It’s 2020 now, but I really wanted to take a look at how 2019 went.
This post is really long, so strap in and prepare yourself. But there are lots of photos, so that should help.
2019 was a BIG year for me. If you’re also a birder, you might think I did a Big Year, but I definitely don’t have the budget for that. However, it was still a big year in many other ways.
I didn’t intend for it to be one of the biggest years of my life. I still haven’t fully processed just how big of a year it was, but it was big.
I did SO MUCH.
So. Much. Holy cow.
I did all of the traveling. On accident, mostly.
I traveled to/through 12 states and even went to CANADA, I hiked down and out of the Grand Canyon in one day, and I checked three major cities off my list.
Cheap plane tickets, working a TON, staying with friends and family, and a bit of luck allowed for affordable travel. I’m so grateful I was able to do so much in one year.
I did all of the birding. Travel = birding. New places, new birds.
I did all of the working. Two 25+-hour-a-week jobs (at least one of them is a dream job!) = lots of working. But lots of working also allows for lots of travel in my time off.
I feel like I did so much.
I also learned a ton of lessons (about birds, life, teaching, and more), and I learned that I have SO MUCH more learning to do.
I don’t even know where to begin other than January, so here we go!
My “big year” started off in Arizona.
I was hiding from the awful cold in Indiana, but I was also ~super cliche time~ searching for myself.
I had just left the library system. My career. What I’d considered my purpose. But I had to leave.
I do miss it, but I don’t regret leaving. I’d love to work there part-time in the future, but that’s another story for another day.
Anyway, I was completely and totally lost. All of my career goals for the previous seven years had been library-oriented, and I’d suddenly changed that drastically.
So, I went to visit my family in Arizona. I spent three weeks in December and January hiking and birding.
Side note: I will move out west one day.
I just love it there. The views, the nature, the birds, the weather.
I love it.
Anyway, the rest of my January was… not great. I was feeling really down. It was cold, and I was miserable.
I did go to Kentucky to visit my Grammy for a few days, and that helped.
Also, a wonderful dog appeared at my home, and it took a week to locate his owners. I really miss him, but his (frequent) visits (as he ran away regularly) kept me going.
Lastly, I began a challenge to submit a birding checklist every single day in 2019 (I did it!).
I got two life birds (also known as lifers) in January: American Avocets in Arizona (yay alliterations!) and a Northern Shrike back in Indy.
February was still pretty dark for me. On the 13th, I had decided to move to Arizona. I was cold and miserable and felt like an absolute failure.
That decision motivated me to keep going until I could make that move happen. However, my life took some interesting turns that month.
I really started ramping up my volunteer time at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center, and I attended a fun birding trip with some wonderful people down in southern Indiana. Birding is a wonderful way to distract myself from the darker moments in my life.
Oh, and Umbrella Academy launched on Netflix!!
Besides birding and distracting myself with the Umbrella Academy, I also got really motivated. In the dark hole I had spent the past month in (my couch), I found a really cool way to travel and live that inspired me. Planning for that helped get me through the month.
By the end of the month I’d received two job offers, and one of them was for a dream job of mine. I took both jobs, and planning for those also helped motivate me.
I went back to Arizona.
After receiving the job offers, my mom wanted to see me (because we realized she probably wouldn’t see me until the winter), so we booked a quick 2-3 day trip there.
I got three lifers during my visit: Elegant Trogon, Canyon Towhee, and Spotted Towhee.
I attended the Tucson Festival of Books and got to meet one of my favorite authors (Sayantani DasGupta).
I started job #1, and started planning my move back to the city (a requirement for job #2).
I got to visit the Star Trek exhibit at the Children’s Museum with a wonderful friend and her son.
Mid-March, I moved back to Indy.
I started my dream job!
There’s so much I could say about this job, but I’ll wait. I love it so, so, so much!
I threw myself into training and learning how to be the best naturalist I could be, so I got pretty busy.
However, I did take a little time to travel to Holland, Michigan to visit my birding friend Joe.
