Florida, Georgia. Last year I didn't go anywhere but had respectable numbers staying in Michigan, N. Ohio, and SW. Ontario. This year I am well ahead all marks staying in the area. Something to be proud of. A great year for me.
Oh yeah... the bird! I dipped with disappointment on the owl but I scowered the entire island in hopes of finding a Cackling Goose amongst the vast groups of Canada Geese on the island. It was starting to get dark and I was about to call it a day but there it was within 10 feet of my car just before calling it quits.

10. SW Washtenaw
This was my favorite solo trip of the year. I landed some solid birds for the area, for the year, and did mostly it mostly by taking after Uncle Bill. Close your eyes, soak in the morning chill, and listen to every bird sing to the rising sun. That is birding!

#231- Last bird of the year
Couldn't put a rank on this one.
I had some time to kill after work and wanted to take one last shot on the lifer Black Scoter I manage to keep missing on. This bird has become a nemesis bird for me. With large groups of all scoters being located on the west side of the state in November, I missed both times I tried but decided for one last shot in Port Huron. I have seen White-Wing Scoters and Surf Scoters here before but never the Black Scoter. They are less common I realize, but it was starting to become ridiculous.
Things were quiet and it was getting dark but I finished the trip at the first spot Uncle Bill ever took me to for birding... at Lighthouse Park. I found my lifer and last bird of the year on his home turf.
I made some effort to pick up #232 after that but I think somehow, I was meant to finish things right there. Where it all began.


  1. Hi Ed,

    I appreciate all of your posts to the UMich Birding group. Thanks for being a dedicated and enthusiastic birder. I always look forward to your information since I am an Oakland County resident. I like to read about what others are finding on this side of the metro area.


  2. Thanks janet,
    I appreciate that. I do enjoy the Oakland Co. postings. Always on the look out for more birding spots and good birds in our area.
    I see you have a camera in your picture.
    I hope to start adding more photos to my blog to go with the postings.
    Take care