Like so many, the majority of my birding since the Covid-19 pandemic began has centered on my own backyard and local walking excursions. But as we kicked off 2021, I found myself far from my current home in North Florida, surrounded by a plethora of Maine birds!

You’d think I could have begun my 2021 year list with something less familiar in Florida. A Red-breasted Nuthatch perhaps? A Hairy Woodpecker? Even a Black-capped Chickadee.

Alas, no. On the morning of January 1st, I woke up to Mourning Doves pecking beneath my parents’ bird feeder.

Birding from a Maine beach.

But still! I soon added Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, Hairy and Downy and Pileated and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, both White and Red-breasted Nuthatches, and American Crows. A beach trip or two brought Common Goldeneyes, Common Loons, Common Eiders, Great Cormorants, and Bufflehead. I literally fist-pumped the air when I spotted Long-tailed Ducks and a Surf Scoter.

By the time I left the state at the end of January to head back south, I had added 26 species to my 2021 list. Sure, I can see Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals and Canada Geese in my own backyard, year-round, but closing my eyes and picturing those species against a snowy backdrop makes me smile. At the very least, they form a delightful contrast to the White Ibis and Wood Storks I call my neighbors in the heat of Florida.

I am crossing my fingers that our country, and then the world, will soon open back up. Can I add more Maine species this summer? Here’s hoping!

Written by Erika Zambello
Erika Zambello is a National Geographic Young Explorer who grew up in Maine, inspiring a deep interest in nature at an early age. She fell in love with birding after receiving a Sibley field guide for Christmas during her senior year in college, and has birded across the eastern seaboard and internationally ever since. To inspire others to protect birds and the environment, she has blogged for the Conservation Fund, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Triangle Land Conservancy, and Duke University, and is writing a birding guide to Northern New England for Wilderness Adventures Press. She has founded, and is currently living along the Emerald Coast in Florida's Panhandle. You can check out her exploration site or follow her on Instragram.