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.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

First and Last........

Well Gentlemen,

It's been an honor serving with you. I will be leaving Marquette in the morning, not to return till after the new year. Unless I get a Glaucous or Great Black-backed (or a solitaire- one was about 7 blocks from my house the other day!), while I'm loading the car in the AM, I am done for the year!114.5 species of bird for my yard this year. I was hoping for more, but I spent too much time birding elsewhere, and still haven't gotten hip to nocturnal recording yet (one day!)

My biggest misses- Cackling Goose, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Orange-crowned Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, WW Crossbill and Hoary Redpoll. The goose and the two warblers are especially surprising misses.

One of my first birds of the year early in January was a flyover Pine Grosbeak. So I found it fitting that I had a small flock fly over today, to close out the season.

Class all the way.

The Haastage Negotiator.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Beyond the water feature

I found this title over Thanksgiving while looking for a read on prairie grasses. Written by an entomology it explores the role of plants in transferring energy from sunlight to herbivore to yardbird. The author provides an interesting perspective of how exotic plant species interfere with this flow of energy. Thought provoking is the variation found among native plant families to host insect populations (measured by Lepidoptera diversity) – this seems applicable to bird migration and the ability of a stop-over site to “catch” migrants.

A yardbirding highlight for me this year was transforming our front yard from a bird-free barren "grass" patch (with a single lilac sprig) to a diverse configuration of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that is already, after just one season, attracting birds. This book provides a novel approach of which plants to combine to complete your vagrant trap -- a must read for the Complete Yard-birder, after of course you finish building your igloo.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yard Birdless in December?

Well, this is how you can own winter...

As many of you already know, I'm a huge fan of Wired. This article is MEGA...

nice surprise

Had an exciting 15 minutes in the yard yesterday (12/10/2010). Following our first real snowfall I looked out to see this blackbird at the feeding station -- I believe this is the same bird I had out in the cattails of the Portage a couple days previously. A pheasant pair came rambling in next, the female a new sex for the feeder, then a few minutes later among the regulars; chickadee, tree sparrow, junco, and house finches was a Yellow-rumped Warbler with what looked like a bashed in head (so that's what happens to all the little birds that bounce off windows) . I managed a pic or two before it took off -- too bad it couldn't have figured out the suet feeder. Geeked up on that I scrambled outside to put out some suet on the platform feeder and was immediately greeted by the calls of Bohemian Waxwings perched in the neighbors trees -- I counted 158 of them realizing later it was actually 164!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Glaucous Gull #161/178

As stated previously, I've been making a concerted effort for white-winged or dark-backed gulls of late. Several hours of scoping the western horizon the last two days paid off this afternoon with an adult Glaucous Gull sailing with Herring Gull on the strong north-westerlies between snow squalls.

By the way, Joe, I have a hard time believing you when you say "this may be my last contribution for 2010". Not only will your luck hold (yours usually does), but you know you can't resist posting more gregarious and entertaining writings. Oh, Mr. Swampy is still here. He sure is a freeloader. I'm going to have to buy more mixed seed. The gang of House Sparrows has taken him in. Figures he'd hang with that sort.

Eye of the Shrike #163

Sticking with the theme.... this may be my last contribution for 2010....#163 observed hovering up to our bluebird box chasing breakfast while I was working away on the computer.

I had been contemplating getting a 55 gallon drum of beef parts from the local meat processing plant and building a humungo suet feeder in the marsh when this fella finally showed. Funny I haven't had a yard bird since 4 on 30 October and then all of the sudden the old 1-2 punch. Luckining strikes twice!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Wastelands Strike Back

::Note that this post was in the process of going up last night when Comcast decided to be the great company that it actually is. Thank the good Lord for the automatic SAVE NOW button::

Just when I thought the rest of the year was a wash for me at The Wastelands, I awoke (12/05) to the sound of scads of geese flying over. Just as Fitz was texting me to alert of the crane insanity up at his place, I was getting ready to peck out a text warning him of the coming gander onslaught. So I am pleased to announce that I too nabbed 4 new yard species for the year, which also happened to be 4 new all-timers (one of which was a new Will County bird for me placing me at 191...a White-winged Scoter tomorrow should score my 192nd for the county).

