PHOTO BY BILL DANIELSON
Well, dear reader, we find ourselves preparing for the arrival of a new year once again and, as has been tradition for all of these new years, I find myself looking back on 2022 to reflect on where I’ve gone and what I’ve seen. It’s been an interesting one for sure, so lets dive in.
January 1 was a Saturday and when I finally stumbled out to the kitchen at 7:30 AM the first bird that I saw was a black-capped chickadee. I went on to see a total of 18 different species that morning, which was a very good start, but by month’s end I had only seen 30 species, which left me one short of the all time record of 31 species that had been set in 2021. The month of January was quiet and cold. The lowest temperature that I recorded for the year was –13 degrees on January 22.
February was even more calm and quiet than January had been. A review of the pages of my red journal show a great deal of excitement over the sighting of a yellow-bellied sapsucker and a red-breasted nuthatch on February 27, but the bird that made the most “interesting” appearances in my notes was the great horned owl. I live in a rural area that provides the perfect combination of field and forest for a great horned owl habitat and the members of the local pair seem to like to sit on my roof and sing. This is especially nice because my office is in a loft where I am only technically 5 to 6 feet away from them.
March 1 was a Tuesday and my first observation of the month was a pair of rabbits looking for sunflower seeds on my deck. The great horned owls are featured again and again throughout the month and the most striking thing that I notice in my journal is the mid-March heat wave that we experienced. Temperatures soared into the 50s and 60s and on March 18 the temperature reached 68 degrees. It was just two days later that the first female red-winged blackbird of the year made an appearance.
April and May were gorgeous. The spring peepers and wood frogs started singing on April 5 and the tree swallows arrived on April 9. By this time the barred owls had started singing and the landscape was steadily filled with the songs of migrants that seemed to arrive by the day. The pages of my journal are absolutely packed with notes about phoebe nests and flowers blooming. Frogs and fireflies seem to have been of great interest to me and I was clearly having a wonderful time.
June was a stealth month that I have no recollection of whatsoever. The pages of my journal are full, but I think my attention was distracted by the end of school and my preparations for a 2-week trip so Sicily. I have regaled you with stories about hunting down fan-tailed warblers and black-winged stilts, European goldfinches and magpies, but I wanted to show you one of the most beautiful photos of my trip: A photo of sunrise over the Ionian Sea with the silhouettes of flamingos in the foreground.
August, September and October were amazing months for me; perhaps the most productive 3-month period that I have had in the past 25 years. The weather was extremely cooperative and my relationship with the birds down at the Thinking Chair deepened to the point of feelings of anxiety if I was unable to visit with them. I set new records for the numbers of birds sighted in each of those three months and the record I set in August (64 species) rivals the number of birds that I might see in May.
November arrived on a Tuesday and wouldn’t you know that the great horned owls were still singing. I was still making regular visits to the Thinking Chair because of the unusually warm weather that we were enjoying (66 degrees on Sunday, Nov. 6), but the conditions eventually changed and I finally recorded the first snow of the year on Nov 15. I experienced a period of separation anxiety when I realized that I couldn’t go down and sit with the chickadees, but temperatures below freezing brought the Thinking Chair season to an end.
And that brings us to December. Another delightfully quiet month, December sort of snuck up on me and, as always, the month seems to pass by with amazing speed. The weather has proven to be wildly unpredictable and there have been all sorts of other distractions, but the bit that I am most interested in is my final photo count for the year. As of the printing of this column I have taken 22,428 photos, which is a record in itself. However, I fully expect to hit the 23,000 mark before year’s end, which will be a twofold record. First, it will be the highest number that I have recorded in a single year. Second, it will be the third consecutive year that I have reached my annual goal of 20,000 photos.
So I close with this simple wish. I hope that you have a safe and happy new year surrounded by all of the people that you love. 2022 was a great year, but I am very excited about cracking open a brand new journal for 2023 and filling the pages with new and interesting things that I can share with you.
Be well, stay safe and I’ll talk to you again next year.
Bill Danielson has been a professional writer and nature photographer for 25 years. He has worked for the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy and the Massachusetts State Parks and he currently teaches high school biology and physics. For more in formation visit his website at www.speakingofnature.com, or head over to Speaking of Nature on Facebook.
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Speaking of Nature: 2022: The year in review – The Recorder
PHOTO BY BILL DANIELSON