Five days in, my ‘Big Month’ takes shape

Last night I finished reading the “Big Year” book on which the movie of the same title was based. I’m comfortable in reporting that I am not quite as obsessively crazed as the three competitors on whom the story is based who each sighted more than 700 species of birds in 1998.

It was on Day Two of my self-declared “Big Month” quest that I realized my birding habit is not primarily about checking off another species on my life list. Yes, I’d like to claim more birds, ideally seeing several new “lifers” over the 30 days of April 2022. But that’s not what drives me.

Ring-necked pheasants on parade at the Pole Farm on April 4, 2022.

My epiphany came at the Pole Farm on Saturday. I had just strolled along the main path out of the parking lot with Old Sam Peabody and Blonde-Crested Warbler for a good half hour and turned back toward my car. I thought momentarily that I don’t care if I don’t see any Savannah sparrows that morning because I’d already logged them the day before.

Male Northern cardinal in a tree.
Northern cardinal at the Pole Farm on April 4, 2022.

Immediately, I thought that was wrong. I want to revel daily in every species I see, either for the first or 400th time. That Northern cardinal chirruping in the tree over yonder deserves as much respect as the ones I saw in my yard as a kid in Cleveland decades ago.

So far, in just five days, I’ve managed to log 42 species in April, which, as my college pals from Massachusetts would say, is off to a “wicked fast” start (kindly drop the “r” as you say “start” aloud).

Some of the highlights include my first-of-the-year chipping sparrows, fish crows today and on Saturday, and white-throated sparrows at home, at the Pole Farm and — to my extra delight — in a construction zone on the Princeton University campus this afternoon.

In a break between raindrops in New York City on Sunday, I spotted some sort of warbler in Central Park that I could not identify. Today’s camera-confirmed sighting of an American kestrel was ample compensation.

I have yet to log a lifer this month, and I’m hoping I’ll score several in Texas next week. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for an overdue white-breasted nuthatch to show up at the backyard feeder, and I’m wondering how I’ll sneak in some sightings on what promises to be a rainy day tomorrow.

Again, numbers matter, but the satisfaction of seeing the diversity of the birds around me matters more.

Some of the 15 wild turkeys I spotted at the Reed Bryan side of Mercer Meadows park on April 5, 2022.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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