As the calendar turned to 2015, I figured it might be fun to take a look back at some birding highlights from last year — for my own amusement, if nothing else. On the right side of the page, do you see that widget called “Birds seen in 2015”? I also kept a list like that in 2014, marking all the birds I saw at home, on field trips, on vacation, and on work-related travel. The final tally was 355 species, spread across four countries on two continents. Here’s a look back at how the year unfolded.
January (50 new species)
The first bird of note in 2014 was a snowy owl (23rd species for the year) on January 4 at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, just east of our hometown of Ann Arbor, MI. Snowies usually stay further north in winter, but every few year they migrate south in large numbers. 2014 was one of those years, with sightings reported from as far south as Florida. January 4 also brought horned lark, Lapland longspur, and snow bunting — three typical winter visitors to farm fields across the US.
The bitter cold from the polar vortex led to more ice than usual and forced waterfowl to crowd together in the remaining open water on rivers and lakes. Within the Ann Arbor city limits, a fast-flowing stretch of the Huron River was teeming with all kinds of ducks for much of the winter: in January, I saw mallards, common goldeneyes, and American black ducks; canvasbacks, redheads, and gadwall; and common, hooded, and red-breasted mergansers. Also present were many Canada geese, mute swans, and trumpeter swans. The 50th and last new bird for the month was a bald eagle at that same stretch of river, perhaps drawn there by the abundance of waterfowl.
We ventured into Munich today for the third time since arriving in Germany, and this time we brought our cameras. The subway was packed with people in lederhosen and dirndls for Oktoberfest, but we headed a little further west to visit Schloss Nymphenburg. This baroque palace was built in 1675 for the rulers of Bavaria. Nowadays, the palace and the extensive grounds are open to the public.