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Great Backyard Bird Count

Prompted by a mention on Elizabeth Moon's SFF newsgroup, I decided to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count this year. It's over the 4-day weekend, and basically you just identify the birds you see and count the maximum number of each species that you see at one time. I'm not planning any extraordinary activity for this--just seeing what shows up in my yard. I wasn't expecting much as the feeder activity remains low thanks to the mockingbird who has taken possession and runs everyone else off. That is, except the blue jays, who ignore the mocker.

However, I did a lot better than I thought I would--14 species today, plus a couple of unidentifieds. I think I saw a hawk in silhouette at one point, but I can't identify from that. And I saw at least one other "something" fly by. My birding skills are low-to-middling, and heavy on the common feeder birds of this area. Today's list was:

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Blue Jay - 3
American Crow - 2
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin - 12
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Eastern Towhee - 2
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal - 2

Most of these were around the feeder but not on it--a few got to the feeder early before the mocker showed up. I discover that I have no sparrow-identification skills, and the two I put down are rather tentative (but those are the most common sparrows reported in the GBBC for my area). There may well have been a third species around, or maybe a juvenile, or who knows--there were several small stripey birds around and they all looked somewhat different. I just don't have an eye yet for the distinctive marks for each species, and I don't have a camera that will let me photograph them for detailed analysis. One of these days I'm going to replace my aged digital camera, and will get one that can handle a zoom lens for bird photographs.

For completeness, yesterday's list was short--I didn't start looking until mid-afternoon, so missed the active morning feeding.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Northern Mockingbird



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 18th, 2007 02:28 pm (UTC)
Identifying sparrows and finches drives me bananas. So often people want to lean on "It must be ____, because that is what lives in this area." I just don't think it's right! You need positive IDs to learn about population and migration shifts.

When we first moved to Gwinnett back in 1979, the county was still rural, and we had all sorts of deep woods birds in our yard.
Feb. 21st, 2007 02:12 am (UTC)
White-throated and Song Sparrows would be the two common brownish sparrows in a typical suburban yard in the east. Given the rest of what you saw, your yard probably has a bit more diversity than a typical suburban yard, so other sparrows are a definite possibility. Adult White-throats have distinctive stripes on top of their heads - either white and brown or tannish and brown. They have a bright yellow dot near each eye. They don't have streaks on their brests, at least not to any great degree. (I'm not going to get into identifying first year sparrows here.) Song Sparrows have lots of breast streaks with a big spot in the center of the breast. They are fairly non-distinct otherwise.
Mar. 8th, 2007 04:09 am (UTC)
Ack! My LJ comment notifications went astray for a while, and I just spotted your comment.

I've concluded sparrow ID is something I need to tackle as a self-education project one of these days. I think I landed on Song Sparrow because I saw the stripey breast and the other choices didn't look likely, but I didn't know to look for the breast spot. Oddly enough I haven't seen sparrows in the last week or so--maybe I just haven't been looking out the window at the right times, though.
Mar. 8th, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)
Most likely, you were right about the Song Sparrow. They're by far and away the most common streak-breasted yard sparrow in most of the US. They should be starting to sing about now, so you may want to get yourself a CD of birdsongs. When learning sparrows, identifying them by ear can be helpful.
Mar. 8th, 2007 03:27 pm (UTC)
I do my bird-watching from inside, through the front picture window (at my breakfast counter) or the window in my study. Those double-paned windows and my poor hearing keep me from getting anything but some faint blue jay pump-handle calls and crow caws. Unless I get hooked and start expanding my bird-watching areas, I'm probably stuck with visual IDs.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Nancy Barber

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