18 November 2014


A simple thought:  I think birders are often people that enjoy keeping track of birds.  Lists, after all, are great motivators; they show progress (or lack thereof).

Along those lines, many birders decide to keep "yard lists", a simple list of the species they've seen where they live.  Although I live in an urban neighborhood south of Sacramento overlooking a busy 4-lane road, I too keep track of the species I see from home.  If you're used to large, wooded yards, streams and rivers, you'd look at my neighborhood in horror:
Who would pay attention to birds in THAT mess?  Well, me.  I still keep track almost on a daily basis every bird I see from home.  Because I use eBird to keep tabs of my records, I can see that I've submitted a checklist for 273 days for this yard since I moved here in September 2011.  I can also see that I've tallied more than 104 different species.  Yep, more than a hundred species from only my patio window.

Even now as I write this, it's 1 minute after dawn and I have a high powered scope sitting in my living room.  While most people don't even notice the flying specks a mile away, I find entertainment in finding those in my scope and realizing I'm looking at a flock of ducks called Common Goldeneye.  Or maybe I catch a glimpse of a speck a mile high, a migrant raptor called a Northern Harrier.   Absolutely no one around my neighborhood understands that.  But that's fine with me.

Numbers-wise, if I pay attention to the species flying by in a given morning, my list will likely be between 20-30 species per day at this time of year.  As an example, here's a checklist from about a week ago.

Today marks the 1-month milestone; I arrived back home from Alaska a month ago today.  Since then, I've submitted 22 daily checklists from the yard and have totaled 51 species.  Here are some highlights from the past month:

Ross's Goose (3 on 12 November; my 3rd record for the yard)

Tundra Swan (10 on 14 November; my 6th record for the yard)

Northern Harrier (1 on 3 and 12 November; my 7th and 8th records for the yard)

Long-billed Curlew (14th record for the yard)

Merlin (1 on 17 November; my 3rd record for the yard and my 7th record for the county)

Prairie Falcon (1 on 17 November; my 1st record for the yard)

Western Bluebird (1 on 6 November; my 1st record for the yard)

American Pipit (4 on 7 November; my 2nd record for the yard)

Pine Siskin (7 on 27 October and 1 on 4 November; my 1st and 2nd records for the yard)

Even the common species that I see from the yard could be pretty interesting depending on where you're from.  I often see species such as NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, BUSHTIT, WHITE-TAILED KITE, SANDHILL CRANE, and GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE.  Not to mention the hummingbirds; I see hummingbirds every single day, year-round.  In spring migration, I've seen as many as 4 hummingbird species at my feeders (including this stunner, a CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD):

So hey, why not keep a yard list of your own?  It doesn't have to be a big list, it doesn't have to have rare birds on it; what's most enjoyable is watching the progress.