So in my attempt to keep up with the Big Dogs on this blog, I have been making daily (nightly!) attempts at all conceivable species for which I think I have a better than zero chance of getting. This has included Saw-whet and Long-eared Owl (yes, I am crazy, I know) tape-playing at night on calm, clear evenings. When doing this I point the speaker directly westbound toward a small (0.1-0.2 acre) pine plantation 500 feet west of my house. So far no luck. Note: I have also been checking for whitewash and pellets in this plantation since winter, without luck.
So, yesterday I took my daughter and the neighborhood kids over to the pines and was fairly shocked to find a small pellet plus a very small amount of whitewash. Analysis yielded at least 1 rodent prey (and possibly a shrew pelvis, but not sure) in the pellet, and its dimensions were consistent with only Saw-whet or Eastern Screech. Although EASO is here, it is actually 500 feet east of my property, and I wouldn't expect it to hang out in the conifer thicket anyway, so I think it almost certainly came from a migrating Saw-whet. Needless to say, even I am surprised I have been this close to having Saw-whet in my yard. I will keep checking for the roosting bird and continue playing tapes at night. If I get it, it will certainly be added to the rarity sidebar!
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.