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.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Was happy to see my White-winged Crossbills back in the yard for the first time in a couple weeks yesterday. Also had 2 Redpolls on the feeder today, after a similar period of absence. Reports of 20-30 redpolls are popping up in and near Kent Co., however, so my hopes are high for scoring a HORE. Hell, I'd even rent a HORE from you guys up north if the price is right.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Hey Chuckleheads, I'm glad you're enjoying your House Sparrows and C. Waxwings. I, on the other hand, had Hoary Redpoll this morning and Glaucous Gull yesterday.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I'll take what I can get

A brief flurry (no, not snow, that's almost unheard of here this year) of activity in the tree line to the west this morning. 23 AMRO, 14 CEDW & 2 NOFL were helpful in making the Kitty uncomfortable. This is the first serious birding I have done in the yard in ten days. How is it possible that I'm tied for third with such little effort?! Come on slackers pick up the pace! I'm at it full tilt from here on!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I know you're all going to laugh....

But, I got a good bird at the Haas Tract today! Some might say it was the Hoary Redpoll that came in with the finch hordes today.
Shot through the window, so not the best of photos, but unmarked undertail, white rump, larger then the commons, the buffy "hoary wash", pale scaps, yadda, yadda, yadda...  Always nice to see......

 But then there is this little lady!
I might be only one of a few in the Midwest who gets more excited when a House Sparrow shows up then a Hoary Redpoll. This is not an annual bird to the yard, matter of fact I believe this might only be my 5th occurrence in the yard. Put another way I've only had 3 more House Sparrows then Solitaires.....

Oh! My Hoary came back here at the end of the day.
What a blob...

Monday, January 23, 2012

#30 - Ring-necked Duck in late January!?

We got probably 6-8 inches of snow last week, and promptly lost most of it overnight during some freak thunderstorms/rain.  The ensuing snow-melt pooled up nicely in the golf course and a pretty large number of Mallards were happily utilizing the newly created habitat when I walked out to my car this morning.  I ran back inside to grab my bins and came back to see a male Ring-necked Duck pushing its way through water that is only inches deep - dabbling in the grass right next to Mallards!?

Who knows where this guy came from - the only open water in the vicinity (that I know of) is a small amount of open water within FermiLab that is closed to the public, and portions of the Fox River to the west are open.  Either way - he is a most welcome addition to my '12 year list for The Wetlands - and he may be my last post-worthy bird from here.
Oh yeah - I almost forgot to mention this bastard-child of a ABDU and MALL that was also gracing the flooded golf course.  Seriously - could have used a pure one for the year...

I'm moving north in search of PIGR, BOCH, and BBWO.  6 miles is better than nothing I guess!?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nailed It!

So Caleb....

Where does this rate on your "gettable" list???
Take no Haastages..........

New Taxa of Redpoll documented in Escanaba

I photographed this cute little fella at the feeder yesterday, at first I thought it was a pale redpoll from Nunavut but with further study it appears to be a new taxa of redpoll, I believe endemic to the central U.P.

With the overall frosty cool look, discreet black mask, tidy red-poll, and limited streaking on a white rump, I believe it to be most closely related to HORE.


Friday, January 20, 2012

A wizard and a call finch

Two nice Janaury snags for me- yesterday a Merlin buzzed the H-tract and this morning (FINALLY!) delivered me a Hoary Redpoll hopping on the table feeder with 30-some of its more "common" conjoiners.
What took it so long?

My first left fielder

You guys are so toast this year.

So don't forget, I have 179 'gettables' and another 46 'left fielders' possible this year. Make that 45. I have just now returned from a late night party in Grand Rapids at 1:45AM to the chorus of a pair of countersinging GHOW in the calm dead of the night (it is probably 5 degrees out). So, I dutifully decided to do a 20 minute point count with playback for BDOW. Again, surprisingly, no luck. Not sure where the local BDOW are right now.

Then as a closing note I played a bunch of NSWO tapes (about the fifth time since Jan 1). This time, however, was one of about 5 times in my life I actually got a response, and I was completely shellshocked. Within a minute I had an obvious NSWO series of "bark" notes, the exact note I was broadcasting (my track from the Evans and O'Brien nocturnal flight call CD rom). Here is another recording of the note I am referring to:

(Click the file "Audio 49738", 21 files from the top)

I literally couldn't believe my ears as this bird responded. It was clearly flying around me trying to find the perpetrator, calling from the west and northeast (in the pines). The time it called from the closest (150 feet tops), I put my iPod touch into record mode and took a long video clip hoping to capture it, but the bird refused to vocalize while I was recording. It never sang, just gave 3 of these "bark" notes from close range, and a few notes from farther out, including at least 2 of its namesake 'saw-whet' calls, one of which was very loud.

