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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yum Yum

A bit of wizardry in the yard this morning. We watched this bird down the intestines and one leg of its prey before a crow made chase. It has used this perch for a number of days now. Can't find a nest, but there are plenty of suitable trees around.

Twenty-five of 'em

Here's #28 for the year. Working from home today had its perks...actually managed to bail out of a conference call so I could run out and nab this diginoc'd photo.

23 of 25 American White Pelicans heading north
over The Wastelands, 29 March 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hooray for Hoary

Admittedly not as pretty as J.D.'s version but this little beast is a welcomed addition (#167) to the yard and #40 on the year. For the skeptics; the main ID points besides the pale plumage were larger body size than CORE in direct comparison (esp. the nice thick nape and head) and a stubby upper mandible that was not a result of a window collision.

Cleaned out the garage yesterday and added a hat-trick of new birds for the year -- black duck, ring-billed gull, and pileated woodpecker.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

More of the same

So the bird composition in my yard has not changed in forever- typical chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers; plus what has been a slowly diminishing flock of goldfinches, house finches, siskins and common redpolls. Despite once having 8 Hoary Redpolls at my feeders at once a few winters ago, I CANNOT seem to get one, despite JD, having a couple at his place a couple miles down the road from me..... grrr

Robin is the only vaguely new bird in the past two weeks and I would bee really impatient for spring if it wasn't for the fact that a flock of Bohemian Waxwings has spent the last 4 days parked out in my yard. I love this bird more then most and it's my yard's signature species.

Maybe there will be some migrants for me in April.......

The Kettle

Gambel's Quail this morning (#34), plus a kettle of 70+ Turkey Vultures flying north into the wind made it #35 for the year.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Didn’t you always dream of running off to join the freak show?

I mean the Circus (already joined the freak show)

(I figure if Caleb had the nerve to post that crappy RTHA pic a while back, I'd just see how far we could push it)

Vigil from the front stoop the past couple of days has netted NOHA, AMKE and COLO. Sky gods keep it comin’ …

Friday, March 25, 2011

Under the brambles

There have been a few of these cryptic birds in the yard the last few days.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

You dream about this yard bird. . .

Hey losers, had a Hoary Redpoll in my yard again this morning. But this time, my camera was ready:



Bwa ha ha!


Ok, so Slags beat me to the punch today with the Fox Sparrows (nice yard score DASL, but good luck catching me too quickly on the all-time list), but it's still a First Of Spring for me here. Stepped out the of the car after being out to the FOSP (22) singing away out back joined by a small flock of Cedar Waxwings (23) - looks like the pace might quicken a bit - I HOPE!

Back in action

I'm back in the country for the foreseeable future, and will join in all of the excitement of finding Song Sparrows and such with you losers shortly. But for now, I'm happy to distract you with highlights from my recent Costa Rica trip:

Flickr gallery

The feeders stood empty for most of the last six weeks, but after filling them last night there are already goldfinches aboard. Just a few more weeks left to get lucky and have redpolls visit the ANJO estate...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One Hundred and Eighty-One

Who'd a thunk that a simple pair of Blue-winged Teal would be a yard lifer being that I'm living between the lakeshore and the Kalamazoo River?! (A second pair of searching eyes doesn't hurt.)

A quick catch-up on the highlights of the last ten days are in order:
AMWO started displaying 13 Mar.
PISI feeding in bittersweet in tree tops 14 Mar.
ORJU female (not counted, of course - see photo) at feeders and here daily since 15 Mar.
GOEA adult headed north soon after several migrating BAEA flew over 14 Mar.
MERL pair noisily acting territorial and here daily since 16 Mar.
NSHR perched in trees on old golf course viewed from west boundary 18 Mar.
RLHA intermediate circling low over old golf course being harassed by crow 20 Mar.

