Great Backyard Bird Count

All posts tagged Great Backyard Bird Count

By: Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

Images by Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

Derek Stoner and I led the Delaware Nature Society’s traditional Breakfast and Great Backyard Bird Count program this morning.  The Great Backyard Birdcount is a continent-wide citizen science bird survey run the National Audubon Society where anyone can participate today through Monday, February 20th.   It creates a snapshot of birds in mid-winter useful to science as a way to look at bird trends over the years.  Bottom line for us and you…it is fun!

Here we are birding at Coverdale Farm Preserve near Hockessin for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Image by Derek Stoner

After our group of 10 participants enjoyed a hearty breakfast (that Derek and I cooked) of pancakes, eggs, potatoes, scrapple, bacon, and fruit (for something healthy), we went out to bird.  This year we decided to take a walk at the Nature Society’s Coverdale Farm Preserve with a stop at Hoopes Reservoir.

We found several Eastern Bluebirds, some of which demonstrating territorial rights at nest boxes. Image by Derek Stoner

We tallied common species as well as unusual.  Lots of Eastern Bluebirds were out, and some looked to be claiming bird boxes on this warm February day.  Many House Finches were flocking, and some were singing.  The House Finch song remains one of my favorites in this area.  It was good news to see a small flock of about a dozen Field Sparrows in the overgrown fields.  As we finished, two adult Bald Eagles flew over, as did the surprise of the morning, a Merlin, which is a small, rare falcon.

The surprise of the day was seeing a Merlin fly over very close. This is a rare species in winter in our area. Image by Derek Stoner

At Hoopes Reservoir at the causeway, we found Mallards, Black Ducks, Common Merganser, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Ducks, Pied-billed Grebe, and a male Canvasback, which is a rarity here.

Can you pick out the Canvasback behind the Canada Geese? It is the white duck with the maroon head. This is another rarity in northern New Castle County at any time of year. Image by Derek Stoner

You too can participate through Monday.  Just look for at least 15 minutes somewhere, and enter your checklist at www.birdsource.org/gbbc.  Participate each day if you want, and even multiple times per day.  Identify the location you were birding by zip code or nearest town and enter your birds.  Check out the Results section on the website as well to see what else has been seen in Delaware or other states.  Good luck and have fun!

Photos and post by Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

Are you feeling like you’ve had too much indoor time with the lingering snow on the ground and temperatures below freezing lately?  Here are a few ideas to get you outdoors, even if it is in your own backyard. 

Start keeping track of the birds you see in your yard for the year.  I started doing this on January 1st, and I have found 40 species as of yesterday.  My goal is 100 species identified from the yard this year.  All birds you see or hear while you are in your yard count, even birds flying overhead.  I am maintaining the yard list on my e-bird account, which is where I keep all of my bird records.  This site is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  I urge you to check out www.ebird.org and start an account.  Keep your yard list on this fun on-line database, and go to the “add a yard” button in the data tab to compare them with other birders in the USA and the state you live in.  In Pennsylvania where I live, there is actually a state-wide, year-long yard bird list contest that I am participating in, and you can too if you are a resident. 

Carolina Wrens are a frequent visitor to my feeding station. I am trying to get them to eat the Brown Stinkbugs that are wintering in my house. I put the stinkbugs where they would be an obvious meal, but they haven't been interested so far.

E-bird takes your data and makes it available to the scientific community through the Avian Knowledge Network, so therefore your observations are useful to our understanding of birds.  If you like e-bird, you can add individual bird sightings or whole lists into the database from anywhere on earth!  If you have lists collecting dust from years past, enter those as well to immortalize your observations.  Now it sounds like you have a winter project to get excited about!  If you want some help with e-bird, please contact me. 

This Carolina Chickadee was visiting my feeders over the weekend. Notice the band on the right leg? I live close to the site of the Bird Banding at Bucktoe program that is held every September, which is probably where this bird was banded.

Another chance to force yourself outdoors is a birding event called the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 18-21.  Pick any time, or several times during this four day period to find birds in your backyard, nearby park, or neighborhood.  Enter your sightings into the Great Backyard Bird Count website to help scientists get a mid-winter snapshot of bird populations around the country.  Last year, almost 100,000 checklists were submitted.

This Tufted Titmouse was visiting my feeder this weekend and is also wearing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band. I see these banded birds at my feeders regularly since we've banded lots of Chickadees and Titmice at Bucktoe Creek Preserve over years, and these birds do not migrate.

Join us on these upcoming Delaware Nature Society programs: Breakfast and Backyard Bird Count program, February 18th, 8-11am at Ashland Nature Center.  A diner-style breakfast is included.  Birds of the Marsh and Mini e-bird Workshop at the Dupont Environmental Education Center on March 6, 8-11am.

By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader

Derek Stoner and I arrived early at Ashland Nature Center this morning to cook breakfast for the participants in the Breakfast and the Great Backyard Bird Count program.  The count, run by the Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is a mid-winter survey of birds that anyone can participate in.  It is fun, gets you out of the house, and provides a snapshot of bird numbers at this difficult time of year for wildlife. 

The bacon was sizzling, the eggs were scrambling, the bread was toasting, the coffee was brewing, and the potatoes were frying.  This was much-needed fuel to get us around the trails covered in over 20 inches of snow.  After watching the feeders for a bit, we walked the plowed driveway, part of Barley Mill Road, and up to the lodge.  We watched Common Mergansers catching and fighting over fish in the Red Clay Creek.  The Hooded Mergansers were resting on the ice, and quietly slipped away when they saw us.

A trio of Hooded Mergansers swim up the Red Clay Creek near the Ashland Covered Bridge.

A trio of Hooded Mergansers swim up the Red Clay Creek near the Ashland Covered Bridge. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

Snow Geese flew over, perhaps heading south to escape deep snow.  The snow actually tosses the normal routine out the window for wildlife.  Like us, they have to adjust.  Birds seemed a little out of place this morning.  Bluebirds drank and bathed from ice in the Red Clay Creek…a Northern Mockingbird was down in the marsh mud.
Eastern Bluebirds drink snowmelt from the Ashland Lodge roof.  Photo by Derek Stoner.

Eastern Bluebirds drink snow-melt from the Ashland Lodge roof. Photo by Derek Stoner.

This Northern Mockingbird searched for food in the only snow-free area it could find...the Ashland Marsh.  Photo by Derek Stoner.

This Northern Mockingbird searched for food in the only snow-free area it could find...the Ashland Marsh. Photo by Derek Stoner.

Once we surveyed the plowed areas, we donned our snowshoes and headed onto the trails.  We gawked at brightly illuminated Ring-billed and Herring Gulls.  A Red-tailed Hawk was especially bright as the sun reflected off the snow and onto its belly.  Even the Turkey and Black Vultures looked darling in the brilliant wintry scene. 
This Yellow-bellied Sapsucker paid more attention to its sap-wells than us as we snuck up to it.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

This Yellow-bellied Sapsucker paid more attention to its sap-wells than us as we snuck up to it. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

As we stood still, this Pileated Woodpecker flew in and landed right in front of us, chipping away at the tree as we watched for a few minutes.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

As we stood still, this Pileated Woodpecker flew in and landed right in front of us, chipping away at the tree as we watched for a few minutes. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

Through Monday, bird anywhere you like, even from your couch, just make sure you enter your sightings at the official website of the Great Backyard Bird Count.  But if you have snowshoes, it is going to be a lot more fun!

Birding via snowshoe at Ashland Nature Center.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

Birding via snowshoe at Ashland Nature Center. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.