2019— The year in review

  • In my favorite photo from 2019, I observed this mink carrying a fish into a den hidden in the side of a cliff while hundreds of people walked by unaware. For the Recorder/Bill Danielson

  • This juvenile northern parula was my most exhilarating bird sighting of 2019.

Published: 12/30/2019 8:22:27 AM

As 2019 draws to a close, I shall review the highlights of my year. This is something I’ve been doing for decades and I think it is a good way to shine a spotlight on another year spent on this wonderful planet of ours. Especially at this time of year — when a lack of daylight can dampen the spirit — it can be nice to remember warmer days, when the perfume of damp earth filled the nostrils and added a bit of fire to the blood.

January saw the start of a trend with my personal bird lists for my yard. I’ve been keeping these lists for years and it appears that I have now hit something of a plateau. In the beginning, I could usually set a new record by simply spending more time watching the birds. At this point, however, I have reached a point when something out of the ordinary has to happen to help me get that one extra species that I need. This year, I saw 26 species, which put me four short of the record from 2018.

February was cold. The high temperatures for most days were below freezing and snow persisted for more that just a day or two, which helped my writing endeavors tremendously. A family of deer was hanging around my yard on a daily basis. They were eating crabapples and birdseed and their movements became so predictable that I could get some great photos. I also found a series of tracks in the yard that told the story of a bobcat hunting, killing and consuming a rabbit. That was an extraordinary first for me.

March was a typical March; a month of melting and indecision on the part of the weather. On March 2, I saw 22 species of birds, which I took optimistically as a good sign that I might break a record. Then, on March 16, I saw 24 species of birds. Surely a record would be broken. Migrants were arriving and new species might be seen any day, but it was right about then that things petered out. Despite the fact that I saw 22 species on two other days, I never saw enough different species to push me over the edge and I ended up one short of my all-time record.

April was an exciting month. I took my beautiful wife, Susan, on a photographic expedition in Newport, R.I. I like to visit Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge every couple of years to look for winter ducks and snowy owls. I’ve yet to get close to the owls, but this year I managed to take a favorite photo while walking along the Cliff Walk behind Newport’s grand mansions. On a bright and sunny day, while hundreds of people were out enjoying a stroll, a mink climbed up the seawall and disappeared into a den in the rock. No one else noticed, but I got the photo.

May, June and July were beautiful, wonderful months. In May, I managed to observe 61 species of birds in my yard, but that was only sufficient to tie my previous record from 2015. June was delightful and July was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable months that I have spent at home. Susan and I decided to give ourselves a travel break by taking a “stay-cation.” Many evenings were spent on the deck with wine and homemade dinners. It was simple and relaxing. I can’t wait for those evenings to return.

It wasn’t until August that I was able to set my first new birding record for 2019. Again, the weather was perfect and the stay-cation really paid off. There had been a three-way tie of 50 species from 2016 to 2018, but this year I was able to add three extra species to set a new personal record of 53. Since August is my traditional vacation month, I think that record will stand for many years to come.

September was even better. I was back in school, but the weekends were all perfect and I absolutely obliterated my old record of 41 species with a new record of 47. This was due to an extraordinary wave of migrant warblers that I just happened to put myself in the path of. In particular, I saw a northern parula, which was an exhilarating experience for me. I even managed to get a photo to share with you.

The last quarter of 2019, October, November and December, have been pleasant and predictable. We had a major snow storm to start off the month of December and this has generated a couple of very interesting situations that I can’t share with you right now because I’ve run out of room. Never fear, however, for I already have two future stories locked and loaded for 2020.

Please have a wonderful, safe and happy New Year and I’ll talk to you next week.

Bill Danielson has been a professional writer and nature photographer for 22 years. He has worked for the National Park Service, the US Forest Service and the Massachusetts State Parks and currently teaches high school biology and physics. Visit www.speakingofnature.com for more information, or go to Speaking of Nature on Facebook.

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