Since I have bronchitis, I did most of my watching from my dining room windows with scope in position. At the point I ticked a flock of 31 Northern Shoveler (#65) fly by, I said "screw my lungs" and I headed outside to conduct a more meaningful survey.

I ended up doing a 2-hour eBird survey and scored some huge additions. A flyby American Tree Sparrow (#66) was long overdue but again, I have ZERO cover for species of this sort. The bird of the day for me was a gorgeous light-morph Rough-legged Hawk (#67) that soared over just 20 minutes before I called it quits on the survey. This species (along with SNBU) was way overdue at The Wastelands so I was thrilled to say the least. This was also a new county tick for me. After I headed inside, the geese kept on a flyin' so I continued to watch from the windows and nabbed another RLHA for a two-count roughie today. The numerous MALL flocks paid off again with 3 American Black Duck making that #68.

There was a steady flow of geese the whole day. While birding from my dining room, I had numerous distant flocks of geese with some birds possibly being Greater White-fronteds but double-paned window glass and a 60x scope zoom just didn't work out all that well. I also had a total of 457 Sandhill Cranes move over and I probably missed a bunch when I stayed inside. With all the geese, I'm shocked I didn't get at least one Snow Goose.

The standardized count today:

Number of species: 16

Cackling Goose 2
Canada Goose 787
American Black Duck 3
Mallard 142
Northern Shoveler 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Rough-legged Hawk 1
American Kestrel 1
Sandhill Crane 202
Ring-billed Gull 14
Mourning Dove 17
American Crow 4
American Robin 3
European Starling 93
American Goldfinch 1

The incidental tally today and does not include the numbers from above:

Cackling Goose 36
Canada Goose 4100
Mallard 135
Northern Shoveler 31
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Sandhill Crane 255
Ring-billed Gull 9
Mourning Dove 5
Horned Lark 1
European Starling 210
American Tree Sparrow 1
House Finch 8

Eye of the Grosbeak - #162

It hurts to bird... but after seeing Mr. Swampy at Big Rigs feeder I knew I had to punch back or risk a TKO in Round 15 ..... finished my wish-list then took the dog for a walk only to be greeted by a half dozen Pine Grosbeaks in the neighbors ash tree (eating seeds!). They had to be coaxed down a few houses so they could be seen from the property line but it worked thanks to iBird Pro and D.J. Chris, eventually flying into the yard for a minute or two. Lucky or what?? Eye of the Tiger.

The Great Exodus

I woke up this morning to the bugling of Sandhill Cranes and started watching outside as it was obvious that waterfowl were clearing out with the recent cold temps and snow cover... Over the next hour plus I had the scope out and counted the flocks streaming south. Diversity was ok, the most noteworthy birds were all in one flock; a group of ducks that contained 22 Redhead, 2 Lesser Scaup, and a female Northern Pintail (3 yardbirds in a flock!). I also had a lone Greater White-fronted Goose go over among the many CANGs. 161 Sandhill Cranes (in three flocks) is probably the largest tally I've ever had in December.

Location: Country Lakes wetland complex
Observation date: 12/5/10
Number of species: 17

Greater White-fronted Goose 1
Cackling Goose (Richardson's) 8
Canada Goose 825
American Black Duck 1
Mallard 4
Northern Pintail 1
Redhead 22
Lesser Scaup 2
Sandhill Crane 161
Mourning Dove 9
American Robin 14
European Starling 42
American Tree Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 2
House Finch 8
American Goldfinch 1

I'm guessing that these may be my final yardbirds of the year (barring a SNBU or RLHA). I have to confess that my yardbirding has been very minimal the last few weeks...
I know Boone has managed at least one good addition down at his place, let's see if he can make that brant that's only a few miles from him fly over for an epic waterbird score!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Late, but anticipated #160

This little duffer finally came to visit. I had almost written it off for the year, but never say never! Good thing I put a healthy helping of mixed seed out this morning. Although I'm still searching my records, this is likely the latest I've had Swamp Sparrow in the yard - not that I've ever had many in this dry upland habitat. Send in the redpolls!