So, to sume up: the fact that I have Red Crossbill and Northern Saw-whet Owl for 2012 as of Jan 20 is not boding well for those of you hoping to keep up with me. Time for some sleep now... And here's the eBird checklist:


Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Wow, that took a while! Here are a few of the originals I manipulated to put together our classy header:

SEFI, loves the new buckteeth (you're welcome):


Nice header captain, the mankini is really a special touch. You outdid yourself this time...

Curious why Haas gets to be a SBGU hybrid? Though I hafta admit he looks pretty in pearl necklace wings....

I also wanted upload my entire image to show it wasn't photo-shopped like the others. That was one humongous cuckoo.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

He's Back Bay-breasted-by!!!

I figured to let you all have a head start before I start laying down the yard birds on your sorry asses. Just got back from an extended stay in the southern lands and apparently brought a few strays back up with me. Yard bird # 1 for this blog's most northerly participant was of course a singing Cardinal out the window. Was I expecting my first 2012 yard (Or UP for that matter!) Woodpecker to be a Red-bellied? Nope, but I'll take it. This is not a gimme bird for my yard and hopefully just the warm-up act to a exciting year of piciformes in the Haas Tract. Supporting players of Siskins and Redpolls have already found the recently unburied feeders and I know that white lady of the night, er I mean north is just days away from showing up.
Silly Putty- Even with you now having lakeside property I am still going to destroy you....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

You guys aren't the only ones in on the CORE party

44 just arrived, and it is an important pickup for me, no doubt. I have to say I wasn't sure they were inland yet at my latitude so this is perhaps a sign I'll have a chance for HORE before winter's end?
It is also not lost on me that I already have 6 finch species on my 2012 yardlist, more than any of you guys I believe (update your google doc spreadsheet so I can be sure). Couldn't have predicted that!

Mixin' it U.P.

brutal cold today and getting a little frosty too...

big influx of finches with AMGO leading the way, followed by PISI, CORE, and a single HORE. A few HOFI too for measure. Out in the Portage I had 2 RLHA working the Point but I couldn't get them for either yard as they were gone by the time I got out of the marsh. Did see a NOHA again for the lair. Field Sparrow still sticking it out AND had my first car chase bird; we saw a AMRO on our way to breakfast about 1.5 blocks down from the Chase Place. I laid some rubber and peeled out a 180, only to miss the bird by milliseconds as we pulled into the driveway. Guess that's the way it goes in the high-stakes game of yard birding.... Rock On! See you Robin, in April....guaranteed.

Pine Grosbeaks

Hey Losers, I had four Pine Grosbeaks in my yard yesterday. You've probably seen this species in your field guides, as opposed to your yards (or counties, or even, for some of you, states). Bwahaha!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Couple of new birds this morning:

Blue Jay which is a rare winter visitor in the yard. Last year I went the entire winter without one and this is the first in the yard since Oct/Nov.

The second was a single redpoll that "scored" nicely on the Hoary scale. I did a little Crossley action on him....

Below is the Sibley chart of repolls (based on Declan Troy's phonetic analysis of redpolls published in the Auk (1985)) I found a couple of week's ago while looking over last year's blog effort. It was referenced by J.D. to accompany an interested hoary-like redpoll in his yard last April. Great write-up on the bird BTW


How do you think it scores??! Chris scored it a 15 (6,4,5) and I scored it 1 for the yard list!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A change of pace

The yard list here in ANJO-land remains stalled under 20 species; it took until today to see the year's first Tufted Titmouse, and narry a raptor has graced our skies or woods yet. But the snow-less doldrums are over; Cleveland is getting perhaps half a foot of snow in this snowstorm, and the birds have finally started using the feeders more heavily. What a difference 24 hours makes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nice spring we're having

It's 55 degrees, and raptors are moving north over my house (not joking). I am in shorts and comfortable. So were these:

Turkey Vulture, Montcalm Co., MI, January 11, 2012

Red-shouldered Hawk (2nd calendar year), Montcalm Co., MI, January 11, 2012


Yardbird Projections- a new exercise

So first off, today I've had 2 separate HOLAs fly by (41). It's gonna slow down for me quite a bit now, I fear, as there aren't many easy ones left, BDOW being the easiest, until spring migration begins.

More importantly, I want to suggest a new yardbird exercise: projecting your 2012 yardlist, both those species that are reasonable if you're trying hard, and those unexpected "left fielders." Part of my motivation is to figure out just how many species I can plausibly get. It also allows me to narrow down my species specific effort to those 'gettables' I need during any particular period of migration, and to keep me aware of what rarities to be paying attention for which I wasn't already thinking about. Anyway, I have added a new tab to the googledoc entitled "Yearlist Projections." I created 2 columns for myself "SIPU Left Fielders" and "SIPU reasonably gettable". Take a look, and follow suit if you feel so inclined.

