Saturday, February 10, 2018

Counting the Winter Birds in My Backyard



Anybody can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC.) It's free. It's fun. Every year I mark my calendar for this four-day event in February. Birdwatchers around the world count for as little as 15 minutes a day for one or more days then report the sightings online at birdcount.org. Led by Cornell Lab. of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and many international partners, the purpose of this citizen-science project is to provide a snapshot of the distribution and abundance of wildbirds around the world in real time. Scientists use this information to answer questions like, "How will the weather and climate change influence bird populations?" and "How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?" More than 160,000 people of all ages and all walks of life participate. The 2018 GBBC takes place from Friday, February 16 through Monday, February 19 and I'm ready -- well, nearly ready, I just have to clean the French windows where I stand to count (I'm waiting for the temperature to go above freezing tomorrow before doing this task.)

The French windows in the garden room are framed by branches from the old catalpa tree. Birds gather there to take turn visiting the bird feeder that hangs from one of the branches.  Click on the next picture to enlarge it; there are four or five birds waiting there:

Cardinals, a sparrow, and a black-eyed junco wait in the catalpa tree.
Can you see the chickadee?

One of the catalpa's larger branches is perfectly placed for my bird photography. Unfortunately, this old branch is dying; it will fall one of these days, so we are careful not to walk beneath it. I will be so sad when it is gone because it enables me to get some great shots. 

White-breasted nuthatch on my favorite-for-photography branch

The bird feeder hangs from this same branch. It looks like a cheery, red barn. H.H. keeps the feeder full of sunflower seeds that attract many species of birds.

House finch on the bird feeder in a snowstorm

Below the tree, on the back porch, there is a water dish containing a small heater that prevents the water from freezing in the Pocono's subfreezing temperatures of winter. This is another of H.H.'s projects: he keeps it clean and topped with water. The heated water dish attracts all sorts of birds and other wildlife. My favorites are the bluebirds, but we have seen very few this season. I'm not sure if the bluebirds' decline is caused by lower-than-usual temperatures, the proliferation of house sparrows, or some other reason. The GBBC study may shed some light on this problem. I hope the bluebirds  return in the spring.

White-throated sparrow on the heated water dish
A single Eastern bluebird -- usually there are several at the waterdish

In addition to the seed feeder, H.H. hangs a suet feeder on the deck. This is for the woodpeckers. We see several species in our garden but the most frequent visitors are the red-bellied and the downy woodpeckers.

Red-bellied woodpecker
Downy woodpecker

Providing food, water, and shelter are ways to attract birds to the yard. Unfortunately, they draw less desirable wildlife, especially my adversary, the grey squirrel. (I don't use that word lightly -- did you know, The Adversary -- uppercase A -- means the Devil? Very appropriate.) The bird feeder is supposed to be squirrel-proof, but they know how to get at the seeds. They even remove the roof sometimes and climb right inside.


Not even the blue jay, with all it's squawking, scares away the squirrel.

Blue jay

In spite of the squirrels, the birds continue to return to my yard.






Titmouse
Black-eyed junco
Housefinch

To take part in the bird count, simply tally the numbers and types of birds you see, noting the time you watched. You can count from any location for as long as you wish. All the information you need to get started is on the website HERE. I do hope you join the fun!


How many birds will you count?

Pamela x



I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited! 
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.

24 comments:

  1. I'll be counting! Good luck with your count.

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    1. I remember you count in Florida, Dorothy. Good luck to you, too. Maybe we can share and compare results.

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  2. Terrific shots of your garden birds Pam. We have nothing like that bluebird. (But of course you know that)

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    1. And we have nothing like the sweet English robin that I miss so much.

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  3. Great pictures. I saw that you are using whole black sunflowers seeds. If you have trouble with bird seeds sprouting under the feeder during the growing season, here are 2 tricks.
    1. Microwave the seeds long enough to make them really hot and let them cool before placing in the feeder (you can do a big batch ahead) -- they won't sprout and make weeds.
    2. Buy hulled bits and pieces of sunflower seeds which can't germinate. We went to using only those even in the finch feeders. I got tired of pulling weeds under our feeders.
    Take care,
    Kathy (in Tucson, AZ this winter where we have Gila woodpeckers - say HEELA, some hummingbirds and cactus wrens along with doves and an occasional bunny around our RV.)

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    1. Great advice, Kathy. We haven’t had a problem so far. We didn’t make it out to visit my son in Phoenix yet this winter. I’m ready! You must have heard how brutal it is here. I love their Gila woodpeckers nesting in the cacti.

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  4. The bluebird at the water dish is perfectly placed for sharp pictures (even if the branch falls)

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    1. Oh, dear. I hope the branch doesn’t fall on the water dish. The dish is on the porch not directly beneath the tree. But if it was windy ....

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  5. Sweet! All those birds are common visitors here, too, except for the bluebirds. My garden isn't open enough for them, although there are lots of bluebirds in the area. Happy bird watching and bird counting! :)

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    1. I'm wondering if you are participating in the count, Beth. Good luck if you do.

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    2. Hi Beth, i have a simular yard. I dont see any Bluebirds here because i am more wooded. They prefer open space. Still, o enjoy seeing all the other birds. I get more of a variety of woodpeckers as opposed to my open spaced neighbors.
      Enjoy your backyard feathered friends

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  6. Pam, I LOVE the wonderful pics you take.

    When counting, how do you know you're not counting the same birds?

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    1. Glad you like the pics. Praise indeed from a photographer. You don't know if you are counting the same birds over. I do my best and trust the data readers/scientists will make allowances.

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  7. The kids and I have fun counting every year! I love your photography branch and hope it lasts awhile longer! I've been seeing more House Sparrows in my garden, and I do hope it doesn't run the bluebirds out. Such awful birds! I try not to mind the Blue Jays, though they are total gluttons.

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    1. It will be interesting to see this year's data from GBBC -- I wonder if it will show that house sparrows are on the increase in the NE.

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  8. Pam, thank you for your compliment, but i think you're every bit of a good pohotographer as anyone. You've got a keen eye, Pam. Loveeee your garden and gardening tips.

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  9. Will says to give each bird a tag that says, "I've been counted!" (Joking)

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  10. Great pictures, Pam! Love your blog. I will be counting birds here in Lilburn GA (just NE of Atlanta)

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  11. Hello Pam: I really enjoy your garden blog and always look forward to receiving it. FYI - here's a tip to keep the squirrels away from the birdfeeders. Actually, my husband and I do not hang birdfeeders since there is no easy access for us to get to them to fill and clean. So, instead, we just spread premium seed and bread in an area of lawn in our backyard where there is ample shelter for the birds and also a water supply. Several species of birds enjoy the twice daily buffet, as well as the squirrels and chipmunks. There are no scuffles since there is always plenty for all. So, maybe give it a try. Cheers! Mary - Tarrytown, NY

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  12. I always love your bird posts, you take such wonderful photos and the birds are so different to what we get here. I missed our Birdwatch this year as it was the weekend we were in Scotland but we did see some fabulous birds whilst we were there. We drove through the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys and saw numerous birds of prey, so majestic soaring above the valleys.

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  13. Hmmm. We are going to be away some of the weekend, so I'll see if we can sneak in a few minutes before or after. Figures that there were zero birds in the yard this afternoon. I did find some feathers though, so I suspect I could have added a hawk to the list.

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  14. I so enjoy seeing the birds that come to your winter backyard. I’m more of a summer girl, that’s when I follow the visitors to my back yard.

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