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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Arrival.

As aniticipated due to the weather and last night's radar the early migrants have arrived and decended upon my yard today. I managed 6 yard year birds (but no life yard birds) and 32 species today. Oh, and one mammal too.
Here's the 6 new for the year:
Northern Flicker (32)
Eastern Towhee (33)
Fox Sparrow (34)
Hermit Thrush (35)
Eastern Phoebe (38)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (37)

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I'm having fun now...

Man, I love it when I come home from work and the sun is still high in the sky! What a beautiful day! Does it sound like I'm excited? Well, yes sir, and here's why...

I drove into Douglas across the Kalamazoo River noting that there were some decent duck numbers on Kalamazoo Lake to the west and Wades Bayou to the east. Encouraged that some might be visible from the roof, I scoped from there and at 7:15pm a swarm of Aythya rose above the tree-line. Leading were two Greater Scaup. However, the majority of the mass was indistinguishable to anything but scaup sp. A few moments later three small, buoyant gulls flew through my field of view. The white wedges in their outer primaries confirmed what I suspected to be Bonaparte's Gull. (For the skeptics - no significant dark underside of primaries.) A few more minutes of patient waiting and another smaller group of scaup sp. cleared the trees followed by three Lesser Scaup. A Tree Swallow zipping overhead finished off the roof-sit.

All told today were 5 yardbirds for the year: EATO, GRSC, BOGU, LESC & TRES. This brings my year list to 65. The scaup and bonies were all-time yardbirds putting that total at 165. Whats next?!


R to the U the B to the L

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Four year yardbirds and some photos

I spent an hour and a quarter out this morning right after sunrise hoping for some passerines dropping. I definitely saw more during this hour than I have been toward dusk recently. The best bird was probably a Belted Kingfisher that dropped in on the pond, stayed for less than a minute, and was gone...
The next year bird came in the form of a pair of silent Eastern Bluebirds cruising over in the midst of a fairly sizable number of robins and blackbirds that were moving over all morning. Caleb also witnessed a bluebird going over this morning that was too high to be local so they are still moving through... The other two birds aren't nearly as good; finally nailed down a lone Rock Pig going over (it took me four months in suburbia to finally get this!?) and a Brown Creeper was also fairly expected given the date and the large willows and cottonwoods around. The BEKI was yardbird 80, consider yourself warned Slager!
Also saw two Rusty Blackbirds (one in full song that allowed very close approach) and the DCCO's overnight became an expected species (2 today, more tomorrow I'm sure). Also, I'm glad my wife's point and shoot isn't a cheap quality camera. It's definitely harder to digiscope with than my coolpix 4500, but it's totally doable.

Raptors PWNED

As seems to be the usual pattern, when you guys call me, I get birds. Yesterday this resulted in 2 life yardbirds and 1 additional yearbird. And so far today, another year bird. Sean called and I went out and had a Harrier (50) bolt through the same gap ("right finger", as I am starting to call it) as the Rough-leg from yesterday. Now, I am reduced to needing MERL, PEFA, GOEA, (and of course Osprey and Broad-wing which will both be straightforward next month) and NOGO, etc. These species are quite unlikely, but who knows. Maybe someone else can call me to try to help?

Monday, March 29, 2010


The thermals that Putnam experienced today did not develop here today. Cold northwest winds off Lake Michigan kept the raptors earthbound except for a few low sailing TUVU. Still, I managed several stints on the roof which paid off later this afternoon. While scoping over the Kalamazoo Lake basin at about 4:30 five aythya flew into view. On closer examination they were made out to be three male and two female REDH. #60 this year, but #162 all-time.

Some northward passage at last...no year garden birds, mind

Hi all,
After having been in touch with Putnam via Facebook, about noctural migration and the like, imagine my delight when I heard some Eurasian Oystercatchers passing over my house tonight...and my dismay when I see that I had already noted the species at some stage this year. Still, it's always nice to have clear passage overhead, it's a rare thing in my neck of the woods: have to hope that something like a Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit or the like is caught up in the movement and that it utters a recognisable call...

Raptors at The Wastelands

Luckily, my situation is nothing like Putnut's and I don't have a narrow window of horizon to deal with...ummm...

Anyway, just stepped out on this beautiful afternoon after finally getting off the phone for the 3rd conference call today. The winds are steady from the north but that isn't stopping a fairly decent raptor movement. Best birds were two GORGEOUS adult Bald Eagles (#31; #43 yard lifer) covorting with one another in a thermal way to the north of the 'slab'. After trying to convince my neighbor that I was actually looking at Bald Eagles, they disappeared before I could give him a look through the bins. Luckily, my wife got on them so her yard list now stands at like 5 or something like that. Other raptors that zipped by in about 10 minutes:
4 RTHAs, 3 TUVUs, 1 COHA.

A consolation year bird was TRES (#32).

Finally, a high quality yardbird

Well, Kaptain Katty called a bit ago, which gave me the impetus I needed to step outside with my scope. And this happily just led me to spot a distant Buteo over the Sparta airport on the western horizon, soaring with a slight dihedral (ie. not RTHA). A scope view quickly confirmed my long-awaited first RLHA (a light morph) (47/120). Now how about Kestrel?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sparrows and Such.

