Monday, February 21, 2011

Great Backyard Bird Count species list for Sunday, 2/20/11

Here's the Great Backyard Bird Count species list for Sunday, 2/20/11:

Canada Goose - 74
American Black Duck - 9
Mallard - 130
Greater Scaup - 74
Common Goldeneye - 62
Red-breasted Merganser - 4
Ring-billed Gull - 3
Herring Gull - 5
Gull species - 335 (i.e., birds were too far away to ID exact species)
Rock Pigeon - 15
American Crow - 13
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
Eastern Bluebird - 2
American Robin - 4
Dark-eyed Junco - 11
Northern Cardinal - 4
House Finch - 2
House Sparrow - 9

Great Backyard Bird Count species list for Friday, 2/18/11

Here's the Great Backyard Bird Count species list for Friday, 2/18/11:
Canada Goose - 36
 Mallard - 23
 Greater Scaup - 300
 Lesser Scaup - 1
 Common Goldeneye - 75
 Red-breasted Merganser - 1
 Cooper's Hawk - 1
 Red-tailed Hawk - 1
 American Kestrel - 1
 Ring-billed Gull - 3
 Herring Gull - 8
 Gull species - 9,053 (i.e., birds were too far away to ID exact species)
 Rock Pigeon - 11
 Mourning Dove - 1
 Downy Woodpecker - 1
 American Crow - 12
 Horned Lark - 1
 Black-capped Chickadee - 2
 White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
 Eastern Bluebird - 2
 American Robin - 11
 European Starling - 102
 Cedar Waxwing - 15
 Snow Bunting - 2
 Dark-eyed Junco - 2
 Northern Cardinal - 1
 House Finch - 2
 American Goldfinch - 3
 House Sparrow - 8

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Milwaukee Lakefront, 2/15-2/16 - Two new 2011 BIGBY species

I walked the southern portion of my BIGBY route on Tuesday and Wednesday, adding one new 2011 BIGBY bird each day. My BIGBY count for the year is now 57 species.

What a difference a day can make on the lakefront. On Tuesday there was a lot of open water in Milwaukee Harbor. Yesterday the harbor was jammed shut with ice floes. Here's a "before" picture from Tuesday: (the dark line in the middle of the photo is ducks, mostly Greater Scaups). And here's an "after" photo from yesterday, taken from pretty much the same spot: I'm thinking the ice must have come from the Milwaukee River, which flows into the harbor? On Tuesday there were thousands of Scaups in the harbor. Yesterday I could only find six.

Some birding highlights:

* Mute Swan behind the art museum (Tuesday). 2011 BIGBY species #56. Here's a photo of the swan asleep on the ice:

* Horned Lark (Wednesday). 2011 BIGBY species #57. A slow but steady trickle of flyovers above Lakeshore State Park, plus one on the rocks.

* On Tuesday a flock of at least 1,000 Scaups flew by at close range. Interesting sound with all the wing-whistling.

* There's been an influx of Mallards this week. Not that long ago I could find only a few. Tuesday and Wednesday I recorded at least 200. Most were sleeping on the ice, but this one was eyeing me suspiciously:

* I think I'm seeing an increase in Ring-billed Gulls. A sign of spring?

* The crows look like they've found a new sport: harrassing gulls on the ice. There were several crows tormenting gulls. They would land on the ice and walk up to a gull cawing racously until the gull flew off. One bird would actually yank on a gull's tail feathers if the gull tried to ignore it.

* Saw a Red Fox AND a Gray Fox in Lakeshore State Park. Too far away for decent photos. Interesting that I see them out in broad daylight fairly frequently, since Red Foxes are usually diurnal hunters and Gray Foxes are usually nocturnal hunters. I have a new theory about this "abnormal" behavior. I've been seeing coyote tracks in the snow in the park, and I've read that foxes tend to avoid coyotes. Maybe they're active in the daylight because they're less likely to run into coyotes at that time of day? Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fifty Milwaukee walking BIGBY species in January 2011

With January over I decided to tally the species count for the first month of my 2011 walking BIGBY. I had exactly 50 species for the month. What is a walking BIGBY? See my blog:

Here are my first 50 species of the new year, in rough taxonomic order:

Canada Goose
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Barrow's Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Northern Goshawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Herring Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
Greater Black Back Gull
Iceland Gull
Glaucous Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
American Tree Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Snow Bunting
Northern Cardinal
Meadowlark species (couldn't confirm Eastern or Western)
Purple Finch
House Finch
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

What the heck is a BIGBY?

Several Montreal-area birders started doing a Big Green Big Year (BIGBY) in 2008. While the definition of a BIGBY can be rather fluid, it focuses on birders reducing their carbon footprint while familiarizing themselves with the birds on their own local patch of land.
In my case, I am doing what is called a "walking BIGBY", keeping track of the birds I see while walking from home. This year (2011) is the fourth year I've done this, starting out in southern Indiana (Bloomington) in 2008. I moved to Milwaukee half way through 2010. I had 152 species on my 2010 Indiana list, and I had 193 species on my 2010 Wisconsin BIGBY list. And then I kept a "combo" BIGBY list for all of 2010. After accounting for the overlap between my Indiana and Wisconsin BIGBY lists, I came up with a total of 232 BIGBY species for the calendar year, a personal record. 
Here are a couple of informational items about BIGBYing:
BIGBY informational web page:
BIGBY newsletter:
BIGBY e-mail list:
And here are four brief articles I've written about my BIGBY experiences for the newsletter of the local Audubon Society chapter in southern Indiana. Note: the URL takes you to the newsletter issue as a whole. You will need to scroll down to the applicable page number.
In My Backyard: Big Green Big Year Satisfies. The Leaflet (newsletter). January/February 2009. ARTICLE ON PAGE 5.
Big Green Big Year — 2008 Summary of Four Experiences. The Leaflet (newsletter). March/April 2009. ARTICLE ON PAGE 6.
Big Green Big Year 2009: It’s All About Location, Location, Location. The Leaflet (newsletter). July/August 2009. ARTICLE ON PAGE 8.
Green Birding 2009. The Leaflet (newsletter). January/February 2010. ARTICLE ON PAGE 8.