4 Blue Jays, 12 Dark-eyed Juncos, 6 Tufted Titmice, 6 Black-capped Chickadees, a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers, 1 Hairy Woodpecker, 1 Crow, 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, 1 American Tree Sparrow, 2 Cardinals, 1 Carolina Wren
Category Archives: citizen science
Can you spare a few minutes for the next 4 days to count birds at your feeders? No feeders? S’okay. You don’t need feeders, you can go to the local park or wildlife refuge. You can also include fly-overs and birds you hear if you are sure of the call. Yes, It is time once again for the Great Backyard Bird Count. I love that this event is short, only 4 days and that I can count as much or as little as I can or have time for. It is not a huge commitment, BUT your data combined with that of all the other participants can help give a glimpse of the bird population this winter.
Remember last year when we were awash in Pine Siskins? This year I have nary a one. But luckily, I do not need to have rare or unusual birds to participate in the count. I want my lone American Tree Sparrow to be counted. It comes very winter by itself and hangs around with the Junco crowd. I have a Carolina Wren or maybe 2 and lots of Chickadees and Titmice and Nutchatches.
It is going to be cold this weekend, so bundle up when you go and keep me posted.
As soon as I turned off the engine, I heard the sliding song of a Prairie Warbler. While not one of the targeted species, at least it was something. The grassland survey has been a disappointment so far. The route maps were vague, and the variety and number of species were so low that I was disheartened. Determined to persevere, and finished what I had started, I grabbed my pad and pencil, got out of the car, and sucked in a lungful of the aroma of the country: of grass, and cow manure and the sweet heady scent of the flowering Black Locusts. Ah, fresh country air. I waited the requisite two minutes reveling in the big sky, then started to listen.
From the stream flowing through the field a Bullfrog boomed, drowning out every other sound. I listened in vain for any bird song. I walked across the road hoping to put some distance between my ears and his voice; but it was only marginally better. I tried tuning him out. Red-wing Blackbirds were everywhere hopping up and down in the high grass; Song Sparrows sang; (Bullfrog) Common Yellowthroat; (Bullfrog, again, egads were there more than one?) a Carolina Wren chortled from somewhere near the Bullfrog; a Catbird mewed in a hedge row; (Bullfrog) a Yellow Warbler sang sweetly; (Bullfrog). Grrr, that dratted Bullfrog was getting on my nerves! I crossed behind the car thinking my movement would startle the frog into silence. I peered into the shadowed water. I didn’t see it. Or hear it. I guess the ploy worked. As flash of yellow caught my eye as a Meadowlark landed in a tall roadside Cedar tree; I made a note, finally one of the target birds. Hearing the faint buzz of a Grasshopper Sparrow, I whirled around to listen and look behind me. Off in the distance wafted the bouncing song of a Field Sparrow. I made more notes. I glanced at my watch; my time was up. As I walked back to the car, the Bullfrog started to bellow again. I smiled to myself in a childish way and thought “Ha, ha, fooled you.” It will be interesting to see if he is still at it in a few weeks when I come back for Survey part II.
Have you ever been involved in a citizen science bird survey? New Jersey Audubon conducts several every year: Shorebirds, Piedmont, Pinelands, Nightjar, Harbour Herons, and Grasslands. Pick one. Participating allows you and me to be part of something bigger. It lets the average John Q. (Or in the case, Jane) Birding-Public help collect large amounts of data on bird species across a wide geographic area. The Christmas Bird Count? Same thing.
When the call went out this year for the participants for the Grasslands Bird survey, I signed up. As a group grassland birds are declining more than any other species. But through NJ’s Landowner Incentive Program that provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners interested in conversation, there is hope. Or at least we are hoping there is hope. That is what we are trying to find out.
DJ Brown, Suzanne and I went to the mandatory training session, got our routes, street maps, aerial maps, forms to be completed, grassland bird call CDs and super official letters and car placards. The instructor reviewed the expected bird species, survey methodology, and answered questions. Honestly it has a little more rigor than I was thinking it would. I was thinking of it more as a drive in the country with a few stops, when in actuality, I am part of the control group. You heard me right, control group. Remember them? Holy flash back, shades of 9th grade science class.
But, I also remember growing up to the bouncing call of Field Sparrows in the farm fields all around us; the flash of black and white as Bobolink leapt out of the grass and being curious about grasshoppers impaled on barbed wire. But I now live in NJ where suburban sprawl is eating up the grassland and the birds are disappearing. So I am doing my part in providing the science in the hope that someone else may have those same memories.