COUNTING THE BIRDS – FIRST MORNING OF THE GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT (GBBC)

I heard a lot of cawing out back and I got out of bed to see what was going on. When I hear that much cawing, something IS going on because that’s the sound of the “crow alert.” I wanted to see if they were mobbing. They weren’t. mobbing. It was just a warning that a hawk or raven was in the vicinity. Or maybe a complaint that one of the feeders was empty. Bad enough that the Duke barks until we feed him. Now the birds yell at us, too.

Blue Jay

I started the count today. Fifteen minutes between 8:45am and 9am, then another 15 minutes from 11:55am to 12:10pm. I had filled the feeders at 8:30am. It takes about five to ten minutes after that for an avalanche of birds to arrive. The big ones — Blue Jays and Mourning Doves — don’t so much fly here as fall out of the trees onto the feeders and deck. After that, the little birds — Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, Juncos — start showing up in batches.

We had two male Cardinals on the deck at the same time which is unusual. Maybe the smaller of the scarlet boys is not yet ready to breed because if he were, the bigger one would shoo him away. They are highly territorial. You can see two or three females at a time, but until recently, never more than one male. Cardinals — the males — are  the most shy of our “regulars.” Maybe not really shy. They don’t like it when I take their picture. Vanity? The females are not nearly as shy.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Rose-breasted Tufted Titmouse

In between, three kinds of woodpeckers arrived. Usually they come one at a time, but today we got two Red-bellied Woodpeckers (both males) at once, plus a big female Hairy Woodpecker (no red on her head), and a Downy Woodpecker. I think both of our smaller finches — Goldfinch and House Finch — have left town until spring. I haven’t seen any in at least a week. They are early migraters. They show up in March, and hang around through December. I think if it hadn’t started to snow (a lot) and get so cold, they might not have migrated at all.

I always wondered where the crows were living. The answer seems to be “wherever they feel like it.” In the summer, they live up in the trees, but in the winter, they enjoy the big hedge. Maybe it offers more protection from weather and predatory birds.

I counted a lot of birds today — and that was just half an hour, once at 8:45am and again at 11:55am. I know I missed many birds in the trees, but I have just one pair of eyes, so I concentrated on the deck and feeders. I could barely keep track of those. We really do have a LOT of birds.

Thanks to Judy Dykstra-Brown who contributed to the feeding of otherwise starving birds, I was able to add more suet cakes: a really huge one that contains mealy worms and smaller ones which are mainly beef suit, seeds, and hot peppers. Birds apparently love hot pepper. The squirrels show up very early in the morning and when the huge mass of birds show up, they give up and go home until just before dark when they come back for round two. Some days they are around more that other times. But they are early risers — usually a lot earlier than I am.

I didn’t try to take pictures. I can’t count birds and shoot at the same time.

I don’t know anyone who has more birds than this. Although we are intending to put up a few more feeders when the weather warms a little, we’ve agreed to not put out food to attract bigger birds. First, because the big birds often scare away the small ones and because I can’t afford to buy that much food. I may change my mind about this. I wanted to add chopped corn specifically for the squirrels and other critters, but maybe I’ll just toss that over the railing so they can eat it in peace on the ground. That will wait for summer, though. Right now, there are piles of snow everywhere with more on the way. I put out food and it gets covered during the next storm. Birds are beautiful, not only because of their amazing colors, but because of how they fly and in warm weather, how they sing. It will get even more interesting on Sunday when it’s supposed to snow or sleet. They eat a lot all the time, but even more when a storm is coming or just starting.

So, on Day 1 I saw 10 Juncos, 5 Cardinals  including two Red males — you never see two males in the same place because they usually fight when they meet, but I think one of them isn’t full-grown yet — and three females. There were lots of Blue Jays — 9 or 10 of them — and probably more because there were a few extra waiting in the trees. A flurry of Chickadees, a couple of Nuthatches, a handful of Tufted Titmouses, two Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, one Downy Woodpecker, and one really big, very well-fed Hairy Woodpecker. There were also maybe a dozen Mourning Doves and one, stray (he should have migrated) Carolina Wren. I think the last of the finches decided to migrate after the last snow. They sometimes hang around all winter if it isn’t too cold and snowy.

I also saw an explosion of Crows from a tall oak. I was wondering where they lived. Obviously, they live nearby but where? Apparently in the tops of oak trees. One minute, there was a tree and the next minute, there were crows pouring out of the tree — and mind you, the trees are bare so where were they hiding? They do live here but don’t come to the feeders.



Categories: birds, Blackstone Valley, Gallery, Photography

Tags: , , ,

15 replies

  1. You had an awesome first day for the GBBC! Wow! 🙂

    Like

  2. I think there’s different tiers of birdwatchers. Don’t have to be SuperStars.
    I think I’m on the Casual Tier.

    Like

    • I was very casual for many years, but this long lockdown when I really didn’t go anywhere or do anything got me a lot more involved. So I’m more serious than I was, but I’m not as serious as a lot of other people. They do give me a great sense of satisfaction, that in my own little way, I’m helping keep the planet a place we will want to live. I do with it would STOP SNOWING AND SLEETING. Just saying!

      Like

  3. I am very glad you feed the birds, Marilyn. Such beautiful pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve got a pretty big collection. I don’t always have exactly the photo I want, or more to the point, I can’t always find exactly what I’m looking for. I’ve given up on any hope of finding another way to organize. There are too many of them. Mostly, I remember things by time of year. I picked some of my recent favorites for that batch and I’m very grateful you enjoyed them 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • I love me my birds! I live in a condo apartment building in an urban/suburban area and while it is a very green place my apt overlooks the parking lot! There is a huge holly tree outside the bedroom window and I’ve gotten some nice photos of the birds that nest there but alas through the window, I don’t have a balcony. Only once did I get a fab photo of a bird and it was a cedar waxwing – colorful bird but a nasty one!

        Like

        • I got very few pictures (except along beaches where you can’t miss the seagulls) until we put up feeders. I think what I found the most surprising was how MANY birds lived here and I had never even seen most of them until I put up feeders. If you have an Audubon preserve anywhere near you — they are all over the country and they are free — you might see a lot more.

          Like

      • It certainly was a busy day on our back porch. Almost like a big family gathering with lots of “cousins” showing up. They LOVE your chow.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you’re pretty well due for a Birdwatching Award Marilyn.
    Great stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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