I kissed my first species of the year as the clock struck midnight and my Big Year commenced. Now my wife (Homo sapiens) literally is #1 on my list! But with 999 more species to go, I couldn't tarry. And no, I have no intention of kissing them all! Within minutes, I was bundled up and heading out the door into the uncomfortably cold night.
I had recently found two species of owls during the Christmas Bird Count at Dorsey's Knob and I hoped to re-locate them both. The first one was easy. All it took was a short walk in the dark and my best whistled rendition of an Eastern Screech-Owl. Within seconds I had one of the diminutive owls fly in and land perhaps 30 feet away. Screech-Owls nest in tree cavities in the lower elevation wooded portions of the park. Unfortunately, the second owl was a no show. I had been hearing a pair of Great Horned Owls calling off and on for a month. Sometimes they called from within the park while at other times they called from the vicinity of the federal minimum security prison located below the park. I knew the Great Horned Owls would be a long shot because they typically fall silent when they begin to incubate their eggs in early January.
As I walked back toward my home at the Groscup Center, I decided to check for moths at some of the dusk to dawn lights at the Dorsey's Knob Lodge. Bingo! A very cold looking Morning Glory Plume Moth clung motionless to the side of the building. A gentle poke confirmed that it was still alive. Unfortunately, it fled the scene before I obtained a picture. To the right is a photo of one that I took at the park late last year. Who says that you can't find moths when the temperature drops below freezing?
Over the course of the day, I picked up several more species on an incidental basis. Hearing the call of a Northern Cardinal just prior to sunrise was quite pleasant. On the other hand, seeing a White-footed Mouse scamper across my kitchen floor was rather unwelcome. Regardless, they both count equally toward reaching my target of 1000 species in 2015