alaskabirder

Its a Great Day to Bird

Month: January 2015

What is at Your Bird Feeder?

In a previous blog I wrote about Project FeederWatch, a nationally recognized citizen science project. We are already into week 10, and we still only get about 5 different species of birds: Pine Grosbeaks (most abundant), Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadees, Common Redpolls (least abundant), and Gray Jays.   The weather hasn’t been nasty enough (cold, snow, windy) for the Gray-crowned Rosy-finches to appear.  The Pine Grosbeaks are here virtually every day, although their numbers vary depending on the weather.

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And a Grosbeak in a Spruce Tree

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Pine Grosbeak

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Pine Grosbeaks at feeder

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Up, up, and away

Each year, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology publishes the results of the previous year’s Project FeederWatch Program. I was reviewing a list of the most popular species for Alaska and Northern Canada and was surprised to find Common Ravens as number two in terms of percent of sites reporting this species (61%). We have never had a Common Raven come to our feeder. Not sure what others are using to attract this species, but I am curious.

Project FeederWatch is a popular citizen science project involving over 20,236 participants in the United States and Canada. Pretty impressive!!!

We did add a second feeder to the mix. We now have three feeders. Two are close together, while the other is located on the opposite side of the house. Whenever the Black-billed Magpie decides to come to the main feeder the Pine Grosbeaks make a hasty retreat and fly to the smaller satellite feeder.

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Our secondary feeder for when the magpies are taking over the main feeder. We have gotten up to 15 Grosbeaks feeding at the feeder, including on the ground. As you can see we have no snow and green grass. Is it really Jan. and winter?

In watching the birds I’ve also noticed that when the black sunflower seeds have mostly been consumed and the Pine Grosbeaks leave, the Black-capped Chickadees will actually spend more time at the feeders. If the Pine Grosbeaks are present, the chickadees will fly in, grab a seed in their beak, and they fly back to the protection of the shrubs and trees nearby. There is definitely a “pecking” order for the birds visiting our feeder, although the Common Redpoll doesn’t seem to care who is at the feeder.

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Common Redpoll feeding with a male Pine Grosbeak

There are a lot of great websites providing information on what to feed birds, when to feed birds, where to place bird feeders, providing water for birds, and more. Here are a couple of my favorite websites;

Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citsci/take-action/2014/11/dos-and-donts-of-feeder-placement/?utm_source=Cornell+Lab+eNews&utm_campaign=fdd1ecaf95-Cornell_Lab_eNews_2014_12_04&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_47588b5758-fdd1ecaf95-302736213

Homer Christmas Bird Count Finale

For the 2014 Christmas Bird Count over 20 intrepid birders and one KBBI Reporter (Quinton Chandler) observed 67 species on Count Day and a total of 9,483 birds. During count week (the three days before and the three days following Count Day) an additional 8 species were observed.

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Pine Grosbeak

Temperatures weren’t too bad – 30s, and with only a light wind, however, skies were overcast making it difficult for some of us (yes, me included) to see the birds in detail. While it started getting light at around 9:00 am, it wasn’t until 10:00 am that the birds in my count area (Area #5) started moving around. The first birds “heard” were Golden-crowned Kinglets. My group (Jack Wiles, Nancy Lord, and myself) was surprised that more birds weren’t spotted. And despite being in an area with lots of spruce trees the numbers of Pine Grosbeaks and Boreal and Black-capped Chickadees observed were much less than expected. We were fortunate enough to have part of Kachemak Bay in our count area. This allowed us to observe 24 different species in the varied habitats of our count area, including a large raft of 500+ Black Scoters. Despite not seeing large numbers of birds, we did have an enjoyable day because it is always a “GREAT DAY TO BIRD”.

