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Starting from scratch

January 4, 2010

The beginning of the new year offers the listing birder a clean slate.  Whether or not you tally your yearly total competitively or as a simple point of interest, when that clock ticks over to midnight it’s David Sibley, Kenn Kaufman, and you, all lined up at zero.  Now they may get out of the blocks quicker than you and you may soon find yourself in their considerable wake with no hope to catch up, but take care, that won’t happen for at least a few hours.

The beginning of January has been cold here in North Carolina, and no, not the Carolina cold in the 40s that would cause those further north to justifiably mock my southern sensibilities.  Real cold, like 20 degrees cold as I stepped out of the car at Mason Farm.  Cold enough that I think we can all objectively agree that it’s cold.  But clear with blue skies, what poets and genteel folks would probably call “crisp”, but what I would more accurately describe as “cold as balls”, because a little profanity now and then keeps the blood flowing, especially to the extremities.  You should try it.

Anywho, the briskness aside, the birds were hardly more active than I would have been curled up in my warm bed.  But the beginning of the year means everything is new.  The Eastern Towhees and the Field Sparrows and the Northern Flickers.  All inaugural members of their species for the year 2010.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t a few surprised.  The numbers of Hermit Thrushes were impressive, with nearly every chickamice feeding flock hosting one or two, and the Blue-headed Vireo, an uncommon winter resident, took home best bird of the day honors.  It’s a species that’s all too easy to miss as the winter ticks by.  But the wind, the wind that brings the front that pushed us into the teens this past weekend, was unrelenting.  So the open spaces, the hallmark of a place like Mason Farm, were altogether unpleasant places to be.

So having a cool couple dozen species to the ole 2010 list I headed home to a warm fire and hot coffee, having successfully popped the cap on the new year.  However, I have to give myself a failing grade on my first foray into the deep freeze, especially as I’ve got something coming up at the end of the month that will put my cold tolerance to the test.

I think I’d better go buy some better long underwear…

  1. January 4, 2010 7:04 am

    A happy and birdy New Year to you, Danielle and Noah!!!
    I’ve just come back from a -15°C (daytime temps) Christmas/New Year trip to the Baltic, so yeah – take those longjohns with you and stay warm.

  2. Nate permalink*
    January 4, 2010 10:54 am

    @Jochen- One step ahead of you. I’ve already gotten new, nicer thermals for the SuperBowl. This year I come prepared.

  3. January 4, 2010 11:42 am

    Another thing that’ll help: take some old long socks (socks that go up to your knees), cut off the tip and cut out a small hole for your thumb 2 inches below the tip cut. Pull them over your hands and forearm and use them as wristlets with your gloves . That’ll help greatly when you have to take your gloves off during e.g. photography or when focussing the scope.

  4. January 4, 2010 12:11 pm

    I like the term “chickamice.” I hadn’t heard that before.

  5. January 4, 2010 12:55 pm

    I’m with Patrick: “chickamice” is a great term! I’ll have to use that as it’s so fitting.

    Otherwise, glad to hear you got a nice start to the year despite the cold. But be prepared as it looks to be getting even colder this week (I say that because we’re expecting the same deep freeze down here in Texas [wind chills below zero = sucks!]).

  6. Nate permalink*
    January 4, 2010 1:10 pm

    @Jochen- Good idea. My gloves have never been the same since I wore them on a pelagic.

    @Patrick & Jason – I forget where I first heard “chickamice”. But it’s appropriate this time of year when they almost always are together and separating them is just too much work.

  7. Greg permalink
    January 4, 2010 2:03 pm

    I hate using gloves with my bins, so I swear by those chemical handwarmers….. $1.97 lasts the whole day, not matter where you are. Just have them ready in your coat pockets. You can put them in your shoes, too. End product of the exothermic reaction is Iron oxide, rust.

  8. Nate permalink*
    January 4, 2010 8:34 pm

    @Dad- I like the handwarmers, though I have to fly up north, so I’d be concerned with what TSA would think packets of metals are. 🙂

  9. January 4, 2010 10:44 pm

    Of course, you can probably pick up some hand and foot warmers once you’re in Massachusetts.

  10. January 4, 2010 11:45 pm

    20 degrees (-6.66 in Canadian) without snow just doesn’t seem right.

    How did Jochen get the degree symbol?


  11. January 5, 2010 3:21 am

    Hi Bob,
    it seems German computer keyboards are different from North American ones. We have a key left of the “1” with the degrees symbol, that simple…

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