So I only had a couple hours to spend in the rainy drizzle/brief almost sun today and I came up with a decent bird count considering. So many Fox Sparrows! very nice I'd have to say there was at least 10 maybe more, one of the more common birds out back today. Also had good looks at FISP (one even showed at the feeder) and my first of the year yard CHSP also digiscoped at the feeder today after my walk. Still missed a few target sp. but it was fun to see a pair of EAPH down by the creek bobbin' their tails and catching bugs. Again with the few hundred AMRO and Wood Duck pair. Also had a pair o' MALL down on the creek. 44 Species in 2 hours aint bad.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Coot photo and two Great Northern Divers!

So I lugged the scope out to digiscope the lone coot that is on day three of its stay in the small pond bordering the golf course. After spending about ten minutes on that (best I managed below...) I scanned the rest of the pond and noted a Tree Swallow high overhead circling the pond. Behind that I caught an extremely distant large bird in sustained flight steadily winging its way north. I got the scope on the bird and my suspicion proved correct and not just one Common Loon, but two of them were bee-lining north across the horizon! Not only does this put me two behind Caleb for the year (#43) but it also puts me only two behind Slager all-time (#79). I'm enjoying the parity while it lasts. Come spring C. P. will be trouncing me with passerines...

Havin' a IMBY morning

Conditions were perfect this morning with clouds coving the sun and compatible air and water temperatures (no shimmer).

New yardies too in the form of American Wigeon and ..... Long-tailed Duck, whoa whoa. Flocks of LTDU were moving back and forth offshore in Little Bay de Noc with 125 birds total including a flock of 70 birds.

~ 1 hour:
Red-breasted Merg 5; Common Merg 7; Goldeneye 37; Long-tailed Duck 125; Tundra Swan 4; Canada Goose, 6; Scaup (Greater) sp. 4; Buff 5; American Wigeon 4; Mall 75; Am Black D 6; Northern Pintail 2.

time for coffee


So, my neighbor just pointed out an interesting fact: our neighborhood association jointly owns several "commons" in our subdivision, including a several acre plot adjacent to my yard. Walking to the far end of this commons, I realized that I have a better view of the western horizon that I do when I stand at the far SW corner of my property as I have been.

So, since I pay my dues, the 'commons' area is technically mine (too). Anybody got a problem with me using the 'commons' that abuts my actual yard as part of this competition? (How else am I ever going to score a duck other than MALL, HOME, and WODU?)

Friday, March 26, 2010

weekend break

from my "temporary yard" for the weekend. This could also be considered a dramatic rendition of last weeks highlight!

Common Loon

Prior to work this morning while scanning the western horizon I sighted a COLO (#57) in basic plumage. It was migrating north over the old golf course. This is only the second sighting ever from the property and was unexpected.

Aythya plus some photos

Nabbed another new species this evening in the form of a lone drake Ring-necked Duck (#42, and #78 life) on the pond that quickly flew back into a more secluded corner behind the beaver lodge. I thought the bulk of the waterfowl had already moved through, so it was a nice surprise. The coot was still there this aft, I'll try to snag a photo of it tomorrow. Here are a couple recent pictorial highlights.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another day another fulica

It's not real nice out for it being late March and all... An American Coot was my surprising reward when I ventured out just to check the ponds after work. It is #41 for the year and #77 all time in the yard. Didn't bring the camera because I really didn't expect anything. I'll toss up some SACR and PBGR shots (3 in one frame) from the other day when I get a chance.

the last & the first

So considering the fact that it's snowing sidewise in MQT right now, I didn't think I was gonna get any new yard birds today. But a brave little Song Sparrow is singing away back in the aspen grove- kudus to you little guy!
Incongruously, a Pine Grosbeak warbled its way over the house- headed north; it's certainly possible that I won't see that species again until late fall.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Post-work trifecta

Pretty solid cloud cover had my hopes that some other ducks may have dropped in...no dice on that front. But I did pick up a couple of Great Blue Herons (#38), a pair of Tree Swallows (#39) over the pond and a pair of Northern Flickers (#40) calling back and forth during my 40 minute jaunt out there. Still only ATSP, DEJU, and SOSP here, expecting fox sparrows any day...

Enough to push a guy over the edge

So, the focus of my life for many days now has been to figure out how to get Rusty Blackbird for my LIFE yardlist, let alone year list. I have plenty of RWBL, COGR, and BHCO flying over and even roosting in large #s with the local EUST 1/3 mile NW of the yard at dusk before they head to roost. Problem is, none of them ever land close enough for me to do anything with them. If I get a perfect flyby, esp. one involving song or call, I should be OK, but that seems not to be happening (I suspect the floodplain forest 1/4 mile to my east is 'leaching' them all away from me all day). Anyway, as I went through last night's recording during the predawn and dawn hour, I just found this from 7:47:56AM, a time when I was awake and eating breakfast with my daughter:If that doesn't register, have a listen to the recording here:

Looks like I need to get my butt outside at daybreak a bit more often... Argh.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A little non yard birding from yesterday

Well, at least 4 yardbirders were out of commission yesterday, as we were kayaking the Muskegon SGA and generally making idiots of ourselves. Here are some photos from a memorable outing which included Curtis's life (and self-found, I might add) LEOW.

Monday, March 22, 2010

EAME and a CLSW!

