February proved a challenging month for me. I was able to rack up a big number in January. But most of those birds were also common species that tend to hang around New Jersey all year. And I had good luck finding many of the rare species that popped up here and there, mostly because I spent so much time in Cape May (take note those of you planning a big year) during January.
February was tough sledding, though. Aside from a nasty cold and stomach virus that sidelined me for several days, I missed more rare birds than I found. I chased Pacific Loon, Golden Eagle, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Ross’s Goose. No luck.
So I shifted from chasing to birding again. The difference? I spent more time birding old, familiar haunts that I had neglected in favor of chasing those rare birds. And while I didn’t find as many “new” birds, I had a great time birding along the North Shore with friends, wandering along trails in the Pine Barrens, and even going back to a couple spots to have another look at some pretty amazing rare birds before they decide to make their exit.
With my shift in focus, February birding became enjoyable and allowed me time to begin planning for the Spring migration. Whale watching tours begin operating in March, offering the opportunity to make up for a pelagic birding tripped missed while recovering from the flu. Shore birds will also be on the move and some of the best areas for birding are well on their way to recovering from the impacts of Superstorm Sandy.
I am finishing February with 166 species – a number much better than I dared hope for when planning last year. And I’m excited by the thoughts of March birding and witnessing once again the miracle of Spring migration.