Then there are those year yardbirds I've missed while I've been at work, but DASL & CAPU have scored here such as PUFI and GBHE. But those will be easy make-ups in the days to come.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hoary Redpoll

I've spent the past week or so trying to turn some of the lighter (and otherwise unusual) C. Redpolls at my feeders into Hoaries. Only half-assed attempts, to be sure, because, well, none of them have actually been Hoaries. But this morning, I finally had one of those fluffy, pristine, almost all-white Hoaries at my feeder! I failed miserably in getting a photo of this gorgeous bird, mostly because I am an idiot (one memory card was at work, they other was very cleverly buried in the backpack I was on the way out the door with when I saw the bird). Yard bird number 32 for the year. And number 94 since moving in last summer. It's no Prairie Falcon (geez!), but still, cool yard bird.

Btw, I may be the only birder in the entire Lower 48 with Hoary Redpoll on my yard list, but not House Finch. Come to think of it, I may the only birder anywhere in the world with all three accipiters but no Red-tailed Hawk. . . I've got Glaucous Gull but not House Sparrow. Common Raven but not Warbling Vireo. . .

(For the U.P. crew, in my hasty message to UP Birders this afternoon, I incorrectly mentioned that I had the Hoary yesterday, mostly because it had been a long friggin' day at work, and this morning felt like yesterday. For the rest of you, I also had a Townsend's Solitaire on campus today. It's been playing hide-and-seek with birders all winter, but today it became a spring bird!)

Okay, I think that's enough blather for tonight.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


#23 came in the form a TRES this afternoon. Then I got to show the whole fam an imm. Bald Eagle flying very low over T.W. A few minutes before then I had a very distant raptor that had the flat winged profile of a BAEA but it was just too far out for me to confirm without a scope.

Think Big

Starting to think of birds that would top Fitz's PRFA. For me, it's Zone-tailed Hawk (1 previous record for Mesa County...., so it's not impossible). What are you guys gunning for? If you don't think big, it'll never happen. Just ask Silly Putty about Little Gull...

Picked up Wood Duck (pair fly-by) Friday evening, #33.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Yardbirding Jackpot

Boys, today I had the great pleasure of seeing probably one of the best yardbirds I will ever score.  It was so unexpected that I couldn't believe it as I was watching/photographing it.  I waited until it was confirmed by quite a few people before I even believed it myself...  Without further adieu:

I was out working sparrows and I heard several RBGUs screaming up at altitude.  I glanced up and saw the silhouette of a large falcon soaring above me.  Now I was excited just at scoring Pere a second time as that has proven to be a difficult bird to get here.  As soon as I put my bins on the bird I noticed the dark axillaries and didn't believe what I was seeing.  I watched it do a full circle of soaring and the darkness didn't disappear as the birds angle from the sun changed.  At this point I scrabbled back to my car about 15 ft away to grab my camera.  I got it setup, zoomed it up and squeezed off three photos of the bird with the first one being the best by far (above).  I took a break from photographing it to try to garner more fieldmarks through my bins but the bird was soaring very close to the sun by this point and I couldn't see anything.  I tried setting up my scope to try to pull more detail but by the time I set it up the bird had drifted NNE and was gone behind a cottonwood.

Just to illustrate how ridiculous this bird is and how incredibly unexpected in this airspace, I'm going to give you the number of times I've recorded the other raptor species at my place (Out of the 209 checklists I've submitted to eBird):
TUVU - 5 observations   OSPR - 2 observations   BAEA - 2 observations   SSHA - 7 observations   COHA - 16 observations   RSHA - 1 observation   RTHA - 16 observations   AMKE - 2 observations   MERL - 1 observation   PEFA - 1 observation
A few notable omissions include RLHA, BWHA, and NOHA which I've never recorded from the yard before...  Now my work schedule doesn't lend itself to mid-day raptor watching so my effort is actually biased against locating raptors that occur even regularly (thus the missing BWHA...).

As far as I can tell this is a first county record of Prairie Falcon for DuPage County and one of only a handful of spring records for northern IL ever (the linked site is an unofficial database of records)!
Hoping that some of my buds up in WI catch up with this guy as this species is still only hypothetical on Wisconsin's state list.
It's sightings like this that keep me going out time and time again, because you never know what you will be rewarded with!
Oh yeah, and I also added Fox Sparrow to the year list just prior to the PRFA.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wastelands Lifer #73

LESC....also #21 for the year.

