How can it be November already? This has been a hectic year for me, with an unexpected book project and a loss of focus due to dealing with an aging family member's needs. I'm still plotting out plans for 2013. So far, I know I'll be in Florida for the Space Coast Birding and Nature Festival in January and trying to take in some other birding spots while I'm in the state.
I'll be birding for a week or so in northern Minnesota in February and then going on one of Kim Eckert's Minnesota Birding Weeks to cover south Texas. (I figured this tour would get me to a lot of great places, and even though it will be too intense to spend time talking to people working on conservation, I didn't see a more inexpensive and realistic way I could cover that ground, and no one from Texas has contacted me about conservation projects for this anyway.)
March and April are fairly open--I want to get somewhere to observe both prairie-chickens and also Sharp-tailed Grouse and both sage grouse. I'm not sure how I'll manage to swing these trips financially, but they'll have to be pretty low-key. My income for all of 2011 was less than $10,000, and this year will be marginally better but not by a whole lot, so I'm working on a tighter budget than Greg Miller was doing his Big Year.
I'll be spending the first and second weeks of May in and around Delaware—Bombay Hook and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuges, and Cape Henlopen State Park (which has a protected beach area for nesting Piping Plovers!)—and the mid-Atlantic coast. This is one of the coolest invitations I've had so far--I'll get to visit with people from the Delmarva Ornithological Society and maybe get to tag along with a team for their Bird-A-Thon. If I do that, I'll be asking for pledges to help raise money for this conservation-oriented fund raiser where ALL of the proceeds go towards helping acquire or preserve vital migratory shorebird habitat in Delaware. So far, they have raised over $193,000 and helped acquire 274 acres of habitat in their first five years. This is EXACLY the kind of project I hope to highlight!
En route home, I'll certainly stop at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. I'll be missing the Biggest Week in American Birding, but any time there is time well spent, and I want to highlight their great work. I'll be home just in time for the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology's annual convention, which this year is in Ashland. Then I'll be teaching a "Road Scholar" class at Trees for Tomorrow in Eagle River, Wisconsin. When that's done, if there's time I'll head to Michigan for a quick visit to Kirtland's Warbler habitat. (I'm also hoping to see one in Wisconsin, where they now breed!!)
I'm hoping against hope that I'll be able to scrape up the funds and will get to go on Kim Eckert's Minnesota Birding Week up to Churchill in June. I could see a lot of important northern species up there! Otherwise June is open--it will be hotter than Hades down in Texas, but I've never seen Colima Warbler, and my only Golden-cheeked Warbler has been in Guatemala. These birds deserve highlighting! Also, I'll want to see Black-capped Vireos. I've seen them in Oklahoma (where, in 2013, I hope to see Lesser Prairie-Chicken), but not in Texas. But I'm not sure I can swing that yet.
And for the rest of the year? It's still open. The one thing I want to schedule is a trip or two with Debi Shearwater. Her passion for conservation as well as birds is important. There are SO many places to go! I'd love to spend a day or two in the Sierra Nevadas when the Cornell Lab of Ornithology holds their Sound Recording Workshop, but that will probably overlap with Kim's Churchill trip. Oh, well--if I don't get into Kim's class that will be an alternative. There are a lot of important Western species I hope to see and highlight, so I'm hoping the second half of the year will open up some of those opportunities.
That's how the year is shaping up so far. Any suggestions or offers for birding gigs that can help me get to more places are welcome!