For reference, the former column (left fielders) includes stuff that is possible but that I won't expect to get in any given year, like Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Snow Goose, White Pelican, American Bittern, Great Egret, Night-Heron, Pluvialis sp. flyover, Connecticut Warbler, Lapland Longspur, etc." In any given year I might get a few of these, perhaps 5-10 if I am doing really well. The other category includes gimmes plus those species which, even though I know I will miss many of them in any given year, are absolutely plausible and borderline expected with proper effort. Obviously, subjective judgments will have to be made here. But for me, I am including stuff like Merlin, Peregrine, Least Bittern (I have a beautiful small, protected lake within earshot with perfect habitat), Marsh Wren (ditto), Forster's Tern (not common, but will be present on lake, and should be had if I scan often enough that time of year), Solitary Sandpiper, Mourning Warbler, Yellow-bellied Fly, Olive-sided Fly (I have beautiful habitat between the lakes), Rusty Blackbird. Again, it is obvious that I will miss some of these "gettables", but the exercise is still revealing.

My results: 179 "gettables" and another 46 "left field rarities" (!). My guess is that I'll likely miss ~15 of the gettables, but that I will get a few left fielders, which could put me in the range of 165. More likely, between missed warm fronts away from home and a handful of stupid misses, I would say high 150s might be more realistic. But if nothing else, this exercise has motivated me to burn the candles at both ends more than ever before, because if I get up near 160-165, there is a legit possibility that the likes of the normally unreachable RIBR and JOKA become mere mortals. Sleep tight, gents!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


pleeeeeeeaaaaaase :)

(did that get your attention)


You guys and your Snowy Owls & Red Crossbills, your Northern Shrikes & Long-Tailed Duck, your Ruddy Duck & Cackling Goose. Absolutely disgusting. Complete vomit material. You can't do any better?! I'm almost ashamed to be in this competition with you whimps. Me, well, I'm downright proud of the two special birds that got me to the 20 mark this morning: Sturnus vulgaris & Larus argentatus. Nothing could surpass that I'm sure. And tomorrow I'm gonna reach even higher and try for Larus delawarensis & Anas platyrhynchos. Try to beat them apples!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hey, that isn't a swan butt.

..... true nuf, I kept ebirding the swans from the Chase Place, noticing one was in a perpetual state of tip-up. I put the scope on it to wait for it to take a breath when I realize it was a pure white snow owl. Ghostly, as it was only 50 feet away from where the immy died a couple of days ago.

other newbys for the yard; cardinal and Canada Goose (also in the photo). I'm on a rally!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Haastage held hostage

Just wanted you all to know that I have a semi-unexpected (and very infrequent) visitor at the PuttHutt, who won't be birding his far northern yard tomorrow since he'll be here helping me reach yearbird 40. Yes me, the modern day BEWA.

Chase Place

The Chase Place tied the Swamp Lair today -- it's going to be a knock-down drag out for those two neighbors this year.

Added a pile of goodies the last couple of days to the Chase Place; Long-tailed Duck, Northern Harrier (two different birds), Common Merg and Goldeneye, Tundra Swan.

The landbird scene is still sorely lacking - the feeder hasn't kicked in yet though I did snag a White-breasted Nuthatch.

Just got a line on an unlimited supply of beef suet. Swamp Kat is formulating a plan - there are a 1000 distant gulls in Little Bay de Noc. Come to papa.

The season's first good one

So I am out there scoping my yard's first Mute Swans (34/81), and my year's first Bald Eagle (35) when Cedar Waxwing finally flies over (36). Then I begin to hear an unfamiliar finch coming in from the north, something obviously out of place. It has to be WWCR, right? Nope, although it's close to that in cadence, the tone is weird, lacking the CORE like 'scratchiness.' Tik-tik ... tik-tik ... tik-tik ... Uhhh, Beavis, I think we have a Red Crossbill. Instead of scrambling to get out of the woods and see it (it was obstructed completely from my view), I opted to listen and see if it was going to land. It didn't, heading SSW right over my house. (Side note: I need this for Kent Co. still, which is 1.5 miles due south of my house, right where the RECR was heading; food for thought).

And that, my friends, is 37. COGO, COME, and AMCO are next, with the 3 RBME out on Whitefish Lake a more distant possibility. The arm of the lake these guys would need to go to enter my line of sight is shallow and not typically where the divers hang. The WWSC appears to have left Whitefish Lake at least a week ago, and no HOGRs remain either.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Snowy Owl

An odd thing happened today with the Snowy. I noticed it was near the same place as last night and went out to see if it was O.K. It seemed a little non-responsive, so I went to market to get it something to eat and as I started to walk back towards about an hour later I checked it with binoculars and it had died.

