Thursday, February 24, 2011

Backyard Birds (A GBBC Retrospective)

I didn't do the Great Backyard Bird Count this year for the simple reason that I spaced out and forgot it was taking place. But I've been thinking a lot about my backyard birds and the pleasure they give me. I work at home, and as I type away at my laptop, I can look out my window at just about any time and see a Northern Cardinal or even a Baltimore Oriole flitting around my feeders. What's not to like?

But the best thing about backyard birding is the sense of place it gives me. The inventory of birds in my yard reminds me of where I am in time and space, and connects me to the physical world in an intimate and tangible way. When I see Yellow-throated Warblers on my feeder in January, I am reminded that I am now in Florida, not back in California, nor anywhere else in the eastern U.S. The birds tell me this is home now. This is where I am, and where I have to make all the new connections in my life.

The birds tell me not only where I am now, but where I've been. As a thought experiment, I've compiled cumulative bird lists for the last few places I've called home, and I'm giving them below. The differences among them are stunning.

My Current Backyard Bird List (Gainesville, Florida)

Birds seen or heard in my back yard, or seen or heard flying overhead:
Northern Cardinal
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Indigo Bunting
American Crow
Fish Crow
Boat-tailed Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
Pine Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Blue Jay
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
Red-shouldered Hawk
Barred Owl
Mississippi Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite
Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Eastern Phoebe
Brown-headed Cowbird
strange greenish thing that may or may not have been a female Painted Bunting

Bonus birds: Seen or heard within 100 yards of home:
Sandhill Crane
Whooping Crane (no, really!)
White Ibis
Cattle Egret
Northern Shrike
Northern Mockingbird
Summer Tanager
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Flicker

Where I hang out on vacation: Bird list for my parents' place in Los Angeles:

Birds seen or heard in or flying over their back yard:
Mourning Dove
California Quail
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
Anna's Hummingbird
Rufous/Allen's Hummingbird
California Towhee
Spotted Towhee
White-crowned Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
California Thrasher
Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow
American Raven
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Great Horned Owl
Hooded Oriole
Bullock's Oriole
Mountain Chickadee
Greater Roadrunner
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)
House Wren
Bewick's Wren
Black Phoebe

Bonus Bird: Seen or heard within 100 yards of the house:
Zone-tailed Hawk (seen by my husband)

Bird list for my last home: Costa Mesa, California:

Birds seen in the public areas immediately adjacent to our apartment, or seen flying overhead:
Mallard (wild)
Mallard (domestic)
Great Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Black Phoebe
Mourning Dove
American Crow
Townsend's Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)
House Finch
Black-headed Grosbeak
Western Tanager
Tree Swallow
Great Horned Owl
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Anna's Hummingbird

Bonus Birds (seen or heard within 100 yards of the apartment complex):
American Wigeon
Double-crested Cormorant
Downy Woodpecker
House Sparrow
Northern Mockingbird
Rock Pigeon

What's in your back yard?


Jen said...

Awesome... It really is interesting to see the differences in the lists. We just got snow which never happens in Portland so I've been watching my feeders all morning.. The best (or most entertaining) action is the Northern Flickers keeping the starlings off the suet.

troutbirder said...

What a wonderful and interesting birding blog. I love it. We recently spent some time birding from Fort Myers, our 2nd time ever. Last year we went to spring training to watch the Twins. Then I realized what terrific places there were to bird and so we went back this year. I did join the Backyard thing this year but none of my were as interesting as you though I did see a Merlin. :)