Friday, February 24, 2012

Counting birds for fun

Greater Roadrunner. We see these daily on the hill, pretty much year-round.

We participated in the Big Backyard Bird Count this past weekend, for the first time. As I’ve stated before, I’m not the birder here on the hill; my husband is. But I got us into this adventure, and he jumped right in with me (thanks, honey!).

I had so much fun counting birds. It appealed to three parts of my basic character:  The Accountant, The Competitor and The Nature Girl.

In the bird count, the observer tallies the most birds of a species that she sees at one time. The Accountant really likes tallying things. She is ever motivated to see more things to tally. At the end of the observation period (at least 15 minutes), The Accountant got to enter her tallies into a database. Then she could look at the tallies of all observers in her zip code, state and nation. Fun times!

The Competitor liked finding more and more species to add to the tally list. On Monday (the count ran from Friday through Monday) when the weather was lovely, she spent a lot of time outdoors gardening and watching – for more bird species to report. One other birdwatcher was submitting reports for this zip, so the race was on to find a species that the other counter had not seen.

The Competitor's and Accountant's activities dovetail nicely.

No telephoto lens here, but I made an attempt to show
some of what we saw. In the back, peeking around
the feeder:  house finch. The black and yellow fellow
is a lesser goldfinch. The photo is of unsufficient quality
to identify the bottom bird, but look, you can see
birds flying (bottom and top right).
The Nature Girl loved having an excuse to stare out the window or around the yard or up in the sky for a good cause. I mean, really, who wouldn’t love sitting in a big recliner, cup of coffee nearby, binoculars and bird book in lap, IN PAJAMAS.

She also enjoyed learning new nature stuff. 

Now, I shall reunite those three parts for the rest of the post.

What did I learn? I identified a new bird at our feeder:  a pine siskin. We’ve not seen one before. Pine siskins like to hang out with goldfinches, of which we have had a surfeit this year.

I also learned how to tell the difference between a turkey vulture and a black vulture (the black has white wingtips; turkey has white wingtips and lower fringe of wings). I also heard a black vulture bark. Who knew? Well, birders knew, obviously.

Here is my checklist from Monday:

            Black Vulture - 9
            Red-shouldered Hawk - 2
            White-winged Dove - 8
            Mourning Dove - 1
            Greater Roadrunner - 2
            American Crow - 1
            Carolina Chickadee - 1
            Tufted/Black-crested Titmouse - 3
            Chipping Sparrow - 2
            Dark-eyed Junco - 5
            Northern Cardinal - 2
            House Finch - 2
            Pine Siskin - 2
            Lesser Goldfinch - 3
            American Goldfinch - 3

The only visitors not seen were the robins (we’ve seen lots this year), and the scrub jay (which turned up today, of course).

If you are interested in learning more about this fun nature activity, visit Big Backyard Bird Count. To see what species were seen in what numbers where, follow the link to "explore the results."


  1. Sounds fun. I'll need to try to remember this for next year.
    We've had some of the Pine Siskins. I just thought they were goldfinches. I'll have to look closer.

    Have a good weekend.

  2. You saw a lot of birds! And how fun to discover a new type you didn't know before!