Birding the yard was fun today, I still didn't get as early a start as I'd hoped, but I ran into some nice bird movement. Lots of TUVU flying over when the rain broke, Some Cooper's Hawks and 5 RTHAs. Stunning looks at a drake Wood Duck from above at 'duck bend' of the creek, what a gorgeous duck! There was a lot of AMROs about, I'd say over 100. Although around the state there was a fallout of LTDUs I had no such action in the yard (did drive 15 min, to go see one at the local reservoir). I finally tracked down a singing EAME, and soon after I was surrounded by a migrating flock of TRES! Hundreds were swooping and chattering and swirling around. As I watched with my bins I spotted one with a buffy rump! I stayed on it and sure enough it was a Cliff Swallow! I watched him for several minutes until it flew north of the yard. Wonder if the guy was headed up to nest on this amishman's barn north of me (this guy had about 300 CLSW nest on his barn last year!). Anyways, an awesome and somewhat early bird. For you at home keeping score that'd be 63 and 64 for the year.


This evening I finally got some serious yardbirding in. As soon as I stepped into the east clearing an American Kestrel (55/161) sailed over. Deciding it might be worth looking skyward for raptors, I went to the south field where I laid down in the sun. I promptly had another Merlin fly north. A few minutes after that a Red-shouldered Hawk (56) soared through. I was really hoping for a measly TUVU, but instead I fell asleep.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Well, after being gone all day Saturday for some Detroit River IBA action, and again most of the day today, I returned to fairly empty skies above my house in the evening hours. Then, during a resurgence of activity at dusk I rose to the rooftop to see what I could get. Thankfully, I at least salvaged this "lost" weekend with 1 new yearbird. Here is the sonogram of its wingbeat (the doubled notes at ~5,000Hz), with my voice interrupting the sonogram with 3 words in the middle. Anyone think they can identify the species by this alone?

The inevitable happens...

Hi all,
So, on checking out the blog tonight, I see that all of you slackers have finally realised that you live in a country with shedloads more species than we have in Ireland, and have all passed my paltry total: about time, gentlemen! Now I'm just off to sit in a corner and feel inadequate...
Seriously, I was too busy of late to even worry about my garden, as I went off and ticked Eurasian Stone-curlew for Ireland today on Sherkin Island, in glorious spring sunshine with birdsong, flowers starting to bloom, insects and so on. 15 Sand Martins (Bank Swallows to you lot) were seen on the Bandon River on our way home, with 2 more near Cobh: I got Northern Wheatear for the year last Thursday. After a colder than usual winter, it feels so good for spring to be here again!

Sky watch = avian rewards

I spent about 50 minutes out in the surprisingly cold wind here this afternoon with my scope stationed on the highest sand trap in my "yard" to watch the horizon for raptors and cranes. I was rewarded with an incredible Sandhill Crane movement involving flocks of hundreds (one flock had over 300 in one kettle) that all told equaled 838 SACR (#33) moving NW in an incredibly short amount of time! To put that in perspective, the peak number of SACR I ever recorded at my folks house in WI in one day was a measly 150...
Raptors were also on the move in much smaller numbers, but I managed a dozen Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Red-shouldered Hawk (#34, #75 life), 2 Turkey Vultures (#35), 1 Bald Eagle (#36, #76 life), and a couple of Cooper's Hawks that may have been local. The only other bird of note was a Pied-billed Grebe (#37) out on the pond all by its lonesome.

to those who wait....

Golden Eagle bitches!

My yard is pretty good for hawk-watching being up on a hill and all, and with sunny skies and SW winds I thought I should do some yard birding. Of course, me being me- I decided within 2 minutes of yard birding that it was time to go else where and spent most of my morning on a wilderness ridge north of town watching Goshawks try to kill one-another. But all good things must come to an end and after a few hours out, it was time to come home and get work done. Being the procrastinator that I am- I thought "well might as well watch the skies for a few before going inside.

Well just imagine my surprise when a blooming adult Golden Eagle came streaming right over the house- fantastic looks, and a species I have dreamt of as a yard bird, but never thought it would happen! If my prof Lindsay is in his yard he may get it too as the eagle was headed right towards his place.

slowly but surely I began my ascent to winning this years competition- complete with style points!

The Swallows Return and Pterodactyl flyby.

Currently the EAPH is stuck on infinite loop. I was just saying to myself this morning, "self, those TRES should return at any moment" I went out and saw nothing for the first turn about the yard but when I came back, viola! There was my shiny green backed friend by his usual box. Excellent. As I was out I also finally had the first of many Great Blue Heron flybys. They always remind me of an ancient flying dinosaur. Still waiting on that Meadowlark, the EUSTs keep trying to fool me with their motley imitation of the magnificent EAME. Junco song today is off the hook, its always a treat to hear their happy jingle. Cheers and good luck. #61, and #62.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Early frog gets ????

Never thought I'd see a Leopard Frog in the UP in March. This fella was swimming in the shallows of Lake Michigan on 19 March.


Aristotle – the last human to know everything there was to know during his lifetime- was the first to write on subject of bird migration. He believed that small birds (particularly swallows) hibernated during the winter and this serve as conventional wisdom for almost 2000 years.

Aristotle also believed that birds morphed from one species to explain how one species would disappear near the end of summer (i.e. redstart) and another would appear to residence through the winter (i.e. robin). This process of change was called Transmutation.

It’s laughable now to think of “migration” in these terms but I believed I witnessed the latter the other day with my observation of the Trumpeter Swan. I went out the Portage the next day and saw 2 large dark-billed swans but they were clearly Tundras. Later in the evening I saw them from my liar .. I mean my lair, and this time the nearby Mute Swans did not respond to their presence and the Tundra’s were not observed in courtship display. I believe the Trumpeter’s transmutated into Tundra’s so that they could co-exist with the aggressive and territorial Mute Swans. I intend to watch to see if they turn back into Trumpeters but in the meantime I will transmute my yardlist to reflect the current form these swans have taken.

