Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend marks the annual Great Backyard Bird Count . From Friday February 18th through Monday February 21st,  birders of all skill levels are invited to take 15 minutes out of their day to record what birds - in what numbers - they find in their backyard. The GBBC is put on by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society in conjunction with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada. By gathering data from all over North America, scientists are presented with a "snapshot" of real-time bird populations. This information lets the scientists understand how different species are handling the effects of Winter, how they are combating diseases such as West Nile Virus, and gives them an idea how the timing of this years migration might compare to last years. I learned of this count late Friday and talked my sister into giving it a go. She started on Saturday and submitted her results and I joined in for the count today. We have 6 bird feeders on our property. Within view of your house windows we have 4 feeders filled with seed and 1 with suet. These bird feeders primarily attract birds suited to open areas such as meadows & fields. They also receive a smattering of forest dwellers who quickly eat before flying back to the edge of our woods. The 6th feeder is a seed feeder that I have down by my big garden. It is edged by Douglas Fir and primarily has the forest dweller as customers.

I spent a lot of today in our Dining Room looking out the window at the suet feeder. I was thrilled when I heard the familiar "chip" of a Hairy Woodpecker. Soon afterward this female showed up. She flitted back and forth from the suet feeder to the mullein stalks. But then................

her partner joined her! He has a very striking red patch on the back of his head.

I was so pleased to have seen both sexes together on the day of the count. The last time that I saw them both at the feeder was at Christmas, while we were enjoying our dinner. But then it only got better..........

Excuse me, I have a reservation here....... A male Red-Shafted Northern Flicker joined the party!

I have never seen three members of the Woodpecker family together at any of our feeders before. Between the suet feeder and the dead mullein stalks, there was plenty of food for everyone and they all seemed to get along quite well.

Northern Flickers are fairly common on our property year around. But from a-far, as I normally see them, you just can not appreciate fully the beautiful colors and patterns on their feathers.

This guy was aware that I was watching him but didn't seem to concerned about it.

He even managed to share the suet feeder in good humor. As you can see, he is noticeably larger than the Hairy Woodpeckers.

And, to prove I didn't spent my whole day at the suet feeder, here is a handsome Mourning Dove at one of the seed feeders. They are ground feeders and do a good job cleaning up all of the spilled food underneath the seed feeders.

When the days was all done, we took our tally sheet and sent in our day's count on-line. Here is what we could 100% identify correctly that we saw today. There we other birds, mainly in the finch family, that we have great numbers of, but can't identify without question.
  • 2 Red-tailed Hawks
  • 1 Anna's Hummingbird
  • 2 Hairy Woodpeckers
  • 1 Downy Woodpecker
  • 1 Red-Shafted Northern Flicker
  • 1 Pileated Woodpecker
  • 8 Steller's Jay
  • 2 Western Scrub Jay
  • 8 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 36 Mourning Dove
  • 1 American Robin
  • 1 European Starling
  • 3 Spotted Toehee
  • 12 Dark-eyed Junco


Heather said...

Oh I love the Flickers and the Downy Woodpeckers! I see them around here and our bluebird couple is still hanging around. The goofy male has been attacking his reflection in the windows... drives me crazy.

I don't know if I have seen a female downy like yours, need to keep my eyes open:)

Robin said...

The Northern Flicker is one beautiful bird. I think that I would have a difficult time participating in The Great Backyard Bird Count. My list would probably be, one red bird, one bird that looks like a Robin (oh maybe it is a Robin) two cute little get the picture :) I'm really going to try to become better bird educated.