Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Year in the Life of Jen

     I made a challenge for myself as I turned 30 last year, to see just how many creatures I could identify and can also then keep record of (the bigger challenge) in one year of my life. Well, the results are in, and honestly I am pretty ecstatic not only about what I saw or the numbers, but also how much I enjoyed keeping record of it all. So my birthday in the middle of the year makes it hard to continue keeping record, so I promise myself that in 2017, I will list my findings annually.
     To recap on my year in a nutshell, it certainly had its highs and lows- both in going on my adventures to look for wildlife, but also personally. I am generally just plain grateful that I had chances to share wildlife sightings with friends and family alike. I am honestly just grateful that I get the chance to wake up each day and take on the world and whatever it has in store for me.
     This 30th year has also taken me all over the place, I got to visit with Tim, for the first time Assateague Island (2, 3), Grand Canyon National Park (2), Petrified Forest National Park, Puerto Rico (2, 3, 4), and parts of Colorado we had not yet been! And I really love that I got to experience it all with my very patient husband who lets me totally nerd out for every creature that we stumble upon. It was a good year and I understand how fortunate I am to be able to have the chance to do these things.

     I got in one final walk before my birthday on 8/8, in a place that feels like home, Prospect Park, enjoy the sights from my final walk before I turned 31... err, 29, I'm staying 29 forever!
A mallard sitting on a then quiet Prospect Park lake, this past Saturday 8/6/16.
In visiting the ducks I also ran into an old friend whom devotes her time whole-heartedly to the park. She leads cleanups around the park and in her spare time can be seen with a trash grabber in one hand and a trash bag in the other, picking up plastic bags, fishing line, and all sorts of debris that you wouldn't believe. And she does it all in the name of protecting wildlife, it is super admirable and I love her heart and passion! If you are interested in joining a cleanup or this type of cause, check out the WILD for Prospect Park page.
It was hot and muggy that morning. Sweat beaded up and dripped down my back, but the butterflies and bees really didn't mind. If anything, it was perfect weather. This painted lady was trying to sunbathe and achieve the perfect angle in relation to the suns rays.
This individual did achieve the perfect angle eventually, as it turned head-on for a perfect photo-op. Even with a proboscis for a mouth, it still looks like its smiling :)
I spet a lot of time waiting atop Lookout hill where I knew the field of flowers would be in bloom. So instead of sweating more than I already was, I waited patiently for things to come my way- like this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, who looks a bit tattered and worn-- but still stunning none the less!
The flowers atop lookout hill attract a variety of butterflies, bees, and other pollinating insects- but they also attract American Goldfinches which feast on the seed they produce after blooming. The birds are as yellow as the flowers, and with the height the flowers have achieved, it's hard to spot the birds unless they perch on a tall bloom or fly off.
Pretty satisfied with this view and the chance to see that it's body is just as yellow and decorated as its wings.
A tiny Zabulon Skipper. There were lots of these guys and they were feisty!
I have learned that the Zabulon Skipper is feisty by nature, defending sun-lit perches for up to a week. They spend most of their time at an observable level, 3-5ft above the ground. So I was shooting down at these guys and caught this one having an innocent, sweet sampling of nectar. One step too close and they flee like crazy. Skippers are hard to get close too, they are super flighty and the long lens come in handy for them so I can keep my distance, let them act naturally, and get some pretty pictures of these pretty little things.
A robin came out to bask in the sun on the trail and maybe contemplating a dust bath. An off leash dog interrupted his plans.
But he came back after the dog disappeared.
I saw lots of eastern Kingbirds, even though this is blurry- I was excited to see that this one had a fledging to feed. Lazily at that, no bugs for this little whiner, just berries from the perch they occupy.

     And now to get to the good part... the totals- did you think I was going to do a summary of my year with out the nitty-gritty deets?!

Mammals: 28 species total, my favorite surely being the pika, they were so cute and vocal and it was an animal I had never seen before my trip to Colorado.

Herps (Reptiles/Amphibians): 16 Species total, my favorite being a collared lizard in Petrified Forest National Park- they are very handsome lizards, very handsome!

Fish: 12 species total, my favorite being a spotted eagle ray that I saw when I rented a snorkel and flippers on the beach in Puerto Rico.

Invertebrates: 67 species total, including various insects, arachnids, and crustaceans. Echinoderms, polychaetes, and a single cnidarian made the list from our snorkeling trip in Puerto Rico. My favorite invert to find was surely the Desert Blonde Tarantula that walked across our path in the Grand Canyon. I love spiders, especially big hairy ones!

Birds: (I saved them for last) 226 species total, a good number birds were life birds- ones that I observed for the first time ever, but my most favorite to observe- this is so tough to narrow down but it might have to be the various owls I saw including the Eastern Screech Owl, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, and Barn Owl- before this I had only seen wild snowy owls, so what a treat it was to see some others!

So the grand total for the number of species I was able to observe and identify between a full time job, 7 pets, friends, family, and life (drum roll please): 349 species! I will surely accept that as an accomplishment and am super proud of that number and managing to balance out my life with a hobby of wildlife watching, birding, photographing, and sharing it via this blog.

So, happy birthday to me and yay for a year of wild adventures, many of which with people I really enjoy spending time with! So thanks, if you have accompanied me on an adventure, let's do it again!