The end of another year offers time to take stock of the good, the bad, and in the case of Nathan Goldberg, the birds.
Goldberg just wrapped a record-breaking year for birds spotted in Illinois, ending with 341 species seen across the state — one more bird than his friend Steve Huggins. The friends birded together, covering counties north to south, their lists neck and neck for most of the year.
"You're just driving all over," Goldberg said. "And the problem with a big year is you get news that a bird is there and you have no choice but to go for it. And you may miss it. It's like playing the lottery but with nature."
Goldberg lucked out in his big year — a challenge birders take to see as many species as possible in a given area in 365 days — after picking up a bird Huggins missed. But even in the final days of 2020, the friends — Goldberg a 24-year-old Chicago native and Huggins, a 47-year-old originally from England — were still birding together, adding a mountain bluebird to their counts.
Now they can look back on a nonstop year of birding triumphs and flops. And consider taking a break.
"I don't ever feel like I don't want to be in the outdoors," Goldberg said. "Except obviously in the brutal cold winter. But even then, if there's a good bird out there, I will find a way to be outside."