2013 and beyond

It's pretty simple: the most birds seen or heard from one's yard during 2013 will be the "winner". Want in? O.k....then do it despite that.

2013 promises to be a lot less mean but still a carbon-free birding competition, even if slightly less exciting than a MEGA x EPIC hybrid.

Friday, February 27, 2009

RBGU - #41

Not much of interest the last few days besides a couple of Ring-billed Gulls that flew over high and east generally in the direction of Lake Michigan. Can't wait for some more warmth...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sandhill Cranes bugling!

After watching hundreds of geese (including a couple Snows) moving north near Lake Geneva where I work this evening, I got home and set up my scope on the ridge to try to pick out some pure-bred tundra geese among these flippin canucks. No luck on that count, but the scoping did finally nab a distant Horned Lark (#39). As I was packing up I heard the bugling of a pair of Sandhill Cranes (#40) - a sound for sore ears! Also had a flock of 14 more WWCR land in the Norway Spruce clump and then fly right over the house to check out the cones in our front colorado spruces. Up to 58 in the yard this year Curtis...better watch out!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Invisible Phantom Speaks

Other than being buried in IBA Program deadlines, Eurasian Tree Sparrow hybrid manuscripts, MBBAII species accounts, and MBRC website updates, I have no substantive excuse for holding out this long. Perhaps I am just avoiding personal hubris in what appears to be a certain, easy path to victory in a childish competition with two wide-eyed beginners, or perhaps I can simply no longer handle the pressure of being the only one of the three of us who cannot seem to manage a single god-forsaken White-winged Crossbill in my yard! The second possibility would appear to be the more likely explanation, much as I hate to admit it.

I currently stand at a whopping 24 species for the 2009 yard list, the most recent addition being this handsome PIWO which paid the suet a visit:Other highlights include Sharp-shinned Hawk (not always easy in winter), 50+ Common Redpolls (still scouring each bird for a Hoary), Eastern Bluebird and European Starling. No joke, the starling is one of only2 sightings since moving to this property in July 2008. Speaking of my property, here it is:
I live in a subdivision amongst a landscape of small forest remnants surrounded by agriculture, with one great exception: the Rogue River. Only 1/2 mile to the north and east of my property is a large, 1/2 mile wide corridor of mature deciduous forest along the banks of the river. This is certainly the reason I have seen a Pileated Woodpecker in my yard, and I hope to get several other species of forest-interior birds as they wander out of the Rogue and down the corridor of woods to my house. Here is the aerial photography of my property, zoomed out.Note the airport in the upper left portion of the photo. This has afforded me both American Pipit and Horned Lark as flyby yard birds (2008), and is certain to help me get even more open habitat species which I would otherwise miss.

Biggest targets over the next couple months are: Wild Turkey (the flock hanging out in the field just southeast of my house have still never been visible from the yard!), Hoary Redpoll (come on, we can do this!), any ducks (MALL, COGO, BUFF, HOME, WODU, COME are all on nearby water bodies already), Rough-legged Hawk (even Curtis has had this in his very urban yard- twice!), Fox Sparrow, Winter Wren, Bald Eagle, Carolina Wren, and American Kestrel, among many others.

One last thing. I am exceptionally lucky to be working out of the house. So, unlike my opponents, I am able to watch my feeders all day long, missing very few of the birds which use them. Though I hope this plays to my advantage, I doubt it will allow me to overcome the much larger, more diverse property on which Sean resides- hey maybe he could just leave there for half the year or something? Whattya say, Sean?

Black Ducks and Herring Gulls on the move

Still no word from Caleb, he must have forgotten which way to look through his binoculars... A two hour hike this afternoon yielded almost nothing until the very end (even feeder birds were lacking). After getting back to the house with barely anything having been recorded, I decided to spend some time on the ridge looking east over the valley (where Honey Creek flows) and try to pick up at least a distant HOLA or ROPI flying by. No luck on those two but a distant four-ship of dabblers luckily turned towards me and I caught the all white under wing and dark body of four American Black Ducks (#37) heading north along the creek. I'm not sure off the top of my head, but I don't think I've had that species very many times here as they really aren't very common in SE Wisconsin even in migration (nothing like the Wastewater or the Jersey coast...). Trailing the black ducks were five Herring Gulls (#38) filing their way back towards Lake Michigan for the night. A few siskins have also been frequenting the feeders after being inexplicably nearly absent from my goldfinch flock all winter. I'll throw up the digibined shot through the screen when I upload my SD card. I hope you guys haven't forgotten about this site...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bakers dozen of WWCR + #36

Yeah so I know this is old hat for Curtis, but some brush clearing in the yard this aft yielded another dozen flyover WWCR as well as a single male 40 minutes later that landed in the Norway Spruces and called for ten minutes before flying off as well. Not too much else of interest, couple of PISI came in to the feeders and the same flock of WITU was around.
EDIT: After I posted, on my way out to check some local areas as a half-hearted attempt to help out my zip code for the Great Backyard Bird Count, I saw a male Red-winged Blackbird (#36) sitting in the top of the Cottonwood clump. Too bad (?) the cowbirds a mile down the road haven't found my feeders yet.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Yard work = year birds

