Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A banner weekend of FeederWatching

This past weekend marked the beginning of the season for one of my favorite citizen science projects. Project FeederWatch runs from early November until early April, the period in which birds are most likely to visit backyard feeders. Its participants survey the birds in a specific area throughout that season. The birds that are counted can be those that come to feeders or that feed on the vegetation or the wildlife in the area that is being surveyed. In my case, I survey my one-half acre yard plus my northside neighbor's backyard that contains ten large pine trees that are a magnet for bird life.

I did not have high hopes for my first weekend of FeederWatching. The yard has been very quiet recently, very little bird activity going on. Except, that is, for the ubiquitous House Sparrows, bane of my existence as a backyard birder.

I can count 20 or 30 of these guys in my yard at almost any hour of the day.

My low expectations were quickly exceeded. Even though things still seemed pretty quiet, close attention to sounds and movement in the yard revealed that even if the birds were quiet, they were there.

I was able to tick off the usual suspects on my list in very little time, and then I started noticing other birds that are in the area, but that I don't see in my yard every day. Somewhat surprisingly, Pileated Woodpeckers (a pair), Brown-headed Nuthatch, House Finch, and American Robin all showed up for the count. But most surprisingly of all, my first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of the season also presented itself for counting. The sapsucker, Pileated Woodpeckers and Brown-headed Nuthatch were all in my neighbor's pine trees, so you can understand why I include those in my survey area. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a winter resident here; all the others are year-round residents but they are not always present in my yard.

Despite my predictions as to what the weekend might reveal regarding the birds in my yard, it actually turned out to be one of my best first weekend counts in the twelve years that I've been doing this. My final species total for the weekend was 20! Here's a list:

Red-shouldered Hawk
White-winged Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
House Sparrow

If you pay close attention to that list and have been reading my blog lately, you might notice one glaring omission. Yes, the American Goldfinches that I had been seeing in my yard over the past several days never showed up while I was counting. Perverse little critters!

  

8 comments:

  1. Wow, impressive list for a weekend! Did you actually see them or just heard them?

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    1. For the most part, I was able to see them, but a couple on the list - the Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Brown-headed Nuthatch - stayed hidden in the shrubbery or among the pine needles in the case of the nuthatch. They are both quite vociferous, however, so there wasn't any doubt that they were there.

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  2. A veritable aviary! I have had the Pileated Woodpecker in my pine tree lately. White-winged dove. That was a favorite Stevie Nicks song of mine. I used to perform it in my cover band in the early 80s. I am going to look it up to see what it looks like.

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    1. White-winged Doves swarm my feeders like locusts a little later in the season, but right now I'm seeing just two or three in the yard at a time. They are lovely birds, but a flock of them can clean out a feeder in short order.

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  3. You have a nice collection of birds on your list. I get the usual suspects, and we had a hawk yesterday. I forgot to count this weekend. I hope I remember to count at least a few weekends in the season.

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    1. You were lucky to get a picture of that hawk and I was glad to see your post on FB. Often, they are not that cooperative about having their picture taken.

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  4. Reading your feeder count, I am reminded of how I do not hear the birds at sunrise or at sunset. But, at this time of year there is a bird (starlings? You can tell I am not a birder) that congregates in mass flocks, perching on power lines, bridges, you name it. They will sit and then will all take off at once, fly around, and then land back on the wires or structures. I understand this behavior may be called "staging". I'm sure you know a lot more about it than I do.

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    1. Your birds could well be European Starlings. They are famous for their synchronized flying.

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