Area: Common to fairly common migrant and breeding species in Hunterdon County, uncommon to rare winter resident.
Yard: Uncommon. Mostly seen as a flyover during migration.
Audio: Song from male in tree 10 March 2015.
Observations: FOYYB was a pair of male birds in a grackle flock that visited the feeders on 10 March 2015. Flock flew off and the pair remained perched in a tree in the side yard allowing me to get the poor documentary shot (above).
Common Redpoll, 5 March 2015. Documentary shot, heavily cropped.
I’ve been watching my feeders for months waiting for a Common Redpoll. Today we were hit by another heavy snowstorm, in which I finally got my first Purple Finches of the year. But no redpolls. There have been a few reported today in scattered spots around the county, so they are apparently moving around in the storm. This was the time to try something new. I decided to try social attraction to see if I could get redpolls to stop in my yard.
I got a recording of a feeding redpoll flock, played it on a loop on my iPad, and stuck a bluetooth speaker broadcasting the recording out near my bird feeders and put more seed on the ground in the snow.
Just over an hour later I heard a Common Redpoll call as it flew over my OldBird21c microphone (recording below)!
Flyover Common Redpoll “tchet” calls
Then a couple minutes later as I watched from the window a redpoll flew past and landed on the seed I had placed on a small conifer near my sparrow slick. It flew before I could grab my camera, but I went upstairs to see if it might be feeding under my feeders (the view from downstairs was obscured by snow banks) and sure enough, there it was feeding on the ground next to the speaker!
Common Redpoll, 5 March 2015
Common Redpoll on ground near Bluetooth speaker (under shelter box at upper right).
The bird flew up into a tree, and didn’t stay more than a few minutes. But I got a recording, photos, and was able to log it for the Backyard Big Year!
Bluetooth speaker, protected from snowfall by black box with holes in it to allow sound broadcasting
Now I know some folks are opposed to playing tapes to lure in birds. But social attraction using audio recordings is a legitimate conservation strategy to attract Atlantic Puffins to nesting sites, and has been since used to lure in other rare birds to appropriate habitat where they are more prone to stick if they think others of their species are around–such as Black-capped Vireos in Texas. Purple Martin landlords routinely play martin recordings to attract them to new colonial housing. In my case, maybe redpolls moving around the area could use a little social encouragement to check out my yard and find my feeders. The bird got a quick meal, I got the bird for my annual yard list. It’s all good. Right?
Interestingly, the other birds seemed to avoid the feeders while the recording was running–preferring to stay over by the food at the sparrow slick. After I turned off the recording, the American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins returned to the feeding station. Hmmmm. Wonder what is up with that?
Area: Uncommon migrant and winter visitor, usually seen at feeders. Some yards will retain them all winter, while others will not see any.
Yard: Uncommon migrant and winter visitor. Sometimes several birds will stick around for a few weeks or more, other times months go by without seeing any in the yard.
Observations: First birds of the year were a pair that stopped in to the bird feeders briefly during a heavy snowstorm on 5 March 2015. I only managed a quick documentary shot of the female (above) before they took off.
Area: Uncommon and local resident, most often found during migration or winter. Most reports in the county come from areas with pine trees, including Spruce Run and Round Valley.
Yard: Apparently a fairly rare winter visitor, though expected. The first encounter for my yard was the bird seen and recorded 17 Feb 2015. It flew across the yard about 1:30pm and I was unable to relocate to photograph, but the OldBird21c mic picked up a few calls (below).
Audio: Apparent Brown Creeper call recorded by OldBird21c mic.
Group of 21 on frozen pond on Old Farm Rd north of the yard, 10 Jan 2015.
Canada Goose (Code 1) 1 Jan 2015
Area: Abundant during non-breeding season, a growing sedentary population remains to breed.
Yard: Common to abundant flyover during non-breeding season. Usually seen when moving between roosting grounds on local water bodies and feeding areas in fields, often in morning or late afternoon. Occasional groups or individuals land in fields and pond on Old Farm Rd north of the yard.
Male House Finch (bottom) with presumed Carolina Chickadee, 1 Jan 2015
House Finch (Code 1) 1 Jan 2015
Area: Common throughout Hunterdon County.
Yard: Fairly common, small numbers usually found in yard throughout the year. Often come to black oil sunflower seed at feeder, or perch high in side yard trees. Will also forage in rose tangles and other understory thickets.
Female House Finch at black oil sunflower seed feeder.