We went to a few different parks, and we got totally snowed on. We had decided to hike a decently long trail, and it just started SNOWING.
The whole time.
We were soaked by the end of the day, but it was so much fun.
The biggest highlight of that hike was freezing when we realized a Brown Creeper (see photo below) was making its way up the tree next to us. We watched it for a few minutes before moving on. It was a magical birding moment, for sure.
I also got Harlequin and Long-tailed Duck lifers!
There were a number of really magical birding moments in April. One was seeing an Eastern Screech-Owl out in the wild during the day (thanks to a tip from a friend) and later introducing a friend to birding via seeing a Pileated Woodpecker on the SAME day.
In addition to those, I also went BACK to Michigan to get a lifer rarity. A Tufted Duck just happened to pop up 20-30 minutes from my friend’s apartment.
Whew, May was busy.
May is prime migration time, and I took full advantage of the birding opportunities.
My workplace had their bird fest, which included birding by kayak!
I also started leading my own rotations for programs and continued to learn how to train with the birds.
I got another tattoo (it’s a bird, of course).
And oh, I drove to Canada to bird for a day. More on that some other time. I did get four lifers while there, including amazing looks at a Worm-eating Warbler!
Before the end of the month, I went back down to Kentucky for a quick visit with my Grammy.
I worked. A whole lot. So much work.
Work wasn’t so bad because summer day camps started up! I got to kayak, stand-up paddle-board, zip-line, and practice archery (and get paid!).
I also got to hang out with some wonderful friends and make wonderful summer outdoor memories (campfires and all), including attending an outdoor concert to support a friend and running into several more while there.
June was wonderful.
July was super busy, too. I was still working a ton and trying to maintain an active social life.
I took on a third job running lights for a musical, while still working about 50 hours a week between my other two jobs. That was an amazing experience that introduced me to so many wonderful artists.
I attended a bird hike led by a friend, and a Prothonotary Warbler landed in a tree right above our group!
I went blackberry picking with another birding friend, and I was rewarded with super-close views of Black Vultures!
Additionally, I decided to hike the Grand Canyon in November, so I started training.
August started off with a trip to New York to visit two dear friends. It was a short trip, so I’ll have to go back to see more. Day one was a birthday party at a rooftop pool in Queens, and… wait.
Day one was a birthday party at a rooftop pool in Queens.
What is my life?
It was probably the most expensive place I’ve ever been, and I definitely did NOT fit in, but I still had a good time.
Day two started with birding in Central Park, which wasn’t very exciting, honestly, but I probably wasn’t looking in the right places. At least Central Park was pretty!
Then, we went to brunch with… bottomless mimosas.
After that, we went back to Harlem for a nap (see bottomless mimosas above). After we’d rested, we went to Times Square and Grand Central Station to see some of the touristy sites. By that point, it was dark, so there weren’t as many people out and about.
That was the whole trip though, so I’ll have to go back to see more.
Mid-August, my boss and I tag-teamed a presentation at the Indiana State Fair. I was terrified, but I think it went well.
I had a couple of days off in a row, so I figured I should take advantage of it by taking a quick drive down to visit my family in Kentucky.
Additionally, I went to Michigan (again) for more birding adventures and got a great view of a Sanderling! Generally, my trips to Michigan consist of me leaving after work on Saturday, driving for several hours, birding on Sunday, and driving home either Sunday night or Monday morning.
At work, I started training our Turkey Vulture to voluntarily step on a scale, and I actually got her to do it consistently!
I got two lifers in August: a Laughing Gull and a Red Knot, both at Eagle Creek!
September started off with an anniversary trip down to New Orleans! I got to use my new-to-me spotting scope for the first time.
I didn’t do the big drinking thing and what-have-you, but I did have fun trying new foods, learning about the city, and exploring the nature around the area. I got super sunburned at Grand Isle, but it was worth it.
I got thirteen lifers on that trip (at least! I haven’t reviewed all of my photos). One of the highlights was seeing a Magnificent Frigatebird!
