Saturday, February 19, 2011

Great Backyard Bird Count: Day 1

Yesterday morning I did some birding for the Great Backyard Bird Count. First, I did a short count in the yard. The highlight was a flock of Fish Crows passing overhead. Fish Crows have mostly been absent this winter, except for a stray individual here and there. So it is exciting to see their return, and yesterday's flock was the first I have seen since sometime last year. Blackbird flocks have also returned this week, and a few were around the yard yesterday. They are not yet at their peak migration numbers, when flocks of a thousand or more will sometimes appear in the trees around the house.

I followed that with a walk around the local park. There were no redpolls this time, unfortunately; those birds seem to appear and disappear quickly around here. I did see a lot of sparrows, including a couple of American Tree Sparrows, which I had not seen at that location so far this year. There were more Fish Crows; in fact the Fish Crows outnumbered the American Crows yesterday. A few hundred blackbirds were spread over several flocks. Somewhat surprisingly, Brown-headed Cowbirds outnumbered the others, but Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles both were well represented. Other returning birds included Killdeer, which has been mostly absent this winter. This week the local gull population has been shifting. For most of the winter, Herring Gulls were in the majority by far, with small numbers of Ring-billed Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls. This week, Ring-billed Gulls have had a clear majority. Yesterday they outnumbered Herring Gulls about 5:1.

One other interesting bird was this Canada Goose, wearing an orange neck collar with the code H8W1. It was with a group of about 20 geese. Most of them were wearing metal leg bands, but this was the lone goose with a neck collar. I took some photos of it and reported the code on the collar to the Bird Banding Laboratory. It will probably take a few weeks before I get a response, but I will post it here when I do.