Could it be that birding gets more interesting, and more exciting, the longer we do it? Dedicated watchers know the answer is yes.
The 2018 birding year, officially The Year of the Bird, only escalated our curiosity and passion for the hobby. It was remarkably newsy and birdy, filled with feathery surprises, the latter including a plucky little plover, long out of season, lingering on a frigid Chicago beach.
A major anniversary hovered over 2018, inspiring the Year of the Bird celebration and calling attention to bird conservation at a critical time. Ironically, just as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act turned 100, it came under attack in Washington. A bill in Congress, HR 4239, would pull some key enforcement teeth from MBTA, our country’s most important bird protection law. National Audubon Society sued the Department of the Interior, with similar suits filed by Attorneys General in eight states, including Illinois.
“State of the World’s Birds,” released in April, reported that 40 percent of bird species worldwide are in decline, with one of every eight threatened with extinction. BirdLife International issues the report every five years.
One of those potentially doomed species is the blue-throated hillstar, an Ecuadorian hummingbird revealed to the world in September. An estimated 750 individuals exist. Yes, amazingly, new birds are still being discovered.
Northwestern University earned kudos in March for making its glassy buildings along the lakefront less deadly for migrating birds. To reduce collisions, the college applied patterned film to many existing windows and chose glass with patterns visible to birds in some new construction. Chicago Bird Collision Monitors advised.
Notes and scribblingsBird Watcher’s Digest celebrated 40 years of publishing and launched Redstart Birding, a gear company out to fill the void left by Eagle Optics.
Julie Zickefoose, artist and author, spoke at Morton Arboretum on back-to-back nights in June. Always the birder and keeping a trip list, Zick observed a nesting killdeer at the Hyatt Regency Lisle—on the roof!
The gray jay is now the Canada jay. Remember that when you visit the North Woods.
A yellow (not red) northern cardinal, spotted in Alabama, went viral on Facebook. So did several hilarious photos of a high school golfer in Michigan being attacked by a goose. Only his pride was hurt.
In March, I happened to be on the Wheaton College campus 90 minutes before the memorial service for Billy Graham. Hearing a mourning dove calling, I looked around. The bird was on top of Graham’s namesake building. Too perfect.
A white-tailed kite visited Porter County, Indiana, during the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival in May. Found by Mark Welter, it was the third state record of the species, the last being in 1994. Many festival attendees scored a highly improbable lifer.
An out-of-range blue-footed booby sent birders scrambling to Kane County in September. The Kane County in Utah, unfortunately.
But the Chicago region offered its own excitement for birders in 2018, and plenty of it.
The year began with a mega rarity when Amar Ayyash bagged an ivory gull at the Lake County Fairgrounds. Also in January, birders beat a trail to Palos Park for a varied thrush in the yard of a birder-friendly homeowner. Big Rock, Kane County, our Kane County, would host a varied thrush in November.
Notable: Greater white-fronted geese were widespread in late February; common loons were unusually prolific in March and April; numbers of pine siskins were still around in late May; and black-bellied whistling ducks turned up throughout the state from May to October.