Friday, March 19, 2010

#31 TUVU Today

Not much new to report from here other than one flyover TUVU (#31). I had to play catch-up the other day, but now that I caught up to what's actually around right now the new birds have been slow in coming the past 2 days.

Finally Phoebe!

As I lay here in bed with my window open I hear the repeated call of an Eastern Phoebe. Also CAGO, EABL, BLJA, SOSP, NOCA, CARW, KILL, DEJU, WTSP, CACH, BHCO, HOFI, AMGO, RSHA, AMCR, RWBL, TUTI (or ETTI, if you're oldschool) and HOSP. Not sure How Big Rig got them before me, but at least my worried mind can be set at ease, I love my phoebes and wouldn't want anything to happen to them. 60 baby! And all while still laying in bed, the only way to bird. Maybe my silly Meadowlark will show his yellow belly today.

Wood Ducks return

I spent an hour out on the greens hoping that something cool would flyover (I had meadowlark on the mind). While the 95% of the flyover birds were AMRO, RWBL, and COGR, I did pick up 3 Wood Ducks (a pair and then a lone male) checking out the ponds (#32). And Song Sparrow became ubiquitous overnight with at least 6 present within earshot (#31). A decent Herring Gull movement (22 in an hour) going over east to west from Lake Michigan presumably. Now out to some area lakes where I will actually get some waterfowl diversity!

We're cooking with gas now

The spigot is on; Yesterday (March 18th) brought Song Sparrows (#47) back to the bushes of Delta Co. Also conspicuous were an influx of blackbirds and robins.

For me the day started with a Great Horned Owl (#46) heard through the window before dawn and ended with Hooded Merganser (#48) and a pair of Trumpeter Swans (#49) that were attacked by a Mute Swan. I had just noticed this distant pair of swans with black bills engaged in courtship (mingling their stretched necks and gently nuzzling' their bills) when a swan of the same size chased them off. Trumpeter's by size and bill color unless there are objections.

As I write this morning the first robin song of the season.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nocturnal migration underway

These are not countable, because they were only picked up by the mic, but the first 3 represent my first ever American Tree Sparrows for nocturnal flight call pick-ups, and the fourth a reasonably early Savannah! Savannah would in fact be a life yardbird were I to have heard that note by ear. Times times of night each was recorded are: 2:27:31 am, 3:16:00am, 5:45:55AM, and 5:45:53am, respectively. Let the migration begin.

Also, just found this SOSP/FOSP (presumably the former, but hard to tell) from this morning at daybreak (6:50:22AM), so the sun was already partially up. I'll bet it was still moving though as I didn't see it in my yard at all today.

My free rein is over and #59

Well, I enjoyed the lovely sunny day out on the land, got a lot of the usuals and some of the seasonals like the Fox Sparrows again (seems like the same six as before), also got a good look at the pair of BDOWs. Suddenly, a pair of majestic birds winged across the ski, I raised my 8.5x42s and soaked in the image of a pair of Rock Pigeon as they came in and landed on my neighbors barn. I don't recall if I've ever been so excited to see ROPIs before in my life. Not a yard lifer, but close. Other winged beasts I've noticed over the past few days: Eastern Comma, and a Mourning Cloak butterfly. But otherwise its been kind of slow. Things are looking up for the rest of you lot, this coming week is probably going to be my last week of near full time birding, I will be adjusting my schedule and not working at the climbing gym so much and start in at my new job as a (paid) Naturalist Intern at a local Metropark (Blacklick Metropark if you care) and that should be good times, I will have a lot less time in my yard, but I'll make do. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Three-way Tie

Hate to break it to you Curtis but I'm going to now give both you and FitzG a run for your money. I stepped outside this afternoon with my son (6 months now) to show him his first ever flyover DC Cormies. He was thrilled to say the least. Not a new yard bird but considering that some of these flocks were flying mega high I had high hopes that some other interesting waterfowl would flyover. I had some really distant ducks that were most likely Ring-necked but couldn't call it for sure. No. 29 came with some Brown-headed Cowbirds mixed in with RWBL flocks. No. 30 (#42 yard lifer) was an exceptional salvage if I do say so myself and a new yard lifer...NORTHERN CARDINAL. Never actually seen a cardinal around here because there simply isn't any vegetation but I picked this dude up singing somewhere southeast of here...hmmm...

Most interesting of all is the new yard decor of our neighbor's. Their kid's playset was apparently in need of repair so the guy broke out his circular saw and got busy. The result: a festive yet blinding spray paint job that will put any artist to shame. Check it out...this stuff is glowmaster primo. I'm really hoping for the 'lighthouse effect' with this new development.

WOW unexpected Woodcock!

BOOYA! I stumbled upon a couple MORE new year birds...
As I'm talking to Putnut on the phone I check the yard shrubs for Song Sparrow (score! #28). Then I walked a little further into the woodlot and saw something move 4' from me on the ground. I looked down and saw in perfect lighting against the leaf litter an American Woodcock (#29). 1/2 second later it flushed but is sure to be trapped somewhere in the woodlot for the rest of the day (nowhere else to go). AWESOME!
Oh, and added 2 more day birds (RTHA, and HAWO) making 24 for 3/17/10 so far.
Side note: Harry & Aaron, sorry for passing you both by today. But I must admit both of you have made a great showing for these first months of the year! Keep it up!
One more thing - SOS for Edmund Fitzgerald...you're about to sink!