Starting to get out of hand

Found an even better view, and yes that is open water in the front of the view:
SEFI's trashtalk in the last thread just ignited the fire, and you all will suffer for it. I can (I think) safely say that I will be in the yardbird lead at least through March. Have a go at what I just saw and heard while looking at my yearbird Mallards as they floated in Whitefish lake:

Later a RBGU flew by my view, but so far the AMCOs have eluded me (just a matter of time). And there are at least 6 NOFLs in this spot too, surprisingly. Other species on Whitefish Lake I need: MUSW, both mergs, COGO, and even WWSC. Not to mention I am still missing BAEA, CEDW, and SSHA for the year. Enjoy my taillights, boyz.


First a side note: the 2012 spreadsheet is up and running, so please go in the normal way and start updating your totals, gents.

On a good note (for me anyway), I just explored the far back edge of my house's property and just realized that I can get a VERY slight angle on both of the lakes behind my house, a good sized chunk of the smaller lake and a very thin slice of the much larger Whitefish Lake, which is about 1/3 mile as the crow flies. Luckily for you guys, the lakes are both either completely (the smaller) or partially iced over, making it harder for me to score any of the 400+ AMCO still on the lake or other waterfowl (MUSW, MALL, ABDU, COME, RBME, COGO, etc.). But I will keep trying and see what I can get. Until leaf out occurs, I must warn you guys that this is going to be potentially dangerous since I have will my first ever yard access to waterbirds and waterfowl! Here is the view (though not as crisp as in real life). The visible water in the foreground is the small lake (which could easily have breeding LEBI come June, plus VIRA/SORA/GRHE/COGA(?):
and through the scope, with Whitefish lake in the background:

OK, for this morning, at the PuttHutt (my new name for my "Swamp Lair"), in order to fend off the ever persistent SEFI, I got the following yearbirds:

EABL (3+ hanging in the field across the street)
BEKI- calling repeatedly from Whitefish Lake area (yard lifer)
BRCR (about time)
NOFL (hanging out down near Whitefish Lake as well

There are plenty more options available to me but it's going to take some time to get them. Rest assured that since I like being in the lead for a change, I won't rest easy until all the easys are on my year yardlist.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012


While listening to JOKA gloat about a bird he was watching at dusk in his yard on Lake Michigan which I struggle to find anywhere in my entire county (I'll let him break the news to you all), I reciprocated with this beaut just to maintain my lead: First visual sighting for the yard ever, and 2nd observation.

A lead is a lead

Well, folks. Since I know once March/April arrives I have no chance being in the lead in this contest, I made it a point to jump into the lead immediately, only to have freakin SEFI steal it away today. I will be out owling tonight to attempt to gain 2-3 more species and steal it back. EASO would be yard lifer material too.

Just added PIWO flyby today which was yearbird 23.

Expect a full post on 2012 blog membership and changes within 1 week's time. Details are almost finalized, and much change is in order...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Birding in the year of the Great Transformation

While we contemplate the future of 2012 on the yardblog, I figured I'd be the first to pounce with my 15 species (13 on Jan. 1, two more on Jan. 2) including the Best Yardbird of 2012 in form of the Field Sparrow currently overwintering at my feeder. A nice surprise on Jan. 1 was 71 Cedar Waxwings that came into the yard after scarfing berries in a neighbors Mnt-Ash.

I have also submitted my first 2 complete checklists to ebird as part of a record-keeping resolution. The yard list tally on the site is pretty sweet, I hope to keep nudging the Swamp Lair northward in the World rankings. AND, I plan to do it without lying.

The only other "new" change planned for 2012 is listing both yards in Escanaba. I've been holding off birding the new place heavy because I wanted to give the Swamp Lair a chance to mature and blossom into its own. The "Chase Place", however, is so superior for waterbirds and shorebirds that I feel I'm doing myself a disservice by not investing in a yard I have a good chance of birding the rest of my life.

All the best in 2012 and hats off to "Big Rig" for putting us to shame with both quantity and quality in 2011. A triple nod to Sean F. for the only "committee-worthy" specimen with Prairie Falcon (if it didn't get rejected because of those jesses), and finally an impressive honorable mention to the GRSP in Haas-dogs yard; that was one displaced and misplaced urban bird.

Remember with the end of the Mayan long calendar on Dec. 21 there's a possibility of the competition getting cut short. On the good side maybe Common Phoenix will be a possibility.