Monday, January 31, 2011

Neighborhood birds: the first 12 months

Now that January is over, we have officially spent 12 months in our house!

I have been keeping a list of the bird species we encounter in our yard, on walks with the dog, or during other outings in the neighborhood.

I added up the species from each month to reveal the following patterns:

We found 65 species during the year. Of these, 36 (55%) were year-round residents, 13 (20%) migrated here from higher latitudes or elevations to spend the winter, and 16 (25%) migrated from the south to nest in our area.

The Song Sparrow was the only species I recorded every month. I recorded another nine species (Western Scrub Jay, Steller's Jay, Spotted Towhee, Lesser Goldfinch, House finch, Bewick's Wren, Black-capped Chickadee, Anna's Hummingbird, and American Crow) at least 10 months out of the year.

We found the most species in May and the fewest in April. My guess is the the low numbers in April, June, and August resulted from less time looking for birds due to travel and work. It will be interesting to see if these patterns hold for the second year in our neighborhood.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A day of New Mexico birding

Last week, I escaped our soggy weather with a quick trip to New Mexico. I spent most of the time in meetings, but I was able to get outside for a day of study site visits and birding in the Middle Rio Grande.

At sunrise, I arrived at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. An army of camo-clad photographers was already there taking advantage of the morning light and hordes of waking Sandhill Cranes.

As I drove north through Socorro County, some clouds moved in, but the snow only fell at higher elevations. Finally, I arrived in Valencia County, ending the day at my friend's house in Bosque Farms.

I think that the most interesting livestock in America, such as these chickens and sheep, can be found in this and other villages on the Rio Grande.

Here is the day's bird list:

Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Northern Pintail
Northern Shoveler
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
American Kestrel
Gambel's Quail
Ring-necked Pheasant
Sandhill Crane
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
White-winged Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Say's Phoebe
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-crowned Sparrow
Western Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
Pine Siskin
House Sparrow

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Year in Birding, 2010

For 2010, Sarah and I decided to tally the number of bird species we found in our travels this year. We did not go out of our way to maximize the number, as some do in a “big year,” but we wanted to determine the number found in each state during a typical year. Here are the results:

The first species of the year was Cackling Goose, observed in a flock over our old apartment on New Year’s Day. The last species we added to the list was White-throated Sparrow, seen at Sarah’s grandparents’ house on Christmas Day.

I found a total of 214 species in five states, while Sarah found 208 in three states.

Between the two of us, we found 190 species in Oregon.

There were 16 species, such as American White Pelican and Golden Eagle, which we saw only in Montana or Washington.

I found one species in Texas, a Great-tailed Grackle at the DFW Airport.

I added 11 species to my list, including Carolina Wren, while attending a conference in Pennsylvania.

Our life birds for the year were Trumpeter Swan, Ancient Murrelet and Cassin’s Auklet.

We saw the swans during a beautiful day of birding in Montana’s Mission Valley.

The murrelets and auklets were swimming in Boiler Bay on the Oregon Coast.

For this year’s project, we are compiling bird lists for each county that we visit in Oregon. This way, we will document which and how many species we find in different parts of the state. Stay tuned for results!