February 23, 2023

Photo by Jesse LeBlanc/Macaulay Library.

After all the hubbub I made over the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) I have to admit the sightings did not go well for me.  I kept my feeders full and would periodically check for birds.  While I did have a single bird on occasion, there were only two times worth recording.  I recorded the first list in the early afternoon on the first day.  When I walked outside to check the feeders there were 8 Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) soaring in the sky above our house.  I went inside and the feeders were quickly filled by 6 Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) and 4 House Sparrows (Passer domesticus).  I watched for a while, but no additional birds arrived.  The second sighting happened on Sunday morning as a flock estimated to be 185 Northern Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) flew over the house in successive waves to land in the field just to the north.  As I watched the flock feeding in the field, I noticed a single American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) standing in the middle.  These ground birds were joined in the trees by a single Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) and a lone Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).  The rest of the weekend was a bust.

When I looked online, I found the Cornell Lab eBird site reported the GBBC resulted in over 306,000 lists submitted (so far) identifying 7,444 species.  Arkansas submitted 1,466 checklists and observed 141 species.  The top birder in the world (by species) completed 16 lists and recorded 298 bird species.  He was an obvious traveler as the list locations came from three different continents.  He lived in Oregon, so he was also the top birder in the US and in North America.  I came in close behind (NOT) with 2 lists and 7 species.  I have tried to submit two lists during each of the last three years.  When I checked my stats, it indicated I spotted 15 species during that time.  Just stocking my feeders did not seem to work this year.  I may have to be more purposeful with my lists next year.

While I was on the eBird site I found another challenge issued last year.  At the start of 2022, the birding community was challenged to take their eBirding to the next level and submit an average of one complete checklist a day.  More than 7,700 eBirders submitted at least 365 eligible checklists during 2022, or nearly a thousand more qualifying eBirders than in 2021.  From thousands of contenders, three eBirders were chosen at random to receive a pair of Zeiss Terra ED 8×42 field glasses to help with their eBirding.  The Checklist-a-day Challenge is on again this year (2023) and will provide another chance at free Zeiss binoculars and to have your name and story featured in next year’s post.  I only need to submit 363 more lists.

THOUGHTS:  It is interesting how getting involved in one activity can lead to participation in others.  My interest in birds has connected me with online groups in Arkansas for birds, photography, and then gardening.  I got involved in container gardening as an example of a way to provide food to the community.  That led me to the director of our community garden, another who started an Urban Food Initiative to grow food along your building available to the homeless, and a third who ran a rain barrel business to provide the water.  Far too often we concentrate on the vitriol evident in politics and society.  If we take the risk to look for and get to know others, we find there are many diverse people who share at least some of our interests.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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