Written by Kelsey Low

2018 was a great year for birds here at the Arboretum. We added 7 new species to our eBird list (http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L685423) – lower than last year’s 15, but that’s because we’re starting to run out of birds to add! Here’s a look at our year in birds:

Spring migration was interesting this year. It felt slower than last year, when we saw 81 species almost all at once at the end of the season. However, we actually saw 95 species in 2018, just spread out over the whole March-May period. Standouts include new species like Solitary Sandpiper (in our new savanna) and Yellow-throated Vireo (in recently restored woodland), a very rare visit from a Purple Gallinule, and larger numbers of formerly rare savanna birds like Red-winged Blackbirds and Blue Grosbeaks.

We had a few nice surprises during the 2018 spring-summer breeding season. Everyone fell in love with our first ever family of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, who raised three fluffy ducklings! They used our new Woodway ponds and we hope they’ll come back next year. We were particularly excited to see so many birds nesting in our recently restored areas, including Cooper’s Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Pileated Woodpeckers, a new pair of Eastern Screech Owls, and a new pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Blue Grosbeak - Dan Pancamo
Photo credit Dan Pancamo
Photo credit Rosemary Brooks
Photo credit Christine Mansfield
Photo credit USFWS

The new Woodway ponds have really changed the birding landscape at the Arboretum. In the late summer-early fall of 2018, we saw a flurry of young water birds exploring our new habitat. Some were species we’ve never seen before, like Tricolored Herons and Anhingas, while others had been seen before but never in such numbers, like Little Blue Herons and Belted Kingfishers.

2018 saved the best for last – we had an absolute standout fall migration, with a whopping 90 species seen (compared to 75 species last year). We were thrilled to spot a LeConte’s Sparrow, a tallgrass prairie specialist and a new species for the Arboretum. Many formerly rare birds have also been visiting our savanna restoration area, including a Merlin, Brown Creepers, Eastern Kingbirds, and Chuck-will’s-widows. However, the staff favorite was a breathtaking view of two soaring Bald Eagles over the Woodway ponds.

We have to give a huge shout-out to all the birders contributing to our eBird list, filling in paper checklists, and recording sightings in our Bird Log – without you, we wouldn’t have such a good picture of our bird population. Keep sending in those sightings!