Back in the Yard–Aug 18

After two weeks of research in Mexico, and a two week trip to visit family in Utah, I’m finally back in the yard.  My OldBird mic isn’t working, so I’m terrified of how much I’m missing going over right now and of how much I’ve missed during the first month of fall migration.

This morning I had to drag myself out to the yard at 6:45am.  Things were slow, but a few birds are moving–Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Redstart, and Baltimore Oriole were migrants.  After an hour and 45 minutes I ended up with 21 species (eBird checklist here).

Frightening how quickly so many birds move through–most birds are seen for mere seconds.  Easy to miss them.  Hate to think about it!

Day 170: June 19

Last day of school for the kids.  After I got them on the bus, it took over an hour to finally get my 20 Bird Minimum Daily Requirement.  Still able to meet that minimum, but some days it takes awhile!  Here’s the list from the backyard this morning:

Chipping Sparrow–two birds actively calling and flying around the yard.  One bird gleaning moths off the garage door.

Mourning Dove–one bird calling

Blue Jay–one bird calling and seen in the trees

American Crow–heard off in the distance

Chimney Swift–3 birds flew over the yard twice

Gray Catbird–at least 3 birds singing in the yard and flying around

Common Yellowthroat–one male singing in the side yard

American Goldfinch–2 birds came into the feeders

House Wren–at least one bird singing

White-breasted Nuthatch–at least 3 birds in yard, visiting feeder and flying around

Tufted Titmouse–1 bird came into the feeders

Downy Woodpecker–at least 2 birds flying around, coming to suet feeder

Great Crested Flycatcher–1 bird calling in neighborhood

Pileated Woodpecker–heard only, in side yard

Ruby-throated Hummingbird–male coming occasionally to feeder

American Robin–heard only, alarm call

Eastern Wood Pewee–heard only, briefly

Northern Cardinal–male and female seen, female at suet feeder

House Sparrow–male came in to feeders briefly

Turkey Vulture–finally my 20th bird of the morning after an hour and a half in the yard

House Finch–a female landing briefly in top of tree in side yard

Osprey–low flyover house while retrieving recycling containers from roadside

Constant bird action in the yard, but not a lot of variety.  A pretty typical June day in the yard.

Dog Days of June

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Summer backyard birding setup off my patio (near to far)–suet feeder, hummingbird feeder, black sunflower feeder, OldBird21c microphone, hawk watch chair, water drip (in back to left of spruce tree).

Migration has ground to a near stop.  A few birds are moving–I got two keep calls and one American Redstart call the other night–but things are way slow.  The first juvenile Northern Cardinals showed up in the yard yesterday, and bird song is much reduced.  It can take an hour and a half just to get my 20 Bird Minimum Daily Requirement some mornings.  I will probably keep recording at night, just in case, but am being less fastidious about making daytime recordings.  I’m still watching the sky for some late migrants or flyovers but haven’t had much luck with that in the evenings.  It’s a busy month with my daughter’s high school graduation, out of town visitors, and scout camp.  But a good month to catch up on reviewing overnight recordings and to get ready for fall migration.

And hopefully still get a few new birds for the year!

May Monthly Update

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It’s May, the migrants are back! Loving the daily Chimney Swift flyovers.

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!

MOWA 25 May

Mourning Warbler Nova Scotia regiolect song.

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.


A nice flock of flyover Double-crested Cormorant.


Emblematic of the poor photo big year results in May–doc shot of a Veery.

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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.

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Dickcissel flight call, 28 May.

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.

Mourning Warbler

Mourning Warbler  (Code 3)  25 May 2015

Area: Rare but regular migrant, only reported once or a few times each year.

Yard: Apparently a rare migrant, possibly regular and detectable during nocturnal migration by flight call.  One bird recorded singing in side yard 25 May 2015.  Song confirmed by Dr. Jay Pitocchelli of the Mourning Warbler Song Mapping Project as belonging the Nova Scotia Regiolect.

MOWA 25 May

Mystery Calls (Cont.)

The nights of May 25 and May 26 I recorded several similar calls.  I’m not sure what they are, but sound almost flycatchery to me.  Spectrograms are a hump shape peaking around 4-5kHz.  Take a listen and see.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron (Code 3)  4 May 2015

Area: Locally rare summer resident, most often found at Spruce Run Reservoir.  Only one or two birds seen most years.

Yard: Apparently uncommon though regular spring (and summer?) migrant or resident, detected by call with OldBird21c microphone.

Audio: Flight call, 26 May 2015 4:55am

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Dickcissel (Code 3)  28 May 2015

Area: Rare local summer resident and possible breeder, rare migrant.

Yard: Probably detectable annually during nocturnal migration with microphone.

Audio: Flight call recorded 2:58am, 28 May 2015.

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Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher (Code 3)   25 May 2015

Area: Locally uncommon breeding species across Hunterdon County in open areas with brushy vegetation.

Yard: First record for the yard was a bird heard singing via the OldBird21c microphone at 11:43pm on 25 May 2015.

Audio: 25 May 2015, 11:43pm

WIFL 25 May 11-45pm

Late May

Warblers still continue very sparse, but did get lucky this morning while birding in my bathrobe and flip-flop I heard a Mourning Warbler singing in my side yard.  Although I tried to see it for over half an hour, I never did get a glimpse of it, but here’s a spectrogram and audio:

MOWA 25 May

Actually been having a heck of a time getting photos of birds lately now that the leaves are out.  I’ve added a few to the photo list, but none of the shots are all that great.  For example, here’s the best I could do of a Veery from a few days ago:



Without having gone through very many of my night recordings, I’m at 135 for the year.  I’m sure to have more species on some of those recordings–but when I’ve got spare time I’ve been trying to spend it in the yard, rather than on the laptop reviewing recordings.