Sparrow spasm

Picked up this year's first White-throated Sparrow (tan morph) in the bushes next to my neighbor's feeder. Second winter in a row with white-throated there - if only I could get Harris' to show up in the yard, I'd be money. Bonus looks at Slate-colored, Pink-sided, and Oregon Juncos. Not that extra juncos count, but the Slate-colored was gorgeous! Need to get photos of a Slate-colored with red rock canyons in the background to make anyone there jealous.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The New, the Lingering, and the Departed

Picked up a lingering Mountain Chickadee along the wash and a newly arrived Say's Phoebe calling from a neighbor's rooftop. Almost all the waterfowl along the Colorado river have left, looks like I'll have to wait until December!

basking in the glorious wake of moderate achievement

GWFG = #18/#72 Life

At this point, I'm pleasantly surprised that The Wastelands has yielded me more than 50 species, let alone 72...

Friday, March 11, 2011

EUCD @ The Wastelands

Well, it finally happened...a Eurasian Collared-Dove (#16/#71) finally decided to enter restricted air space. For those of you who are not aware, The Wastelands is fairly close to Shorewood, IL, which has a sizable population of EUCDs in addition to the occasional AFCD. My doorstep is literally about 1km from a regular roost site. I thought for sure that I'd snag one last year but it never happened.

It looks like I'm still in last place though. But then I was going to console myself with the fact that I would be the only one on this blog with a EUCD tick. "Nope" to that one as well. Thanks to Bwewwew's Spawwow for effing up the fun...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Almost in the yard...

(Edited by SEFI so at least CP isn't so embarrassed about the fact that not only wasn't this bird in his yard but he also posted terrible photos of the bird - Copyright 2011 Caleb Putter posted with his permission, please contact SEFI for further use of this photo and for paypal arrangements)

This one is too good not to post at least something here. CUDY and I were busy looking at our first Kent Co. Red-necked Grebe this evening, in the Grand River in a large flock of 300+ COGOs, when this beaut popped up in the same scope view as the grebe (!!). STATE BIRD for both of us, and 2 county birds in the same view. Now just to get a single duck other than MALL, HOME, and WODU for my yard!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Near miss

On my way to work this morning I noticed a drake Bufflehead in a runoff pond right by my work.  Now I'm still looking to score this species for the yard proper so I couldn't believe there's one sitting on a sick joke of a pond not 3/4s of a mile from the wetlands that actually have good habitat at my place!  (See screen shot on left)   So of course I get out there as soon as I get off work and I see a pair of Common Mergs cruising around the half open pond.  About 50 odd gulls were feeding on dead fish on the ice (~50/50 split ringers and HERGs).  I set my scope up and spent about an hour watching for waterfowl.  I came up with only three species of waterfowl (CANG and MALL being the obvious two) but did score 5 different flyover occurrences of COME (2,1,1,5,1).  How I missed that species last spring, I don't know...

 Cruising warily (above) then blasting off (below)
New male drops in 15 minutes later

Lots of good looking habitat around for dabs and shorebirds, nothing but these boys thus far though...

The only other bird of note was a young Sharp-shinned Hawk (year bird #33) that flew through scaring up the RWBL that are set up all around the marsh.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Life Yardbird 180

I started the day with five Sandhills flying over (#31) and ended it with a Common Goldeneye (#33). In between were highlights like a 2nd year Bald Eagle, Hairy Woodpecker and (#32/180) American Wigeon. The wigeon and the goldeneye were scoped from the roof looking north over the basin of the Kalamazoo Lake. They were both flying high out of the drainage and headed for Lake Michigan. I didn't get photos of the birds, but I thought you might like to see what the vantage point entails. Photo 1 & 3 are views looking across the Kal Lake basin at Mt. Baldhead and the old radar installation. Photo 2 is Mt. Baldhead with a hat on.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Back in the birding saddle. Full disclosure: I'm a stinkin', cheatin' patch birder. Cruised Big Salt Wash next to the house, picked up lots of singing birds - AMRO, WEME, SOSP, HOSP, DEJU, plus YRWA (Audubon's only), a BBMA building a nest, and WESO in one of the boxes. And I finally had a premonition that came true for once - Lincoln's Sparrow! Chada-ching, chada-chang...

