Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bums of the Bird World

It's the first weekend of Cornell's Project FeederWatch which means that I spent a lot of this frigid day in the backyard, lab book, binoculars, and camera in hand, attempting to count birds which, unobligingly, do not stay in one place long enough for me to count beyond six or so. I know that some people get flocks of hundreds in their yard and I can say only that they must have much larger yards and also be phenomenal counters. The highest number I reached was "about fifteen" and that was thumbprints bushtits at the suet. Of course the bit of suet wasn't large enough for all of them to be at it at once and they kept hopping about but I feel almost confident about the fifteen number. There were probably more than the fourteen dark-eyed juncos I noted down but I couldn't look in every direction at once and those damned juncos, who so perfectly match the fallen magnolia leaves that cover the large garden bed, flit from plum to magnolia to ground to magnolia to fence to apricot far faster than I could count. I do love the way they flitter down to the ground like leaves, though. I could watch that all day.

 Part of me wonders just how truly important numbers reported by the likes of me might be (though, of course, Cornell insists citizen science makes all the difference). I feel a little like Ralphie with the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring though the birds aren't spelling out anything so crass as "Buy More Bird Seed" despite Wild Birds Unlimited being a sponsor. It's got to be a benefit, however, to encourage participants to become more aware of the birds in their own backyards regardless of what numbers are then fed into a giant computer database. I spent more time than usual seeing who comes to visit and I was rewarded with a fox sparrow right in my own tiny garden. I initally assumed it was a second song sparrow but fortunately the fantastic Mr Fox returned a few times so I could have a second and third look and, well, fox sparrow will be on my report. Also on the list: 2 Anna's hummingbirds, 1 Bewick's wren, 2 Steller's jays, 1 European starling, 1 song sparrow, 1 goldencrowned sparrow, 5 American goldfinches, 6 house finches, 2 black-capped chickadees, 3 chestnut chickadees (who knew?!), 1 northern flicker, 5 pine siskins, and those aforementioned 14 juncos and 15 bushtits.

But hey! What's a post about birds without bird photos? Just words. I'm working on a whole new guide for birds, featuring the angle one sees so often. As far as I know, there isn't a guide to bird bottoms on the market yet so I figure wealth and fame will soon be mine. More than those things, however, I want readers to identify the birds shown, from below, below. All the photos were taken in the backyard today so all the bires are on the list above.


  1. wow, those are hard -- a lot like the photos Dennis used to show us in the Master Birder class. Without looking at my field guide, my guesses are: 1. Black-capped Chickadee 2. Chestnut-backed Chickadee 3.Pine Siskin 4. American Goldfinch 5. Dark-eyed Junco 6. Song Sparrow 7. Bushtit

    Numbers 3 and 6 are the most iffy of IDs, or at least, I hope they are, as I felt fairly sure of the others. If not, then I need a refresher course!

    I'm not doing the count though I have been very entertained by the birds flocking to my front yard after the rains -- I've had all the ones you've had except the Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Pine Siskins, plus a flicker a robin, and a Spotted Towhee. Happy backyard (or frontyard) birding!

  2. Color me shocked; you missed a few of them and number 5 seemed so obvious I nearly didn't include it. But if you're getting spotted towhees in your front yard, you must be doing something right. Maybe it was just too early to see clearly; I was sleeping soundly while you were looking at a computer screen.

  3. From the headline, I thought this was going to be about birds holding signs and tin cups on the highway on-ramp! Nice photos, at any rate.....we have lots of the chestnut chickadees, as well as the black-capped variety...I had no idea there was an official count on, just as well, as I would have just ignored it. Thanks for doing your part for science!