It's Business Time.

This little icebreaker came to my rescue on the 12th. Now, conditions are perfect....

Just in case the title of this post eluded you --- hit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGOohBytKTU .... you will not be sorry.

26 & 27...Last NO MORE!

AHHH....vacation is AWESOME! Hello birds, good-bye last place!

Location: Highgate Yard & Woodlot
Observation date: 3/17/10
Notes: Bonnie and I sat by the house with coffee and then walked the woodlot.
Number of species: 20

Canada Goose - Branta canadensis 22
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos 4 (#26)
Ring-billed Gull - Larus delawarensis 1 (#27)
Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura 2
Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens 2
Blue Jay - Cyanocitta cristata 2
American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos 1
Black-capped Chickadee - Poecile atricapillus 3
Tufted Titmouse - Baeolophus bicolor 1
White-breasted Nuthatch - Sitta carolinensis 2
Brown Creeper - Certhia americana 1
American Robin - Turdus migratorius 6
European Starling - Sturnus vulgaris 3
Dark-eyed Junco - Junco hyemalis 1
Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis 3
Red-winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus 15
Brown-headed Cowbird - Molothrus ater 2
House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus 2
American Goldfinch - Carduelis tristis 3
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus 12

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Surprise life yardbird- the night strikes again

Only surprising because of the number of times I've tried previously with no result. But tonight just walking out the back door (no tapes used, honest) I immediately heard a Barred Owl (41/118) in full song to the east. Bout time!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On your heels...

Boone, Hussey and Haas - I'm on your heels...

3/12/10 - Red-winged Blackbird (#23)
3/16/10 - Brown-headed Cowbird (#24)
3/16/10 - Red-tailed Hawk (#25)

Oh, by the way, I'm vacationing at home this week and plan to make the most of it. So WATCH OUT! And Haas...SHUT UP about making up ground later and show something now would ya! Looks like your other UP counterpart is doing just fine so don't excuse yourself due to latitude.

3000 words .....

......as in the worth of 3 iPhotos. The first; an emerging blackbird roost on the single tree in the marsh -- nothing new among the freshly arrived grackles and redwings but the potential feels good. The second; an anticipated bugle lapping around the marsh before touching down at precisely 747. The third; a large antique-white gull with a pink bill base, a surprise but a good surprise.

Mic again (yawn)



Barred Owl

Luckily I hadn't hit the hay yet. The "Who cooks..." rendition of a BDOW (#52/160) came through my window a few minutes ago. From outside it sounds like its located west of me, perhaps on the old golf course property. Too tired to chase it tonight. I'm surprised that its an all time yardbird.

The season's first mic-scored yearbird

Well, I am totally bummed to have to report to all you slackers who failed to build yourselves a nocturnal mic that you have just been burnt. As I sat here working on old eBird checklists just now (11:50PM, March 15) I was surprised to hear a high-pitched bugling coming through the live feed. I bolted outside after hitting the record button on Audacity, and here is what I recorded (yes, this is my clip uploaded to a 3rd party website since blogger can't handle the mp3 file):


Yup, #39. In two separate flocks quite high up And you can count on many more species being added this way in the next 2 months. I even have a ladder permanently mounted on the deck to allow quick and easy access to the roof whenever I hear a flight occurring. Can you say SOSA, BBPL, SESA, UPSA, BOBO, SAVS, GRSP, and/or a load of other species I'll never get any other way from my yard?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eastern Phoebe

Two EAPH (#51) were chipping and catching insects in the corner of the field yesterday evening. What a welcome sound it was to hear them! The SOSP count has grown to 18 at any one time around the feeders the last two days. There are probably more, but they just won't stay put for a more thorough tally. One ATSP is also sticking around lately, as is the female PIWO.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Wastelands Putting Out

My goal this afternoon was to nab Sandhill Crane for TW...got 60+ of them (#25) flying over at around 2:30PM. There was a small detection of a RTHA movement and the first TUVUs (#26) of the year showed up. No other raptors but the next sign of a south wind should bring some interesting things my way.

Looks like I'm tied for 7th. Watch out DSlag and FitzG. You punks are going down!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

One for my HOMEs

Finally got some freaking ducks today. Maybe its just because I got up on the roof rather than sleeping in for a change. Before I went out to check the salamander traps I got up on the roof around 7am and Winging in from the south were some low flying Ducks (and geese, tho nothing special in the Goose department (resisted calling a minima a Cackling)) the ducks were some good love leading in were some Mallards but right behind were 4 drake Redhead! Yard lifer 131. Then I went out for a local county vernal pool inventory project I'm working on, and found some new township records for Jefferson, Smallmouth, and Spotted Salamanders, hence the pic above. I just love those little guys. At the place I was salamandering I had some more Redhead, Wigeon, and Mallards as well as ring-billed gulls and a fly over Great Blue Heron at a flooded field pond, also a EAPH. So I new I had to get back to my yard in hopes of finding my local Phoebe. Right before I had to go to work this evening I busted out a quick walk around the yard. At "duck bend" of the creek I encountered not only a pair of Wood Ducks but also a threesome of Hooded Mergansers! A spectacular drake and two hens. So cool, not a common yard bird for sure. Good looks from above (the overlook at duck bend is a bit of a hill). On the way back in at the old fence line trees was a tail flash of a FOSP. I almost made myself late to work to try and get a better look, turns out there were really 6 Fox Sparrows! Several of them finally perched higher up so I could bask in their foxy glory. One even performed a partial song. Lovely.

