Sunday, February 23, 2014

Great Backyard Bird Count 2014

The Great Backyard Bird Count happens once a year in February. It’s a great opportunity for average folks to be a Citizen Scientist and contribute to our collective greater understanding of the state of birds in our own area. Bird checklists from all over the state, country and world provide much needed “in the trenches” details. What birds are doing well and which ones are struggling?

Red-shouldered hawk after it's frog lunch

From a personal standpoint, I have found that participating in the count helps me be more focused on identifying the birds around me. Birds that I assumed were the same species are revealed to be something else when I pull out the binoculars, identification books and even listen to what my own ears are telling me.

This yellow-rumped warbler is a nice find
This year's bird count was the weekend of Feb 14-17. I counted twice on Sunday the 16th, once in my wooded backyard and then a second time on a long walk. I wanted to count in different places because I knew I would see different birds. For example, there were no robins in my woods (nor did I expect them to be there), but I immediately saw 3 robins on my walk because I walked past a lot of turf grass (a favorite place for robins). I only counted multiple birds if I could see them all at once.

Snags attract the most birds!

A source of water, dead wood, and a diversity of trees = more bird species

The backyard is wooded and it has a small creek that flows into a private lake on adjacent property. There are hardwoods and pines in the woods plus a couple of loose brush piles. Here is what I saw on my way to the woods, in the woods and on the way back (spending approximately 75 minutes total) so this includes birds flying to and from the bird feeders on the deck:

Titmouse - 2
Yellow-rumped warbler - 2
Carolina chickadee - 2
Cardinal - 1 (male)
Mourning dove - 4
Downy woodpecker - 2
Pine warbler - 2
Golden-crowned kinglet -2
Carolina wren - 2
Red-shouldered hawk - 2
Eastern phoebe - 1
Brown-headed nuthatch -1
Blue jay - 1
Red-bellied woodpecker - 1
Eastern bluebird - 1

An Eastern bluebird sat alone near the deck

The walk that I took was through my neighborhood and then onto a road that has pastures and larger properties. This was a fairly disappointing 90 minutes; I don't think I've ever seen so few birds on this particular stretch of road! Normally I see about a dozen bluebirds near the largest pasture.

American robin - 3
American crow - 2
Carolina chickadee - 2
Cardinal - 2 
Eastern bluebird - 3
White-breasted nuthatch - 1
Titmouse - 2
Chipping sparrow - 1
Eastern towhee - 1
Mockingbird - 1

I like to use this exercise to also evaluate the ability of my own yard to attract diverse birds. Even though I didn't see every kind that I usually do, I know they are there. Probably the two most exciting finds was the pair of golden-crowned kinglets and the pair of red-shouldered hawks (one of which was eating a frog when I spotted it).

I can't stress enough how important it is to have a diverse mix of native plants and habitats (if possible, you have to work with what you have in that regard) if you want to support a diverse mix of birds. Bird feeders only attract a limited number of birds; plants and habitats are what attract the insects that all birds need. If you can leave a dead tree or two (a snag), you will really be popular!

Take some time and watch what comes through your yard. You just might be surprised at what you find.

No comments:

Post a Comment