Why the West is the Best

This is why I didn't post for my first two weeks as a yardbirder. Sometimes my job rocks.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hello yardbirders. Bread Walking here, also known as Bwewew's Spawwow. Just so we're clear from the start, you guys are all nerds, which is why I feel at home. But, like Jones, I'm a spelling freak, and I tend to write in complete sentences lest my long-dead grandmother rise up from the grave and smack me. Fortunately, I have friends like Silly Putty that get me back on the path to birding and debauchery. Here is my suburban hell-yard in winter, complete with empty niger seed feeder, nearly dead aspen trees, frozen birdbath, and sub-prime mortgage aftermath background. I'm working at a slight disadvantage due to my crappy yard, but I do live within sight of the Colorado River, red rock canyons, and a 11,000 ft mountain, so I've got no excuses for not scoring some sweet western species and reminding you all why the west is best. My yard list ass-kicking begins in earnest tomorrow morning if I'm not still drunk.

Here is Phil, my best yard bird so far this year. He roosts in our front yard, but makes surprisingly little noise. He is usually only heard after I have quick three beers and a cheeseburger.

Here is Beep, our roadrunner. Beep has yet to attract a mate, but he's always on the lookout, and we're all crossing our fingers for him.

Hey dudes

So, I've been pretty lazy lately, its true. What else is new right? Just thought I'd drop by. Had a good yard day yesterday, a flyover adult Ring-billed Gull, Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and best of all, a new yard bird! As I drove in, I was practically buzzed (not really; it flew by) a freaking female Northern Harrier! Then later on, a bunch of Canada Goose-faces, and a pack of HOMEs flew by! It was bitchin. Made me want to bird my yard again, maybe even update my profile on this blog a little more often. Maybe. But you know, I am pretty lazy. 47.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Top ten list for the Belmont Valley hawkwatch (note the lowercase “h”)

1. Some schmuck counts hawks there and submits data to HMANA

2. It started today!

3. “Valley” is a pretty imaginative description, meant to conjure up a dramatic natural landscape as I’m trying to ignore the crack deals going on down the street

4. Probably will never have consistent enough coverage to generate any decent trend analysis

5. Admission is free!

6. Consistently produces some of the lowest ranking totals of HMANA counts; I think maybe it beats some poor North Carolina site in the spring

7. Swamp Lair smoked the whole Belmont Valley broadwing season in a few half ass hours last fall

8. Has some of the highest unidentified raptor percentages of HMANA count sites, which I like to attribute to careful observation and high, dispersed flights (sling it at me boys!)

9. Probably most interesting for numbers of migrating black vultures, which I’m too lazy to record

And number 10 …

One day a wood stork will fly over

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Slow going, but inklings of spring

Got a fairly surprising bird today (#23):
and one (#24) I had been expecting for quite a while (and it's the local, not a migrant, as I have yet to see any moving yet):The Siskin is surprising b/c it is very sporadic in my yard. 2 springs ago they were common every day all the way into May, but last year I didn't get it until almost the very end of the year. I haven't had it since that single day in December until now (1 Mar), and then just this single bird which hasn't been back since. Either way, it's a good one for me to get out of the way...

Away from the yard I finally got RWBL today, plus AMCR are clearly migrating- several were seen way up high winging north. I suspect movements in this species are often missed since so few people really focus on them. Not too much else to report other than the shocking WWCRs I found 2 days ago in the local State Game Area (Rogue River). They were feeding surreptitiously on tamarack cones, and would have been missed if I didn't happen to walk up to the exact tree they were in. Given the paucity of reports this far south this year, it was a surprise to say the least. Now, if they would just fly over my house, that would be the ultimate salvage from the invasion year when I missed them for the yard.