Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend was the Great Backyard Bird Count. A Citizen Science project that anyone can participate in. All you need to do is note the birds you see in your yard (or anywhere else you'd like) for at least fifteen minutes, and then report your results.

Here are some of the birds we saw in our yard when we did the count yesterday.

The most common bird was this one, the dark-eyed junco, with forty visiting our yard.

Junco's are a species of sparrow. We had two other sparrow species, fox sparrow:

... and white-throated sparrow:

Pine siskin were also numerous, with 25 visiting our feeders yesterday.

As were their close kin, American goldfinch, of which 17 visited during the count.

We had four species of woodpecker:

Red-bellied (left) and northern flicker (center).

Hairy (center, again with red-bellied on the left).

Downy (sans red-bellied).

And Red-bellied (sans everybody else).

We had the bird almost universally despised by birders, the brown-headed cowbird:

Which are brood parasites, explaining the dislike.

A group of nine turkeys wandered through the yard, ...

... scaring all of the other birds into the trees.

Other visitors included:

This hermit thrush.

This White-breasted nuthatch, one of three this day.

A single Carolina wren, there are usually two about.

Whereas the previous three species are generally represented by only a few individuals, the next few species are relatively common.

While we only had three blue jays for the count, it is not unusual to have twice that number on any given day.

Eleven cardinals visited.

And fifteen mourning doves.

It was about this time that our first of two hawk species made an appearance, a red-shouldered hawk.

It briefly landed in a tree near the yard, and then flew back into the woods, albeit still visible from the yard.

We also had a lone turkey vulture soaring in the distance. Too far for an image alas.

Rounding out the day were five common grackles, including this female:

Six tufted titmice:

And but two Carolina chickadees.

The little fellow at the right.

And then this bird flew in. Our second hawk of the day. And that was the end of the count, as all the birds scattered, off into the forest.

As this bird, a coopers hawk, preys on other birds. And they know it.

In all we had 165 individual birds of 23 species. And while that may not seem like much, when added with all of the other reports this weekend it adds up to over 67,000 checklists, for 3800 plus species of birds and over eight million individual birds. That's a lot of birds. And a lot of data. The count started in 1998, and the data provides a window to bird populations and how they are changing due to habit loss and climate change.

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