Starting the year with backyard birds and dreams of far-flung birds
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The first bird of the year seems auspicious to many birders. In 2011, I wrote a blog post about what meaning we might take from the species we see first on January 1, and people still talk about it.
Today at 7:57 am, my first bird of 2024, a female Pileated Woodpecker, flew to the feeder just as a second individual, who turned out to be BB, the banded male Pileated, was calling from up in my box elder. He waited politely for a minute or two and then joined her on the opposite side of the feeder. Unfortunately, my camera was upstairs, so I didn’t get a photo of them together. (The above photo was taken in April 2022.) I usually notice BB once or twice a day, but for some reason, he came in five times today, and I also saw an unbanded male a couple of times. A female flew in several times, but without any local females being banded, I have no idea if that represented one individual or more.
It was a banner day for woodpeckers on Peabody Street—in addition to the Pileateds, I saw both a male and female Red-bellied Woodpecker and at least four each of both Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers. I ended the day with 13 species—not bad for staying home all day. And of my first ten species, three were at the very top of my Top Ten Favorite Birds of All: Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, and Pileated Woodpecker. No matter how you interpret that, 2024 started out beautifully.
Now that Russ’s and my bird trip to Hawaii is back on—we’re leaving in eight weeks—I’m focusing on preparations. I downloaded and installed the Merlin and eBird “Hawaii packs” so when I’m on my own, I’ll be able to identify unfamiliar bird calls to know what I’m looking for, and throughout the trip can keep track of everything I see. I also printed out eBird checklists for Honolulu, Kawai, and Hawaii counties, and had a jolly time on New Year’s Eve going through each one, working out which birds I’ve already seen and which are potential lifers. Now I’m reading Pratt’s Hawaii’s Birds and Their Habitats—a small but extremely informative book chockful of photos of birds and plants.
After that, I’ll study up on our itinerary to get familiar with each location we’ll be visiting, and study my Hawaii Audubon Society field guide.
But studying up on Hawaii birds and places is only half the preparation for this trip. It was exactly one month ago today that I had my surgery, and I need to make sure I’ll be physically ready for non-stop birding from dawn till dusk every day, along with one or two moderately strenuous hikes, on the 9-day tour. I’ve been using my desk treadmill since the day after I got home from the hospital, but only made it over 10,000 steps once; some days I’ve barely made it to 4,000.
Today I went back to doing my trusty old Jane Fondas—what’s called her “Complete Workout,” though I was far from ready to do the complete thing. I started with the upper body strengthening exercises, using small weights and not stretching my arms nearly as far as I could do easily before my surgery. Usually I do her half-hour aerobic exercises after the upper body ones, but I was utterly exhausted. I didn’t feel sore then or afterwards (I seriously don’t like overdoing anything), but I was tuckered out. So I’m going to ease into this, doing just 15 or 20 minutes of exercise a day to start with. It may take two or three weeks to be able to do both the aerobics and either the upper or lower body strengthening exercises, and five or six weeks, or maybe even more, before I can do the whole thing, but I’m a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of person. And I’ve got plenty of motivation to keep up daily exercise—every time I look at a photo of an I’ iwi (the bird on the covers of those books) I get excited all over again. On this trip, I’ll be taking my own photos of this amazing bird, and more!
Meanwhile, I’m going to spend January 3 birding in the bog with my dear friend Erik Bruhnke. We’ll probably take a few little walks on boardwalks or trails, but a lot of it will be along roadsides, and if I do get tired, well, Erik won’t mind if I nod off once or twice. Working my way back to good health may not be the easiest thing, but birds, family, and friends sure make it easier.