By MATTHEW NASH
NEW ALBANY —
The winter solstice has come and it wasn’t the end of the world which means from this point on the amount of daylight will start to increase from now until June. We all survived Christmas and hopefully everybody got everything they wanted. We also survived the first “snowfall” of the season having missed a really bad blizzard just north of us here. Some of my friends were disappointed that we didn’t have a bigger storm.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is always a good time for reflection. Many people like to look back on the year that has gone by and evaluate where they have been. Others take the time to set some goals for the new year to see if they have a better year than the one before. Losing weight and getting more fit, saving more money and getting out of debt and trying to quit smoking are among the resolutions that many Americans make each year.
As I look back on 2012 the only thing that I can say about it is that it has been a “Big Year” for me personally, and for the world around me. Spending the first few months of the year getting ready for my wedding. Then it was time to prepare for my son’s wedding and by the time I knew it the holidays were here and now the year is over.
“The Big Year” was a movie that was released in theaters in 2011 starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. I didn’t get around to seeing it until this year when it was released on one of the premium cable movie channels. It follows the lives of three avid “birders” as the travel North America in order to see the most species of birds within a calendar year. Each of the characters have road blocks in their paths in their pursuit of their own “Big Year” but each of them finds out what is important in their own lives in their attempt to see more birds than anyone else.
I have always had an interest in birds. When I was younger we had a bird feeder that we could see out the dining room window as we sat at the table. It hung from a branch in the huge oak tree in our backyard. This feeder attracted mostly cardinals and robins but most birds were scared off by the squirrels that lived in the tree. They would race up and down the tree scaring most birds away and after they had worked up an appetite, they would eat a lot of the birdseed.
For the last couple of years we have kept a bird feeder outside of the house that we live in. It attracts a lot of birds and we also have our share of squirrels. Now I have the tube style feeder that presumably will discourage a squirrel from eating all of the food. My wife Amy captured some incredible pictures the other day of a squirrel using some kind of “Mission Impossible” techniques in order to help himself to the bird feeder. As a Christmas present from the in-laws I received a squirrel “baffle” to help deter the pest.
I also like to go for bike rides or hikes sometimes and the Loop Island Wetlands which is a great place to spot birds. Besides the water fowl that make the wetlands their home you can also see several species there both common and rare. The last time I was there I started the journey by seeing several blue jays around a single tree, followed by a wood pecker that was looking for some grubs and as I was leaving a saw perched on a power pole, an American Kestrel, which is a falcon the size of a large jay.
Some of the other things I got as Christmas presents could help in my pursuit of my own “Big Year.” I got some binoculars to help spot the birds, a “Field guide to Birds” to help identify the ones I see and a waterproof journal to track my sightings. I plan to use these gifts to step up my pursuit of seeing as many birds as possible in 2013 and beyond.
I have no delusions that I will capture the illustrious “Big Year” in 2013. I don’t have the time, energy or money to travel all over the continent to search for birds. I plan to spend the year just like everyone else trying lose weight, save some money and to get out of debt. I would like to exercise some more and maybe quit procrastinating on nearly every aspect of my life. But while on this journey to do the things I always do, I will be on the lookout for some feather friends along the way, and that will help make 2013 a very “Big Year.”
Matthew Nash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org