Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count 2015

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is something I look forward to every year in mid-February, when the weather is bleak and my year list is still in its infant stages. This last weekend, 2/13--2/16, was the GBBC this year, and I have to admit it was one of my favorites so far. I was limited to my yard and neighborhood, but with the oncoming ice storm the birds were more willing than usual to show themselves as they worked up all that fat and energy.

Day 1 (2/13):

I got up relatively early this morning, to be greeted with this friendly face:

Our new dog--Xena, Warrior Princess.

I set out for the patch of woods down the street from my house at around 7:20 AM. Common Grackles were abundant, and I strained my ears to hear the unmistakable call of Red-winged Blackbirds among the grackles' rusty creaks and squawks, but no such luck. The expected Red-wings are a bit late this year. Despite the cold temperature (around 20 degrees, which is pretty cold for Mississippi), the woods yielded 11 species, but surprisingly no White-throated Sparrows or Dark-eyed Juncos.

After birding the woods for about 45 minutes, I walked down our street and around the corner, which was lined with brushy weeds and bushes and pine trees. I got an additional 8 species in that half hour, including a Great Blue Heron that flew from a pond straight in front of me and scared me to death.

Day 2 (2/14):

Besides being Valentine's Day, today was the day we decided to stock up on supplies before the imminent winter storm. So the majority of the second day of the GBBC was spent braving the crowds of people at Kroger and Target. But---I did manage to snare 10 species (including a year bird!) while following my little brother around the yard and trying to keep him from splattering muddy water all over himself and the dog. I'll take it.

Day 3 (2/15):

Today was the most successful day of the GBBC this year. I set out at 2:30 in the afternoon for the same woods I birded on Day 1. The birds were more active today than the first day, probably because of the ice storm that would hit that night. The highlight species was a Golden-crowned Kinglet--one of my favorite birds ever. (Along with Eastern Bluebird, Great Blue Heron, Veery, Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet Tanager...Okay fine, it's really not that hard to get on the list).

Golden-crowned Kinglet

The White-throated Sparrows made up for their absence on Day 1 by appearing in droves on Day 3--I estimated there were at least 100 of them today.

Afterwards I decided to go up to the undeveloped land on the other side of my neighborhood, which proved to be a good idea. There I found several Song Sparrows (year bird!) and a couple of Swamp Sparrows, which was a surprise as I'd never seen them at this location before.

Swamp Sparrow

Before I left, I managed to be startled by a Great Blue Heron again, and flush a very loud Killdeer (another year bird!). I ended the day with 28 species, seen and heard in 2 hours.

Day 4 (2/16):

As I sit here writing on the last day of the GBBC, freezing rain and sleet coats everything in ice outside. White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Chipping Sparrows, and a few other species are raiding the feeders, but sadly, I'm not hardcore enough to venture out into the winter weather. Nevertheless, I'm pretty satisfied with this year's GBBC, and I'm looking forward to next year!