In her paean to birding, Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds, Lyanda Lynn Haupt writes:
There is a game birders play on New Year’s Day called “Bird of the Year.” The very first bird you see on the first day of the new year is your theme bird for the next 365 days. It might seem a curious custom, but people who watch birds regularly are always contriving ways to keep themselves interested. This is one of those ways. You are given the possibility of creating something extraordinary — a Year of the Osprey, Year of the Pileated Woodpecker, Year of the Trumpeter Swan. This game is an inspiration to place yourself in natural circumstances that will yield a heavenly bird, blessing your year, your perspective, your imagination, your spirit. New year, new bird.
After her breathless anticipation, Haupt is confronted with… an European Starling, or “sky-rat.”
The Year of the European Starling. Inauspicious, yes, but not without its charms, according to Haupt.
As I have on the past thirteen or so New Year’s Eves, I ensured that all of the feeders were topped off and that corn and nuts were scattered for the squirrels last night. (There are no squirrel-proof feeders, but I have learned that feed scattered away from the feeders will (mostly) keep those furry nuisances away from the birds and the more expensive seed.) Last year, I saw the first bird of the year before I had even left my bed: a house sparrow hopping and chatting with his friends in the yew hedge. This year, I espied a black-capped chickadee in the oak out back.