For the Birds: Time to count the birds

Photo by Chris Bosak A fox sparrow perches on the snow in Danbury, Conn., Nov. 16, 2018.

It’s time to help the birds again.

As usual, New Hampshire Audubon’s Backyard Winter Bird Survey and the Great Backyard Bird Count take place on the weekend so you can kill two birds with … oh wait, bad expression. You can help two birds (really all of them) with one walk in the woods. New Hampshire Audubon’s Backyard Winter Bird Survey takes place Saturday, Feb. 13, and Sunday, Feb. 14. Your job is to count birds on those days and submit your results (species and number of individual birds) to the organization to help biologists better understand what is going on with our winter birds. These annual snapshots of data give biologists a broader picture of bird populations and behavior. It helps ornithologists better understand and perhaps find patterns in the winter irruptions of finches and other northern birds. Irruptions are when food scarcity up north drives birds down to New Hampshire and farther south.

This fall and winter have been particularly strong for red-breasted nuthatches. I have two of them visiting every day, and many readers have emailed me to say these cute little birds are visiting them as well. Real data on these birds will be critical to get when submitted by participants of the survey.

Other irruptive species include pine siskin, common redpoll, purple finch, evening grosbeak, pine grosbeak, red-winged crossbill, white-winged crossbill and snowy owl. Are these birds visiting your backyard or favorite place to walk in the woods? Let the New Hampshire Audubon biologists know. Count the common birds as well, of course. That data is just as valuable to have.

The survey is open to everyone, regardless of skill level. Spend an hour or 30 hours counting the birds that weekend and submit your results online at the New Hampshire Audubon website. You may also receive a hard copy of the reporting form and instructions by emailing your name and address to bwbs@nhaudubon.org or calling 224-9909.

While you’re out there (or in there if you’re watching backyard feeders) counting birds, you may as well submit your results to the Great Backyard Bird Count, too. The GBBC started in 1998 as a relatively small initiative to get a snapshot of winter bird populations across the country. It has mushroomed into a global phenomenon with more than 160,000 checklists turned in online worldwide last year. According to GBBC officials, it created the “largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded.”

The GBBC runs from Friday, Feb. 12, to Monday, Feb. 15. Again, all skill levels are welcome, participation is free and no set time commitment is required. Visit www.birdcount.org for more information and instructions on how to submit results.

What will show up on New Hampshire checklists? It’s hard to say. It’s been a strange winter with a sage thrasher being seen regularly in Hinsdale, boreal chickadees being found on Mount Monadnock far from their northern range, a red-headed woodpecker frequenting Keene and evening grosbeaks showing up everywhere in the Granite State. Have your say and participate in the NH Audubon Winter Bird Survey and GBBC.

I heard from some readers this week who will have some interesting sightings to submit if the birds stick around for a few more weeks. Mimi from Troy reported seeing double-digit numbers of blue jays, chickadees and juncos, as well as several white-breasted nuthatches, red-breasted nuthatches, cardinals, mourning doves, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, evening grosbeaks and three eastern bluebirds. The bluebirds have been eating mealworms and suet.

Brian from Keene sent some great photos not related to the winter surveys, but as a follow up to last week’s column about the importance of saving native insects. I had mentioned that fish feed on insects and birds such as herons feed on the fish, hence the important, but sometimes indirect, role insects play in helping birds. Brian sent some photos he took a few years ago of a great blue heron eating grasshoppers. It reminded me of when I watched a green heron eating dragonflies near a pond several years ago. Mark your calendars for next weekend, and let me know what you find out there.

For the Birds: Get out and count – for the birds

Photo by Chris Bosak An American Robin perches on a rock at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.
Photo by Chris Bosak
An American Robin perches on a rock at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015. Flocks of robins often show up during winter bird counts

I am guilty. I admit it.

Even though I have preached in this column before about the importance of participating in citizen science studies and turning in results, whether those results are good or bad, I often do not submit my “bad walks.”

Take eBird, for example.

Even though it would valuable to report all of my walks to this online bird database, I often submit only results for the walks that yield unique or plentiful species. I saw only two chickadees and a turkey vulture flyover, I say to myself. How is that data going to be valuable?

In reality, that data is just as valuable as the results I turn in when the birding is good. Scientists who track this data need to know what’s going on out there at all times, not just when a lot of birds are around.

Is there a problem brewing with a certain species? Biologists will never know Continue reading

More Brown Creeper photos from #GBBC

Photo by Chris Bosak A Brown Creeper finds food at the base of a tree during a cold snap in February 2016, Danbury, Connecticut.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Brown Creeper finds food at the base of a tree during a cold snap in February 2016, Danbury, Connecticut.

Here are some more shots of the Brown Creeper that visited my yard during the cold snap experienced in New England over the weekend. With temperatures at or even below zero for much of the weekend, it wasn’t easy snapping photos of birds in the yard, but the thrill of seeing these energetic, albeit rather nondescript, birds made me forget about the cold for the time being.

Brown Creepers may not be much to look at with their small size and white and brown coloring, they are a thrill to see nonetheless. They are rather common in New England, but it’s not a bird you see every day, or in great n Continue reading

Brown Creeper and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker pay a visit

Photo by Chris Bosak Brown Creeper at base of tree.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Brown Creeper at base of tree.

At one point today a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was on the suet feeder and a Brown Creeper crept along the base of an adjacent tree. Neither are earth-shattering sightings, but both are rather unusual in my part of New England at Merganser Lake. In fact, it was the first time I had ever seen a sapsucker at one of my feeders. I even managed to get a decent photograph of the Brown Creeper, a species that can be tricky to shoot.

The photos accompanying this post, admittedly, don’t look that great. They are merely photos I took with my iPhone of the display screen of my camera. When I have more time I’ll get to a computer and download the photos, but for now the mediocre iPhone will have to do. Thanks for your patience. I wanted to post this as soon as possible as this is Great Backyard Bird Count weekend. It runs through Monday, so maybe this posting will inspire others to participate. For more information, click here.

Photo by Chris Bosak Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on suet feeder.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on suet feeder.

Release: Great Backyard Bird Count sets new species record

GBBC2014

Here’s a press release from the Great Backyard Bird Count folks: All text and photos below the dotted line are directly from the release.

I love the charts they compile following this count. Great photos included, too.

Here’s my post directly following the GBBC.

………………………

New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON–Participants from more than 100 countries submitted a record 147, 265 bird checklists for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count and broke the previous count record for the number of species identified. The 5,090 species reported represents nearly half the possible bird species in the world. The four-day count was held February 13-16, the 18th year for the event which is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.

The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale made possible by using the eBird online checklist program. A sampling of species found by intrepid counters include Ibisbill in India, Bornean Bistlehead in Malaysia, and  Continue reading

My GBBC highlights

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Bufflehead swims in Gorham's Pond, Nov. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Bufflehead swims in Darien.

I hit Weed Beach this morning for the Great Backyard Bird Count. The woods were fairly quiet, but the water offered some good birds. Some of the highlights were about a dozen Black-capped Chickadees, some American Robins, a Northern Mockingbirds, several Red-breasted Mergansers, a few Gadwall, dozens of American Black Ducks, dozens of Bufflehead and a couple Common Goldeneye.

So what was on your list? Feel free to comment below.

More information is available here.