counting birds with cornell, 2016 edition
I’LL TELL YOU MINE, if you tell me yours–and then how about we all tell eBird.org (or join the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count)? I’ve been counting “backyard” birds as I do each winter, recording my data when anything unusual shows up, but lazily not posting my daily “regulars list” of about 18ish-to-20 species. Which looks something like this recently:
Garden visitors, average winter 2016 day:
- 20 dark-eyed juncos
- 10 goldfinches
- 1 to 3 Northern cardinals
- 5 white-throated sparrows
- 3 American robins (up to 30 on warm, bright days)
- 5 mourning doves (up to 20 on warm, bright days)
- 5 blue jays (ebbs and flows between several and 15ish birds)
- 3 tufted titmice
- 7 black-capped chickadees
- 2 white-breasted nuthatches
- 1 red-breasted nuthatch (began appearing in January daily)
- 2 pileated woodpeckers
- 1 Northern flicker (began reappearing in January)
- 1 red-bellied woodpecker
- 2 downy woodpeckers
- 2 hairy woodpeckers
- 1 yellow-bellied sapsucker
- brown creeper (in other years, seen daily)
- hermit thrush, January 22 (note: an unusual winter resident here; two were in the garden daily into almost November, long after I’d have expected them to migrate)
- barred owl, heard periodically
- a couple of cedar waxwings on the last day of January (usually wandering flocks visit every so often through winter, but no big groups…yet)
Late December 2015:
- add 2 house finches
- add flock of American crows (doing a daily early morning meetup in the tall trees at the garden’s edge, then a raucous flyover)
And two weeks before that:
- add 1 ruffed grouse
- add 3 stray purple finches
- add 1 persistent red-tailed hawk (hoping to snack on smaller birds, though I am suggesting rodents, instead)
Species missing so far, that I can usually count on in a given winter:
- a wren or two (winter wren and Carolina wren)
- Eastern bluebird
- Cooper’s hawk (seen nearby, but not in the garden proper so far)
- Sharp-shinned hawk (seen nearby, but not in the garden proper so far)
- the occasional starling
- no turkeys have floated in over the fence this winter so far, though I hear the occasional beating of wings that is a group taking flight from their roosts
If I feel the need to see starlings, I need only walk to the extensive dairy-farm fields just down the road, where there are also often even flocks of sea gulls despite the inland position. On days when stored-up slurry of waste from the herd is spread on the frozen fields, loaded with bits of undigested grain I expect, so many crows descend that I cannot even guess the count–but it’s a fantastic sight.
Birds I wish would visit this winter, as they do every couple or few, but apparently not this time:
- pine siskin
- common redpoll
Only one year in 30ish here did I have a visit from the winter finches called pine grosbeaks. But a girl can live in hope–and I do, that those gregarious, beautiful birds will stop in sometime again.
Let me know who you’re keeping company with this winter, please–and do use the links below to join eBird and the Great Backyard Bird Count.
do you eBird? sign up now
THE ONLINE bird-counting application called eBird, a project of Cornell Lab of Ornithology, celebrated its 10th year in 2015. Unlike well-known counts such as Great Backyard Bird Count and Project Feederwatch (more on them below), which have specific start and end dates each year, eBird is a lifetime tool, for use anytime, whether at home or elsewhere. Maybe make joining eBird a slightly belated New Year’s resolution?
I like eBird’s new-in-2014 “Location Explorer,” a dashboard allowing you to zoom in on who’s seen what in a particular area of interest—as useful for seeing what other species are around where you live as it is for planning a birding trip to some exotic distant place.
Within it I can drill down to the “hotspots map” (then either zoom in or enter the desired place in “location” at the top right) and see how many species have been recorded in my vicinity. For instance, in the public land surrounding my place (the Taconic State Park—Copake Falls Area; Columbia County, New York), there are 97 species recorded from 12 checklists. I also regularly zoom in on data for adjacent Berkshire County, MA, where there are far more birders just across the state line–and a whopping 288 species submitted in more than 21,000 checklists). What’s exciting: Most are birds I have never seen–but might someday, without going too far afield.
When I see an unusual bird, like the hermit thrush I sighted through the start of November last year and again in January (a bird that typically migrates away from here for winter), I always look at adjacent areas on eBird to see if anyone else saw the same species. Indeed, Indeed, there was data on hermit thrushes in two other spots within an hour of me, around the same time period.
That’s why it’s important that we participate, so a fuller picture can be had by researchers than they could gather on their own. As in: Do you see what I see? Probably not. Off I go to transfer the numbers on my pad of paper into my eBird account.
- eBird: Sign up here and use the online checklist anytime (which helps by suggesting possible birds in your area).
- GBBC: Sign up for the next Great Backyard Bird Count, February 12-15, 2016 (a joint project of Cornell, Audubon and Bird Studies Canada, and powered by the eBird technology).
- Project Feederwatch: Or you can still join Project Feederwatch (from Cornell and Birds Studies Canada), which runs November into April and as it sounds is about recording birds in your backyard in feeder season, at the feeders themselves or in your garden plantings or using its water features—counting birds using something you provided.
(Photos up top and just above by Leslie Jones (1886-1967), from the Boston Public Library Collection. More on “the camera man,” as Jones, a longtime Boston newspaper photographer, called himself, in this story, or in the BPL’s Flickr archive of his work.)