Friday, March 12, 2010

ain't no worries

Gentlemen, (..... and Fitzey),

I truly enjoy hearing about you're-alls foray into spring migration. I did add year bird #26 the other day (a Cooper's Hawk), but I have no real evidence that it anything but a local winterer.

Don't worry about me- I'm just kickin back, chilling, waiting for everyone to feel like they're winning before I jump into this little soiree. Ring-billed Gulls showed up in the harbor the other day- so that means only 6 more weeks of winter!

Keep'on keeping on Brigham! I'll be playing roshambo with you for first place in May....... till then, may all your dreams be of vagrant warblers in one's water feature!



Just had one of my more exciting new yearbirds- a cracking adult Red-shoulder go overhead about 150 feet high. There continues to be a huge northward push of robins, grackles, and blakcbirds, with smaller numbers of crows and Horned Larks intermixed. Also had a flock of 4 MALL migrate over, and earlier today a pair of dabblers which may well have been Black Ducks, but the fog prevented me from getting a good enough look to count them.

Hey Kitty- how does it feel to keep trying to catch me only to have the lead stolen away again time after time?

A report from your foreign correspondent

...meanwhile, in another corner of the planet (how can a planet, being roughly spherical, have a corner?)
Not much to report on the garden bird front, with no new birds (had a Greenfinch a week or so ago, heard only, that was new for the year), and the highlight being that the male Blackcap must have been lurking unseen all along, or else we've had a new one today, as I heard some plastic song from within the shrubbery.
Otherwise, the hot news over here is that many keen birders (including me) finally caught up with Pacific Diver for our Irish lists (a lifer also for most, again including me, but some had seen the species in Britain or the western US) on Sunday last (some local birders had made it in time on Saturday also). Despite this being in Galway Bay, it seems that this bird is a different individual, with a less well-marked chin strap, from the bird seen there some weeks back! Which, if either, of them are the same as the bird reported as a possible/probable by some experienced visiting British birders in the Galway Bay area last winter, we have no idea.
On returning home that night, news broke of a Fan-tailed Warbler (a.k.a. Zitting Cisticola) at Kilcoole, which had been posted to irishbirding.com as a Sedge Warbler, but, worryingly, the fourth pic in the series was of a Cetti's Warbler, which, despite breeding as close as Wales now, is as rare here as the cisticola, both would be third records for Ireland (the only difference being that there has been a twitchable Cetti's, in 2005...happy days!). As a result, myself and many others smelled a rat, and never travelled: it has been confirmed publicly now that the whole thing was a hoax, and that the shots were taken in Greece last spring! Just when I had begun to wonder if I was becoming too cynical, it seems that my cynicism was vindicated in this case...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

KILL COGR & more

No, I'm not saying kill grackles (although they can be a pain when it comes to bird feeders). On my way to the car I heard a Killdeer pass over (21) and this afternoon back at the house had a single COGR (22) fly over. Last night I went outside attempting to call Screech Owls (to no avail for probably the 10th time), but did hear a decent movement of migrants overhead (I know what you're thinking, Caleb, so you don't have to say it Mr. Sonogram nerd). Presumably they were Tree Sparrows and Juncos because my yard was ALIVE with TONS of Juncos today and one Tree Sparrow in the bushes. Juncos had been very sparse all winter here (4 at most at a time and only occassionally). I can sense that I'm on the precipice of a LOT more VERY soon - enjoy "not being in last" as long as it lasts Aaron!

Another seven for the day

An extraordinary morning of birding in the yard today. 40 species total. Of the seven new year birds, 5 were all time yardbirds...
#44 BHCO
#45 BRCR
#46/155 NOPI
#47 156 NSHO
#48/157 WODU
#49/158 COME
#50/159 CACG
Additional highlights were do to a minor hawk flight. Another young MERL couldn't seem to figure out what to do and slowly flew back and forth over the south field. While on the roof I had a SSHA come in high from the south which made up for the accipiter sp. I had on Monday. Two north-bound RTHA were obvious migrants (not the resident pair west of the property). One was of intermediate coloration. Besides these, huge numbers of AMRO, COGR, RWBL, KILL, and EUST were headed north continually, as was also the case yeasterday. A smaller paler thrush flew over with one of the robin flocks and was likely a Hermit Thrush, but I couldn't clinch it as such. The low presure pushing from the south is certainly advantagous for the early migrants lately!

My Friends, RUBLs for everyone!

In the back flooded corner of my yard there was a bird party today. Large flocks of mixed blackbirds were all around and in the damp wet grass, shrubs and trees, were a small squadron of Rusty Blackbirds! I had awesome looks at their Rusty backs as they foraged and picked around the trail. So cool! Actually, a Yard Lifer! I was excited for sure, then right beside me a gorgeous AMWO flushed and I had a nice look at its amber flanks and leafy pattern. It landed near the Rusty and then doodled across the trail, gorgeous looks! He was hidden and the rusties flushed before I could fumble out any good Digi'noc'd shots. Dang. Also in the party back there were EATOs, COGRs, RWBLs, HAWO, DOWO, NOFL, AMROs, SOSPs, CACHs, BLJA, NOCAs, TUTIs, WTSP, and many fly over TUVUs and RTHAs as well as a small flock of MALL. It seems most of the DEJUs and ATSPs have left! Stay tuned for pics of a water feature that will put Putzy's to shame. I'm talking my own private flooded field for ducks and shorebirds baby. Should attract some pipits and ducks already, its looking good.