I celebrated my 5th wedding anniversary and 10th year of being with my partner!
My anniversary fell on International Vulture Awareness Day (I definitely didn’t plan that!)! To celebrate, I led a program about vultures at the Ornithology Center.
The following week, I led a really cool program that involved setting up a tent and a bunch of hiking gear indoors.
I also started a weekly hiking series, which allowed me to explore the park more.
I finally decided on my first My Chemical Romance tattoo: the spider from the cover of the Danger Days album and got it on 27 September. I don’t regret it one bit.
I booked a spontaneous trip to Mammoth Cave National Park. I hadn’t been since I was a kid, and I had fun doing a tour that was entirely lit by lamplight!
I continued to train for my hike, and I completed my thirty day squat challenge!
My workplace had their annual Owl Fest, which was rainy but fun.
I went as a flapper to two Halloween parties (two parties?! me?!).
I also attended my first-ever lakewatch on Lake Michigan, which didn’t yield very many birds, but I still had fun. After that lakewatch, I got to hike around the dunes with a friend, which was exhausting but well worth the views.
I went as Red Riding Hood on Halloween, which is the same day My Chemical Romance announced their reunion concert!
I hiked ~20 miles in and out of the Grand Canyon in one day.
That story needs its own blog post.
I also did a lot of hiking in Sedona and Tucson on that trip.
Right after getting back from Arizona, I drove up to Michigan to see my lifer Purple Sandpiper!
I also tried to rescue an American Woodcock that was ~somewhere~ in a courtyard in downtown Indianapolis. At night.
We searched for over two hours. Ultimately, we were unsuccessful, but my friend went back the next day and found it. It was successfully rescued and released, following a quick trip to a wildlife rehabilitator!
My third (and final) trip of November was back to Kentucky for Thanksgiving.
And that was my wild November! I will definitely have to write about my hike in the Grand Canyon some other time.
Last but DEFINITELY not least, we have December 2019.
I attended my first Indianapolis Colts game, after winning a ticket through my second job (we lost, but I still had fun).
I got my mermaid hair back!
I celebrated my birthday with a few amazing friends…
…and attended my first ever Christmas Bird Count the next morning, where I somehow spotted a Barred Owl who was very far away and very well-camouflaged.
Oh, and I flew to Los Angeles to see my favorite band (My Chemical Romance) play their reunion concert, after a six-year hiatus.
I spent a week exploring LA and other parts of southern California. My parents drove up from Arizona, and we birded at the Malibu Lagoon, Huntington Beach, and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
We also went to Joshua Tree National Park, and we visited the Salton Sea.
That was a fun trip for sure.
My Christmas day was spent flying back and with a 9 & 1/2 hour layover in the Denver Airport (that’s how you get cheap plane tickets, folks).
I ended the year with a really bad illness, but I got to spend the last day of 2019 with some of my favorite friends and coworkers.
I don’t know how I’m going to top 2019. The first three months were really rough, but the rest of the year was a whirlwind of travel, birds, and work.
I got (at least) 50 lifers in 2019! My first lifer was an American Avocet, and my last lifer was a Mountain Plover that I’d almost missed seeing!
I wish I’d written more in my journal, but I wanted to write this post as a way to remember one of the best years of my life.
I’m so thankful that I got to experience everything I did last year, and I’m so excited for what the future holds.
Thank you to everyone who was a part of my 2019.
Big thanks to my family for loving and supporting me through all of the good moments and the really dark moments.
Major thanks to my friends and family for hosting me at the various places I traveled. I couldn’t have gone half of the places without you.
A massive thank you to my bosses and coworkers for letting me go on all of these wild adventures and for giving me the chance to work with you. You all inspire me regularly, and I wish I could be half as cool as you all are. Also thanks for letting me go zip-lining, kayaking, and paddle-boarding with the day camp kids.
2019 was one wild year. Thanks for being part of it.
Here’s to 2020!