May is one of the best birding months in Hunterdon County, as local breeding birds arrive and neotropical migrants stream through. That said, this May was cold and wet and not especially remarkable. Warblers were especially hard to come by, and I managed to see or hear only half of the ones I would have expected to see, and most of those were just single birds seen one day. Hardly a spring spectacle.
But I did manage to add 36 new species to my backyard big year total, for a grand total of 138 yard birds for the year.
Highlights were probably a male Bay-breasted Warbler that moved quickly through the yard on May 6 and a Mourning Warbler heard singing in the side yard on 25 May. I wasn’t able to see the Mourning Warbler, but my OldBird21c microphone was able to record it, and I submitted the song to the Mourning Warbler Song Mapper program where it was determined that my bird was from the Nova Scotia breeding population. Very cool!
My photo big year is pretty far off the rails at this point–it was almost impossible to get photos of most of the new birds this month–and I managed mostly just some ugly doc shots of things like Veery, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Eastern Wood Pewee.
With leaves on the trees, it became almost impossible to see much beyond my yard, so flyby birding has been greatly diminished–to be replaced by fly-by-night birding with my OldBird21c microphone. I’ve only reviewed a few nights of recordings so far, but haven’t been let down as the microphone was able to capture recordings of such goodies as Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-billed Cuckoo, Least Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Dickcissel, and Willow Flycatcher. I suspect that as I review the recordings there will be many more species added to my May totals. I’m counting on it, as the day birding was generally so slow I’m a couple dozen species behind where I was hoping to be at this point in the year.
By the numbers, I’ve now seen all the Code 1 easy expected species, and all but 6 of the expected but tougher Code 2 birds. I’ve found 45/73 tough Code 3 birds, and a mere 12/90 Code 4 birds. Nocturnal flight calls give me my best chance at picking up those rarer species–in fact I’m already pretty sure I’ve got a couple Short-billed Dowitcher recordings (Code 5) to double check.
In planning the year, I only hoped to add 2 more species in June–probably late migrating shorebirds that I’ll have to catch on recordings, so this next month is expected to be slower–which I need in order to spend less time in the yard and more time reviewing recordings from the spring.
But the show must go on, even as the local breeding species become quieter and it gets tougher to even get my 20 Bird Minimum Daily Requirement.