2021 Birdathon

This spring I joined a couple of teams for the local chapter of the Audubon Society’s annual Birdathon. Due to the ongoing pandemic, just about all the teams had moved to a distributed model where members birded on their own or with household members on a set day.

The first team was very Purgatory-centric, and the story of that day is thus up over at purgatory.org, but I decided to put the write-ups for the other two teams here since I had ventured a bit further than our ranch-borders.

The first team I joined birded on April 18th and the caveat was birding within one mile of your home. Here is the write-up and some of the images from that day.

I was up in the morning and sat at my desk with my coffee and watched the birds in the north garden.  The usual suspects were present, but I was on the lookout for our five recent spring arrivals: the orioles (Bullocks and Hooded), Chipping Sparrow, White-Throated Sparrow and a pair of Lawrence Goldfinches.  I spotted most of them plus noticed that most of the resident birds have been pairing up — I spied two House Finches getting it on as well as the Thrashers courting.  After 30 minutes or so I setup my trail cams as added insurance in case I missed any excitement and then set about with morning chores.  Once finished I brought my two parrots in from their garden cage so they could enjoy breakfasts indoors and nap while took a walk. I went out our main driveway and was delighted to hear Western Meadowlarks before heading down the hillside.   I found a Red-Tailed Hawk nest in one of the trees down near the creek bed and spotted some Tree Swallows out and about as well as a pair of Ravens.  I decided to do the short loop back to our south pasture and spotted a couple of Pine Siskins which was interesting since I haven’t seen any up near the house in a couple of weeks.  Along the low road I dodged the Wild Turkeys until I got back to grassier areas which again are nesting grounds for Red-Winged Blackbirds and Black-Headed Cowbirds.  I made my way back up to the house and cooled off with an iced-coffee while catching up on email and glancing out into the garden.  In the late afternoon I walked out to our old pole barn to photograph the Barn Swallows and see if an owl or two were napping in the rafters.  No owls, but I managed to find our fickle Black Phoebes.  Before it got too late I hopped in the mini-truck and drove up the mountain to try to find the White-Tailed Kite seen on past walks.  I got lucky and even got a few pictures before it disappeared—I didn’t realize until I got home that on its last diving run it had been successful.  I then meandered back down picking up litter from careless non-residents as I drove.  Once back I watched the gardens descend into darkness and realized two interesting things.  First off I hadn’t realized how varied the caps are for White-Capped and Gold-Crowned Sparrows.  Just like with parrots, the little song birds’ plumage apparently matures in coloration with age.  Secondly, last autumn we had a tree usually nested in by either our Scrub or Steller’s Jay “seen to” by our tree crew as the previous owners of our property had badly pollarded it.  Because the foliage is no longer so dense, this spring there were no epic battles between the two species and both have instead nested elsewhere.  I know the Scrub Jays are nesting about 200 yds away from house and gardens and thus they are not a consistent presence like they have been in past years.  As a result all the other birds are much more relaxed…sure they are still on the lookout for our resident Sharpie (who didn’t show — nor did I catch a glimpse of the Lawrences,) but in general things are more chill than past seasons.

Lastly, once it was dark, I went out and retrieved the trail cams.  Nothing on them that I hadn’t already spotted during the day, but one of the cameras did not take/apply the settings, so not only was the date several years behind but instead of video it captured stills.  I’m quite glad about that as it resulted in perhaps the best photo of the day…..