Slowly but Surely

Surely Duckster, there are birds moving over your humble abode. I think you need to spend more time out there- then again, who am I to assume you can ID RWBL and AMRO in flight or by ear?

On another note- this morning's site survey yielded 2 BHCO and 1 EABL, bringing me to 36 for the year. Still wondering why I cannot seem to score a SACR given how many there are in the area- should be a matter of days. I also think I am going to have a heck of a time getting RUBL here b/c the flocks are visible only from underneath (if they are on the horizon I can't see them through the trees) b/c it's only the flocks directly overhead which I can see. I think the bird is going to have to sing in flight amongst the flock for me to have a good chance at it. And as far as waterfowl it's been really slow here- few if any MALL. Interestingly I stepped outside to try for GHOW and AMWO last night and had 2 ducks (wing whir) going over at 12:30AM. Not COGO type sound, but more like MALL.

Anywho, I shall keep on trying. And by tomorrow I hope to have my microphone back on all day as I work- this is extremely helpful in clueing me in to a new species out there.

CANG breaks my silence

No, I'm not dead...I've just been in a coma....or more like the birds around here have been in a coma because they certainly have not been flying over my house. Well, I was working on tearing apart the drywall in my bathroom when I thought I heard a Red-shouldered Hawk calling (through the wall from the outside). I went out to check it and saw a CANG fly by (yeah) and also heard some blue jays laughing at me.
Anyway, I'm starting to wonder how legit Sean is after his conjuring up some crazy stuff (NOPI and AMWI!!!!) there in the boondocks. It's like he's got a vendetta against me or something...is that what it is Sean? Felt the need to put me into last place?!! And now Aaron is "conjuring" up crazy stuff himself like RUBL, DCCO (are you sure you ruled out RWBB and AMCR Aaron!).
Oh, and Aaron, you are RIGHT when you say you are going down come warbler time. I'll be looking at gaining 20+ warbler species as well as the possibility of just about anything else (including AMWO - since we've been talking about it - it's on my list - I kicked one up in late May last spring - weird timing, but I'll take it!).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Timberdoodle & RUBL

Am. Woodcock showed up this evening on the old golf course west of the property. 5 were audible from the yard displaying. As well, a Rusty Blackbird was singled out from the numerous RWBL, COGR, AMRO and KILL Flying over this morning.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

RUBL + DCCO this morning on the way out of town

That equals 24 for the year and the RUBL was my 40th yard lifer at The Wastelands.

So far to date, the only species that I've actually seen perched within The Wastelands:
[33% of total year species]
American Kestrel
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
European Starling
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
House Finch

The next time someone enters numbers in the number's column, do me a favor and update mine. I try to fix all the insane number of spaces that get added for some reason but they never get fixed? What's up with that?!

About time...

So, in the past 2 days I have added:

Ring-billed Gull

Red-winged Blackbirds (scads flying over the house, some singing nearby)
Common Grackle- 4 flybys
Killdeer- 2 flybys

Amazingly, I still have not nailed down a bluebird for the yard, despite the one 100 yds west of my property line as I drove in today. He's not making much noise, that's for sure. Also, both of my neighbors have had SACR the past 2-3 days, but I have yet to cross paths with them. Finally, I just noticed that GHOW is not on my 2010 list. Need to get on that one... Thought I had them for the year, but I guess it was last fall when I last heard them.

And oh yeah, the water feature is RUNNING! I drained our hot tub yesterday, dumping all the 102 degree water into the water feature to melt the 1.5 ft solid block of ice, and it worked. Hopefully this will attract the bluebird in...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Expecting the Expected. Decent yardbirding.

Nothing crazy today, just usual yardbirds, but it was pretty good. I was hoping for more flyby waterfowl, but my owling last night caused me to just go ahead and sleep in too late. I did get the Owl tri-fecta for my yard, no new owls, but a couple year birds. The Barred Owls have been going goofy lately, even hooting it up during the day. Pretty fun to listen too. Around mid-day I hauled it all up on top of my roof for some prime vistas. I got a few treats up there; Red-tailed Hawk copulation was observed, Pileated Woodpecker fly by, Turkey Vultures flew by for the first time this year, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Killdeer, and then the Eastern Bluebirds were down in the field inspecting my boxes. The birds were singing like crazy today, downright noisy. But no Woodcocks yet, I stood out in the shrinking snow waiting, waiting, till darkness fell, but nothing yet. I did find out that the Towhees were back, thats a favorite of mine. Ended the day with a decent total: 40 species. Now I'm tired. Tomorrow, tomorrow some ducks will fly by.

Oh...can it be? Booner's been thrown a bone...

Loving this increased daylight...got home from work and had about 45 minutes of daylight left with scads of blackbirds winging over. No RUBLs or BRBLs but did pick up COHA and KILL.

How long will not being in last place last? Hmmmm...

Northen Shrike at last & SOSP

Finally got a view of the elusive NSHR (#40/154) from MY property this morning. It even allowed for digiscoped photos. This afternoon a Song Sparrow (#41) showed up at the feeders.