Dad had to work on some misc repairs outside and since it was a nice day out I decided to clean out the feeders and spend some time outside in the hopes that I might hear my first cranes of the year bugling overhead. No luck on the hoped for cranes, but it was a very birdy couple hours spent out in the crisp 35 F. The first birds of note were a flock of 7 White-winged Crossbills that landed in the Norway Spruces (44 total for the yard Curtis). They then flew right over us and landed in the shorter clump of Colorado Spruce right by our driveway! Dad got good looks at them and I'm fairly sure that they were his first WWCRs. Shortly thereafter 3 Common Redpolls flew over and I heard a Pine Siskin go over as well. Distant scanning of the clouds yielded a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk (#32) slowly heading north (not a common bird in my yard, I think this was only my third sighting ever of that species...). I then decided to walk up to the corner of our field to look at the valley to the west. I had turkey in mind for this walk and sure enough, 24 Wild Turkeys (#33) were spread out along the edges of a corn field. Walking back to the house I had a pair of Mallards fly overhead (#34), I've been seeing a few along nearby Honey Creek all winter so I'm not sure if these birds were actually migrants. Final scanning of the distant horizons were revealing lots of geese on the move but too far to be able to pick out anything different. As I was turning to walk inside I heard a very high pitch fluid call note from the older willows in our woods and I turned and imitated it which brought in not one but two Brown Creepers (#35)!
Definitely a worthwhile afternoon and I was impressed with the 24 species I tallied in just a short amount of time!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Curtis' Yard weighing in

I don't have much to say about the composition of my yard (since there's not much here, unlike some other competitor who lives on some Leopoldian bird paradise in WI!). It's in urban SW Grand Rapids, has several mature oaks in the back and an abandoned wooded, shrubby lot about 50yds x 150yds in the back running parallel to our street. This lot does have a tendency to attract migrants and is my only hope for survival in this competition with 2 country folk! I have one patch of evergreenery across the street consisting of one white pine and one norway spruce (this is where the WWCRs come!).
So far for 09 I've got a slow start: 21

White-winged Crossbill
Dark-eyed Junco
American Goldfinch
Mourning Dove
Northern Cardinal
House Sparrow
House Finch
European Starling
Red-bellied Woodpecker
White-breasted Nuthatch
Downy Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
Cooper's Hawk
Carolina Wren
Great Horned Owl
American Crow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Blue Jay
Hairy Woodpecker
Red-tailed Hawk

*You know, Sean, I have not seen a pigeon yet either, believe it or not.

How many X-bills can you log?

While Sean may have had X-bills in his yard, I'm interested to know how MANY he's had...so far here's a listing of all my WWCR yard sightings this winter. Caleb, I know where you're at...there's really no need for you to get involved in this one.

1/8/09 - one heard/seen in top of white pine across the street to the SE. Seen/heard by my son Caleb too.
1/9/09 - flock of about 20 seen/heard as they flew from top of white pines across the street and over my head as I stood in the driveway before heading south. Seen by Bonnie too.
1/12/09 - 3 briefly seen flying into and perching briefly in top of white pines across the street.
1/13/09 - one heard/seen in top of spruce N of our house
1/20/09 - at least one heard in top of white pine across the street.
1/22/09 - Fly-by of small flock (3+) SE of house. Heard.
1/24/09 - 4 heard and seen as they flew over the yard, landing in deciduous tree in neighbor's yard to the N before continuing to fly W.
1/24/09 - 3pm - 2 seen feeding in spruce adjacent to white pine across the street. A flock of 12 took off from there and flew N. Photos taken!
2/1/09 - Flock of about 2 dozen circled the pine and spruce across the street before disappearing to the south.
2/4/09 - 4 seen foraging in the top of the white pine, then flying West. ___________________________________
That makes 73 currently.
Below are pics of 2 of the 12 I saw on 2/24.

Spring arrivals - COGR #31

Since I created this blog for these reprobates, I get the first post. This blog is basically a place where all three of us can post their latest birds and or photos from their yards in one place that we can look back on at the end of the year. Two of the contestants live in or around the suburbs of Grand Rapids, MI. I live out in the country in SE Wisconsin. As a result the other two yards have the advantage of quite possibly picking up a migrant Kirtland's Warbler while my chances of that are minuscule. So basically they have an advantage right out of the chocks... My yard consists of 14 acres of mixed brom field, secondary growth boxelder and sugar maple, and a hay field (rough outline below). There are a wealth of good wooded ridges along with ponds and wetlands all within a mile of my house so a good number of decent flyover birds can be expected. Up to this point I've recorded 212 species in my yard with the most recent addition being White-winged Crossbill (this winter quite the no-brainer...what a treat).
Well the first month and a half of the year have been relatively uneventful in my yard. Best birds are probably White-winged Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (right), Golden-crowned Kinglet, and 4 Eastern Bluebirds. The grand total for the year with today's newest addition a single Common Grackle chucking from the top of our Cottonwood clump, brings my yard to 31 species for the year. Biggest miss thus far is probably pigeon...