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Nancy Lord checking out the birds at the Overlook Turnout

The American Coot continued to hang out at Beluga Slough allowing counters to find and record this species new to our Christmas Bird Count list of species (species observed over 39 years of participation in the Christmas Bird Count in Homer). Other highlights included a Horned Puffin (definitely a late migrant), Rusty Blackbirds, a single Townsend’s Solitaire, and a single Cedar Waxwing amongst the more numerous Bohemian Waxwings. Near the end of the count period my group found a flock of about 50 Bohemiam Waxwings and seven American Robins feeding on the fruit of a crab apple tree – a last minute feeding rush before heading to their roosting locations. Even a few lingering Varied Thrush were spotted.

During Count Week a Trumpeter Swan was observed at Mud Bay. While we do have Trumpeter Swans that breed on Beluga Lake in the summer, we don’t generally have occasion to see swans during the winter. Anyone wanting their fix of swans during the winter generally head to the Kenai River and Kenai Lake at Copper’s Landing. I’ve seen as many as 26 swans here during the winter (January). Whether they can be seen there or not depends in large part on the availability of open water. With our mild winters, I suspect there will be a number of swans around.

There was a high number of White-winged Crossbills and Pine Siskins observed. This is most likely due to the fact that our spruce trees have produced a bumper crop of cones. Some trees are simply loaded down with cones.

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Spruce tree with lots of cones

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Christmas Bird Count – A Great Day to Bird

Count Day Species

American Wigeon 135

Greater Scaup 319

scaup sp. 7

Mallard 1055

Northern Pintail 1

Harlequin Duck 39

Surf Scoter 68

White‐winged Scoter 14

Black Scoter 847

Long‐tailed Duck 74

Bufflehead 28

Common Goldeneye 73

Barrow’s Goldeneye 8

goldeneye sp. 2

Common Merganser 5

Red‐breasted Merganser 1

merganser sp. 1

Red‐throated Loon 2

Pacific Loon 6

Common Loon 29

Yellow‐billed Loon 1

loon sp. 2

Horned Grebe 33

Red‐necked Grebe 11

Pelagic Cormorant 50

cormorant sp. 4

Bald Eagle – Mature 79; Immature 13

Northern Goshawk 1

American Coot 1

Rock Sandpiper 300

Mew Gull 64

Herring Gull 1

Glaucous‐winged Gull 184

Glaucous‐winged Gull X Herring Gull (hybrid) 1

Marbled Murrelet 1

murrelet sp. 2

Horned Puffin 1

Common Murre 7

Rock Pigeon 6

Great Horned Owl 1

Northern Saw‐whet Owl 1

Downy Woodpecker 6

Hairy Woodpecker 2

Northern Shrike 3

Gray Jay 31

Steller’s Jay 25

Black‐billed Magpie 96

Northwestern Crow 331

Common Raven 82

Black‐capped Chickadee 129

Boreal Chickadee 52

Red‐breasted Nuthatch 53

American Dipper 1

Pacific Wren 1

Golden‐crowned Kinglet 10

Ruby‐crowned Kinglet 1

Townsend’s Solitaire 1

Ring‐necked Pheasant 4

American Robin 104

Varied Thrush 6

Bohemian Waxwing 305

Cedar Waxwing 1

American Tree Sparrow 1

Song Sparrow 5

White‐crowned Sparrow 16

Golden‐crowned Sparrow 1

Dark‐eyed (Slate‐colored) Junco 4

Snow Bunting 90

Rusty Blackbird 15

Gray‐crowned Rosy‐Finch 102

Pine Grosbeak 153

White‐winged Crossbill 2070

Common Redpoll 63

Pine Siskin 2019

small finch sp. 210

Total Species (count day) = 67

Total Numbers = 9,483

 

Count Week 

Northern Shoveler

Trumpeter Swan 

Pigeon Guillemot

Eurasian Wigeon

Northern Pintail X Mallard (hybrid)

Steller’s Eider

American Pipit

Sharp‐shinned Hawk

Green‐winged Teal

Total Additional Species (count week) = 8

Hybrid Birds are not included in the count number

Bold ‐ new species for Homer Christmas Bird Count

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