Thursday, February 20, 2020
GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT
This past weekend, I participated in the worldwide Great Backyard Bird Count. Here in Grand Traverse County, there were 63 species counted on 134 separate participant checklists.
It was snowing during the time that I counted on Saturday, and fourteen American Goldfinches visited my feeders. At times they were fluttering around and fighting for spots on the perches. This was my largest species group.
Mourning Doves were the second largest group I counted; I had six. These guys are the big eaters on the bird feeders. They can sit on the tray for hours, swaying back and forth in the breeze, quickly consuming enormous amounts of seed.
My third visitors were two Starlings, which are pretty birds with their somewhat iridescent coats. Starlings, however, can be very piggy too, and sometimes they come in large flocks and clean out a whole feeder in less than a day. I had two Starlings that day.
I had two Blue Jays visit on count day. I find them very striking in appearance, but their raucous, harsh cries often chase away little birds.
My last and favorite visitor was this Hairy Woodpecker. He visits the seed cylinder daily, along with an occasional Downy, who is similar in appearance but smaller. This Hairy is a male, as shown by the red hind-crown patch. So in this year's count, I had five different species.
But I’ve not yet gotten to the real reason why I participated in the bird count. Last year at this time, I'd counted 16 species at my feeders, like this beautiful male cardinal. I’ve not seen a single cardinal all season. I've even changed from my typical squirrel-proof feeders to a tray feeder to attract more kinds of birds. Last year I had four feeders up, and now I've reduced that to two so seed didn't go to waste.
One of my frequent feeder visitors last winter was the Black-capped Chickadee. This winter, I’ve not seen a single one of these common birds. Other local Audubon members report an absence or reduced number of this species too. What is going on?
Another bird species missing from my feeders are the pudgy little Dark-eyed Juncoes. I’ve seen two all winter. There is concern among area birders about the reduced numbers we’re seeing this winter. I hope once the data from the Great Backyard Bird Count is compiled, it will give us a better idea of the extent of these bird losses. My hope is that once the breeding season begins in the spring, birds will return in greater numbers.