It was a long weekend, and so was my to do list. But I did manage to get some birding in for the GBBC. Some of it was even done from the car while driving home from work and the next few days while running errands! You don’t have to have boots on the ground and binoculars around your neck to bird.
As I turned onto the heading home after work Friday, I immediately saw some bird activity in a tree, and then caught sight of a Cassin’s Kingbird as it flew to another tree where I heard it calling. My first countable bird! By the time I had driven the 30-40 yards to my house, I’d also got Cooper’s Hawk, Mourning Dove, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a whole bunch of Crows (they head northeast in the evening where they gather in huge numbers to roost and then head southwest again in the morning). The next morning, while driving home after running errands, I caught sight of two separate Red-tailed Hawks trying to find breakfast.
Mornings are an excellent time to bird, so while walking the dog Sunday morning, I added Phainopepla, Scrub Jay, Mockingbird, White Crowned Sparrow, and Lesser Goldfinch. The female Phainopepla, with her grayish brown color and crest, was singing and calling. I tried to get close enough to see her red eye, but without my binoculars, that didn’t happen.
My back yard feeder and fountain also attract birds, so over the four-day event, I added House Finch, California Towhee, Western Bluebird, Spotted Towhee, Rufous Crowned Sparrow, and Eurasian Collard Dove.
Since Monday was President’s Day, I decided to grab the dog and take her to the high school where she could wander around off-leash. Since I live on a canyon, off-leash is not a good idea at any parks close by, or even on the street leading to my house. But at the high school, she wandered and sniffed while I added additional species of Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Say’s Phoebe, Western Bluebird, European Starlings, and a few Western Gulls flying by and hanging out in the mall parking lot. I also saw two Anna’s Hummingbirds. I only saw one at first but knew there was a female close by because the male was doing his territorial/mating display. He climbs way up, then swoops down close to the female, fanning the tail feathers to make a loud popping sound, then climbs back up to do it again and again. Its fun to watch, and once you know what’s going on, you can usually find the female. I’ve also seen this display done to scare a California Towhee off the fence and out of a male’s territory, or so he thought!
All in all, I had a fun time birding during the Great Backyard Bird Count this year. I think 23 confirmed species is a good number for just fitting it in where I could.
While watching birds at my feeder today, I saw a couple Western Bluebirds. Not unexpected, but not something I see everyday in my backyard. A real surprise would be the male Phainopepla I saw a month or so ago, but that’s a story for a different time.
Anyway, I started thinking how easy it is to bird from my own yard. Living on a canyon helps a lot, but the diversity of wildlife we have in San Diego County plays a big role too. I started remembering some of the many birding trips I’ve taken to place like McAllen, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; and San Felipe, Baja California, just to name a few. Then I remembered how easy it is to actually bird from my own yard.
In less than a week, Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count will take place again from February 12 to February 15, 2021. I’ve done it a number of times from my own yard, but also while I was walking the dog at the lake. It doesn’t matter how good a birder you are; anyone can participate. All you need to do watch birds for as little as 15 minutes or longer. You can do it once or several times a day over the four-day period from any location. Then just report your sightings at birdcount.org so the numbers can be included in the count. Check out the website for more information and to get the latest promotional and educational resources.
Now who’s ready to start counting birds?