Take the 'Bird a Day' Challenge in 2012

Birdwatchers in Quebec.

Plenty of people wake up on January 1 vowing to hit the gym, quit smoking, or get out of debt. But a select few have set a more unusual, and perhaps even more challenging goal for themselves: to spot a new species of bird every day of the new year.

The "Bird a Day" challenge was invented by Massachusetts birdwatcher Tom Wetmore, according the northern New Jersey newspaper The Record. Birders around the country now compete (though the only "prize" is bragging rights) to see how long they can keep their spotting streaks going.

Understanding Bird Migrations And Habits
Though winning takes dogged persistence and not a small bit of luck, even a short stint tackling the challenge pushes nature-lovers to explore new terrain, learn more about birds, and look more closely at what's around them -- worthy pursuits all on their own.

"Knowledge about habitats, bird habits, and movements were all critical to the effort," writes Trey Mitchell, who maintains a website where challenge participants can track their findings. "Know your wintering birds and when they move north. Focus on them first and be aware of those that leave early in the year. As spring migration arrives you have new opportunity and a wide variety of birds to choose from as they pass through."

Rich Avian Life Outside A Train Window
Trips to exotic places can help boost a birder's score, but they're not necessary to participate. Audubon magazine editor Rene Ebersole spotted birds out of the train window while commuting along the Hudson River from the suburbs to work in the city during last year's challenge, a endeavor she wrote about on the magazine's blog "The Perch." Despite making it only to Day 80 last year, she's raring to do it again.

One day last year, Ebersole spotted some 20 bird species during her commute -- though, of course, only one counted for that day's challenge. "I marveled at how often I’ve no doubt sped along right past them all, consumed by the daily newspaper or snoozing in a train seat," she wrote. "That’s the beauty of this project: My eyes have opened wider to nature’s subtleties and rhythms."

Take the 'Bird a Day' Challenge in 2012
Think you can spot a new bird a day for each of the 365 days of the new year? It's tougher than it sounds.

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