Yesterday I saw three ducks on our pond. Before I could get close enough to get a good photo, they flew off. However, I was able to snap some images from afar before they took flight. Although my distance vision isn’t very good, I had the idea that they were a species I hadn’t seen here before. My review of the files supported that suspicion.

Nearly a year ago, it was June 6, 2020 to be exact, Robert and I took a little trip around the property for the first time in years. It wasn’t for lack of desire that I hadn’t been out and about for so long. Simply, it took two shoulder replacement surgeries to alleviate enough pain that I felt I could tolerate the bumps and vibrations of such a venture. I brought along my camera, just in case we saw something interesting.

We were hardly in the pasture when I spotted a fine, yellow bird perched on the edge of a large shrub. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” I whispered to my husband, as I pointed towards the lovely bird. She was so beautiful, I thought. We traveled further and we noticed another handsome creature. It was deep, rusty orange with a pitch black head and back. He was clinging to a dried weed stalk from the previous autumn’s growth. That bird turned out to be a male Orchard Oriole, and the yellow one was a female of the same species. First, I never knew there was such a thing as an Orchard Oriole. And, second I was amazed how different the genders of the same species were.

That Saturday evening drive around the property began a journey that I have been on now, for almost a year. A month after I was fortunate to observe the Orchard Orioles, I began counting the species I filmed. I didn’t really think about how many species might end up on such a list. But, in a note to me as a response to one of my many inquiries to the “Bird experts,” a kind man named Urs wrote, “Once you cover all seasons, maybe a few years in a row, a hundred species should be doable.” It seemed incredible that one hundred different species of birds could visit our little fifty acres of land in south central Illinois. That’s especially true because we are surrounded by hundreds of acres of tilled land, which, except for the hedge rows, is inhospitable for most birds.

On May 26, 2021 those ducks that I spotted in the pond became the 100th species that I’ve recorded. Most of the species are documented with photos that I’ve taken. A few were identified by audio files that I recorded. Only one, the Osprey, did I feel confident enough to include with nothing more than my observation (and that was only after offering up what I saw and asking folks-in-the-know to weigh in on what I might have seen.) It’s a good day!

You will find the complete list with photos and audio files here:

I know that there are a few more birds that I could see during my trips around our retired farm. I suspect there are duck, perhaps even geese species that might settle on our water for a rest along their migration. I am aware of a few warbler species that could stop by, and if I’m fortunate to see or hear them, they could join my list. I haven’t spent much time out after dark, but one night not too long ago, I am pretty certain I heard an owl hooting in the woods. Who knows how many more birds might join my list.

Still, growing that list isn’t what motivates me to continue this hobby. I experience a sense of kindred connection to nature when I am sitting still, focusing on nothing more than a little bird. It is a form of meditation for me. And, even when I don’t get the shot because the bird flew off, the sun went behind the clouds or my camera battery failed at the worst moment, it becomes an exercise in remembering what is important and feeling so utterly grateful that this is my life.

I would like to thank everyone who helped me develop the skills necessary to engage in this wonderful endeavor. without the kind and generous support of compete strangers who simply wanted another human to enjoy this hobby, I would have been left wanting for information without the knowledge on how to find it on my own.

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