I have traveled to other parts of the world to look at birds, but the place where I enjoy them the most is my own backyard.
My name is Mary. You may have read that I am doing a Big Year for Erie County.
What is a Big Year, you ask? Well, I will be out counting the different species of birds I see from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
Then, each month, I will report in this column what birds I see and where I see them.
So come travel with me as we discover many local birds together. I will also be sending my results to eBird at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where my sightings will be added to those of other birders around the world.
I have recently retired as a naturalist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and I have lived in Sandusky all my life.
You may have seen the movie a few years back, “The Big Year” which focused on three guys finding all the birds they could in the United States. Well, I thought it would be fun to do a Big Year just in Erie County. I want to highlight some of the natural areas we have right here in our own backyards. My hope is to spark your interest in birds and in visiting some of these places.
So what have I seen so far? My first sighting for the year was a blue jay, and the last for the month was a white-crowned sparrow.
In between those, I have seen another 65 different species of birds.
Some of the special sightings for me were a snowy owl near Bellevue, a northern mockingbird near Castalia and wild turkeys at Dupont Marsh State Nature Preserve.
We all know how snowy and cold the month of January was, so many of my birds were seen at my backyard feeders or while driving around in the car. The Castalia Duck Pond and the mouth of Cold Creek at Sandusky Bay, both areas that do not freeze, proved to be great places to see ducks, geese and swans.
I went to the county office to get an official road map for Erie County and discovered there are some roads I have never been on before.
Other areas I visited in January include: James H. McBride Arboretum, Huron Pier, Nickel Plate beach, Osborn MetroPark, Castalia Quarry MetroPark, Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve, Erie Sand Barrens State Nature Preserve, Resthaven Wildlife Area, and the Huron River Greenway.
All in all, I traveled about 100 miles and walked about 8 miles.
I did take 10 days off to attend the Space Coast Birding Festival in Titusville, Fla. Yes, there are birding festivals all year long and all across the country — lots of fun.
I also made time to keep my arms strong, for lifting my binoculars, and my legs strong, for walking at our local YMCA.
And I had to stop at our local Wild Birds unlimited to spend a gift card I received for retirement. They’re a great local resource for all things related to birds.
I want to thank Paul, Linda, Lisa and Sheryl for giving me tips on finding birds this month. I invite all of you out there to contact me if you see any unusual birds in Erie County.
For the month of February, I will especially be looking for any owls and any snow buntings in the area.
So until next month — happy birding.