Huge Milestone: now TIED for last place

No. 19 was AMRO this morning calling from somewhere in the fog laden Wastelands. Here's the weekend run-down in supplement to what Fitz has already mentioned.

RWBL - #15
COGR - #16
AMWI - #17
NOPI - #18

Hopefully, waterfowl movements continue over The Wastelands.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wigeon and Pintail at the wastelands!

I spent about a half hour outside grilling in the cold drizzle with the Boone outside his place this afternoon (while our wives and kiddo stayed inside where it was warm). The first flock of ducks that went over was dominated by Mallard but had a couple slimmer and smaller ducks in the midst. They thankfully banked shortly thereafter and showed off the extensive white on the secondary covs - a pair of American Wigeon!
We continued our cold vigil and were rewarded by a flock of 6 Common Mergs that buzzed the place. As we were just finishing up the burgers another flock of dabs came from the north - this one containing three species! The long strung out shape of multiple NOPIs (5 total) jumped out immediately among the blockier Mallards, but there were two slightly smaller dabblers in there that became apparent as additional American Wigeon!
Two life yardbirds for the Boonedox on a seemingly rubbish day weather-wise!
To put these two species in perspective, I had previously recorded AMWI once at my folks place in WI (none last year) and I was the only one who had NOPI of any of us last year (3 sightings in the first half of March totaling 55 birds - in WI of course). So the wastelands just became only the second site ever to record either of these species... And multiple flocks containing AMWI - ridic. Watch out Warner, Boone's coming!

Seven for the day...and that blasted shrike!

I spent much of the day roof-top birding (with the exception of some mid-day gulling in Holland with a know-it-all from Sparta). Man, what a wonderful day! Here goes: two distant NOFL (#33), seven fly-over COGR (#34), two high up and invisible calling KILL (#35), a female PIWO fly-by at eye level from 50' (#36), a solitary EAME perched in a tree on the old golf course (#37), an unidentified accipiter which I should have dropped my cell phone for (#38) and a MERL (#39/152). The latter was a thrill to have flying in from the east, diving through the tree-tops, crossing my line of sight at 25' and exiting towards the lakeshore.

The young NSHR is still across the way. Twice today I found it while I was on that property and lost it before I could get back to mine. It doesn't sit still long enough. I'll try for it again tomorrow. I'm glad its stayed since Thurs, but its torture not having it for a yardbird yet!

Swamp Kat Lair

Took a hint from Big Rig on the attributes of having a horizon. Mine has been obscured by King Kattail (it looks like corn but it's Typhus) -- all better now. The white stuff on the horizon is solid Lake Michigan, the U.S. Coast Guard starts breaking it up tomorrow. Anymore description would feel like boasting. We'll see what the thaw brings - the Kitty can't wait to hunt ducks!

Canada Goose yesterday and Robin through the yard today -- also a drake pintail just down the bay 1.5 miles in a small patch of open goodness. Red-wings can't be that far behind, huh?

Dividends; just did a little night flight and picked up an early Ghost (NOHA) and 2 un ducks.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Things were hoppin' this morning. A Horned Lark (#30) flew over and within a few seconds of that so did a Bufflehead (#31/151). A scolding Carolina Wren (#32) caught my attention after that. All within 15 minutes!

Moving Rules

So what happens if we move in a couple of months (we can't take the mongoloids that live above us who refuse to walk around normally)? Do I have to start the list over? I would imagine so, otherwise I'd bounce around from south Tejas, to Quito, to Monterey.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Killdeer and two more!!

I went out in the yard when I got home from work at 4 and was almost immediately greeted by the chucking of a single Common Grackle flying south overhead. The greens had plenty of geese (420), only two of which were Cacklers. Later I had a lone Cedar Waxwing go over followed by a distant look at a silent Killdeer heading north over the apartments in the direction of Fermi Lab. According to eBird, at least 2-5 KILL wintered at Hennepin Lake (about 90 miles to my southwest), but otherwise this bird appears to be the first reported spring migrant in northern IL thus far! Bring it on!

Monday, March 1, 2010


...a small group of ROPIs finally decided to kick to some wastelands airspace...good grief, I still don't have HOSP yet...

So what are the rules on moving to a new yard, mid-year?


Its such a gorgeous day I decided to watch from the roof. I've hauled scope, camera and computer up here to enjoy the sun and better sight-lines. My hope was for Bald Eagle. Yesterday we had 12 while doing a county big day and the majority were along the lakeshore. I figured with those numbers now chances were at their best for a yard sighting. It obliged me at 11:05 am. An adult flew directly overhead at 150 feet. This is my 29th year bird for the yard, but more importantly it is #150 for my life yard list.

From my current vantage I have a bead north about a mile to Mt. Baldhead (go ahead, yak it up) which sits above Lake Kalamazoo and the Kalamazoo River. With the leaves off the trees I have ability to see the areas above these waters, but not the lake or river themselves due to tree line, rooftops, etc. I'm hopeful that some of the multitude of species residing on the lake/river will be visible and identifiable from here. So far today a half dozen HERG and an individual COGO are all that have come to light. Here is a sampling of what was on Lake Kalamazoo & river yesterday which would be useful for the yard list: 1 LBBG, 6 GBBG, 56 COME, 14 BUFF & 6 MUSW. All they have to do is lift up off the water high enough so I can see them.....

Oh, #28 for the year flew over earlier this morn while scoping from the west boundary - two Red-winged Blackbird.