Best Bird of the Year – 2013

I wasn’t planning to post my best bird or experiences of 2013 until I saw a request on 10,000 Birds http://10000birds.com/ for your best bird of 2013.  So it got me thinking about the past year.  Since it was a transitional year for my family moving from Illinois to Indiana, not a lot jumps out at me except settling the family in and getting things lined out at the new job.  Yes, I took 2 trips this year – Florida and Connecticut – but they were more R&R trips than birding trips.  So even though they included a few new life birds and I got to see many birds I rarely see, nothing really jumps out from the trips.

Looking back on previous years the best birds are uncommon ones that I found in my local area.  As I have stated previously I get the most satisfaction on finding birds that are uncommon to my local area.  Like the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, very uncommon for the area, that I found in LaSalle County, IL,  2009.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - First heard early one morning, and then seen a couple of days later. June 2009 - LaSalle County, IL

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron – First heard early one morning, and then seen a couple of days later.
June 2009 – LaSalle County, IL

Or the Short-eared Owls in 2010, also in LaSalle County.

Short-eared Owl flying into the sunset.  One of 3 I found out looking for Snowy Owls.   They came back for two winters but never found the 3rd winter.   LaSalle County, IL  Feb. 2010

Short-eared Owl flying into the sunset. One of 3 I found out looking for Snowy Owls.  They came back for two winters but never found the 3rd winter.
LaSalle County, IL Feb. 2010

Both birds I found by following the methods I have outlined previously.

And 2013 was no exception. I found several uncommon birds in the area but it comes down to two birds – Sedge Wren and Cliff Swallow.  Both common elsewhere but not in Johnson County.  I found both birds while conducting the Indiana Audubon Society Summer Bird Count.  The Sedge Wren was heard only on a warm, humid July morning after checking several locations over the course of a couple of weeks.  Since it was heard only I will opt for the Cliff Swallow as the best bird of 2013.

Cliff Swallow - Southern Illinois Trip - June 2009

Cliff Swallow – Southern Illinois Trip – June 2009

Since Johnson County does not have any large, high bridges, I knew I would have to catch Cliff Swallows during migration.  Experience told me that when they migrate they tend to stage with other swallows before moving on.  So in early July I started watching the power lines over Pisgah Lake at Atterbury FWA. I knew I would have to get lucky to include Cliff Swallows on the summer count since they tend to migrate more in August.  As July wore on more swallows started to stage on the line and I thought I might still get them in July.  My last chance to include them on the summer count was July 27.  There were many swallows but no Cliff noted that day.

Having missed them for the count but still wanting to see them, I headed back the next weekend. Saturday, August 3, was a warm, humid day.  But at least it was partly cloudy.  There were approximately 100 swallows and martins sitting on the wires and flying about when I arrived around 10:30. I walked through the high, wet grass back to a prime vantage point and stood watching the swallows.  After a couple of minutes two flew by that I were sure were Cliff Swallows, showing the buffy rump.  But not being 100% sure I stood in the heat and humidity checking every swallow that flew by.  After 45 minutes a group of 3 flew by confirming there were Cliff Swallows present!  I felt very satisfied seeing the swallows but being drenched in sweat and tired of wiping my glasses and binoculars constantly, I headed back to the car.

I’m sure I’m no different than others in that the best birds, even if they are fairly common ones, usually have a story behind them.

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