The Great Backyard Bird Count is held this weekend spanning Feb 13-16. As I write this the count is still on going so I will tell of only the first two days.
When I was in my infancy stages of birding I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This is an informal count that is meant more to draw people to birding than to census birds. Through the years I still participate and encourage others to do so as well. When I first started, the GBBC was its own entity and you had to submit through a separate platform. Now, GBBC is connected with eBird, which I use every other day of the year. This takes away a bit of the ceremony from this birder’s holiday but is probably more efficient.
This Friday I filled the feeders and hunkered down. I mainly birded around the house and picked up a few species. I added a Song Sparrow to the year yard list. House Finches, American Godlfinches, Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmouse, and Carolina Chickadees ate from sunflower seeds offered. Pine Warblers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets came to the suet. I put out some millet and cracked corn mix and the Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, and Mourning Doves seemed to like this. I’ve experimented with dried mealworms this winter and have found that the resident Eastern Phoebes absolutely love them. I picked up some flyover blackbirds including Common Grackles, Rusty Blackbirds, and a Red-winged Blackbird. Saturday came around and I picked the same birds but added a Cedar Waxwing; my counts only waxwing so far.
Saturday was also the day scheduled for the monthly field trip for the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas. I joined ASCA at Lake Maumelle’s Jolly Roger Marina. There were several local birders that came out for the event and we saw several loons from this portion of the lake. We had several Common Loons and a Red-throated Loon. The Red-throated is rare in Arkansas but has been seen on the lake for the last couple of winters. A few of us moved on to Vista Point which is at the west end of the lake. Here we saw several more Common Loons and a few Pied-billed Grebes. In the distance I saw a large gull sitting on the water next to some Bonaparte’s Gulls. Fortunately, the gull flew in front of us and we could see that it was an immature gull and that it had a very thick bill. Also, we could see a very light section of inner primary flight feathers. All these signs point to a Herring Gull 2nd year which was what we called it.
After Lake Maumelle we moved to Two Rivers Park. We started out on a trail through a marshy section of the park. We hoped for Virginia Rails and Marsh Wrens. We found neither but did get a First of Year (FOY) Barred Owl hooting. We also got a Winter Wren singing which is always a pleasure to hear. We then moved to a grassy field where we lined up and marched across it. The goal was to flush sparrows into plum thickets. We immediately flushed several Savannah Sparrows into a small pecan (Carya illinoinensis). As we approached we flushed a smaller sparrow into the same tree. All got good looks and saw that it was a Le Conte’s Sparrow. We walked a little further and flushed some more Savannahs and a Vesper Sparrow. Both the Le Conte’s and Vesper Sparrows were FOS.
So far this has been one of the more productive GBBC I have done.