Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Project FeederWatch and Bird Count

I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count last year and again this year. In January I also joined and have been keeping a count with Project FeederWatch, a cooperative research project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Studies Canada, the National Audubon Society and the Canadian Nature Federation. The FeederWatch season runs for 21 weeks, from November through April.  Participants may count birds for two consecutive days each week, and submit up to 21 bird counts, with at least FIVE days between each pair of count days. FeederWatch requires a participants fee ($15), without which the project could not continue.

Here are my results, with 3 counts reported so far.

Checklist for FeederWatch Virginia Birds

February 13, 2010 (Also the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count where I also submitted this data).

Red-bellied Woodpecker2
Downy Woodpecker3
Tufted Titmouse1
Carolina Wren1
Eastern Bluebird16 *Confirmed
American Robin5
European Starling8
Northern Cardinal4
House Finch5
American Goldfinch9
February 6, 2010:
Mourning Dove8
Red-bellied Woodpecker2
Downy Woodpecker4
Hairy Woodpecker2
Northern Flicker2
Blue Jay1
American Crow3
Carolina Chickadee1
Tufted Titmouse2
Brown-headed Nuthatch1
Brown Creeper1
Carolina Wren2
Eastern Bluebird13 *Confirmed
American Robin16
European Starling3
Northern Cardinal7
House Finch7
American Goldfinch5
January 30, 2009:
Cooper's Hawk2
Mourning Dove9
Red-bellied Woodpecker2
Downy Woodpecker3
Hairy Woodpecker1
Northern Flicker1
Carolina Chickadee1
Tufted Titmouse2
Carolina Wren1
Eastern Bluebird14 *Confirmed
American Robin17
Dark-eyed Junco1
Northern Cardinal13
House Finch11
American Goldfinch7

*Note the 'Confirmed' after each Eastern Bluebird entry. Each time I entered in my numbers, I was automatically 'flagged' and had to separately verify that I was not entering these numbers in error. The website explains that although the number seen might be a usual occurance in your own yard, it is 'unusual' for what is being reported in your general area.

I am not sure 'why' such a high number of Eastern Bluebirds are attracted to my yard--but I am not complaining!

At any given time, there are a variety of bird species in my yard all at once!

When I report 13, 14 or 16 Eastern Bluebirds, I am not referring to what I see 'on and off', tallying them them up to get a cumulative total. No, I'm referring to 5 Bluebirds on one birdfeeder, 2 Bluebirds on another feeder, 3 Bluebirds sitting on a pole, 1 Bluebird standing on a snowpile and eating the snow, and/or Bluebirds at one of the suet feeders...all at the same time.

I only report the total as 'the most of each variety that I actually see, all in my yard at one time'.

So, if I see 8 Bluebirds in the yard at 1:03, and at 1:28 I see 14 Bluebirds, I report my total for the day as 14.

That way, I don't risk counting the same bird more than once-which is very important for accurate data.

*See, I wasn't kidding about the bird standing on the snowpile...

....eating the snow;-)

Of course, we're not just talking bluebirds here. There are Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers...(they look very much alike, but the Hairy's are larger, and their beaks are just a bit longer). I don't believe I have any Hairy's in photos here, but I have had them at the feeders...

 Male and female Downy's:

American Robins...

Northern Cardinals...

Dark Eyed Juncos...

Tufted Titmice...

Carolina Wrens...

Red-bellied Woodpeckers...

Brown Creepers...

American Goldfinches...


Northern Flickers...



Carolina Chickadees...

Mourning Doves...

One of the birds I've seen very little of this year is the Blue Jay. I seem to remember having read something about others experiencing similar results. The same goes for the American Robin, but with just the opposite result. Similar to the Bluebirds, I've noticed a huge increase in their numbers this winter. Every so often there is what they call an 'irruption' of a particular species of birds. Last year, it was the Pine Siskin. There was an increase in their numbers in many areas. I have seen only a couple of Pine Siskins so far this year.

Hope you enjoyed my photos and the results of my count. It's 'ongoing' so I'm still sending in data.

Have a great day!

--Today I am thankful for the variety of birds that visit my yard, and for being able to share them through my blog.

Words and photos by Jan Huston DobleThanks For Today.


  1. Oh my, Jan, those are amazing photos! You captured the bird antics so well. I really love the photo of that crazy-looking shepherd's hook-feeder platform with several different bird species on it.

  2. Dear Jan, What a superb record to have and contain in the archives of house and garden. You must be so thrilled to have so many different species of birds visiting your garden at this time of year. I was most intrigued with the close up images you managed to capture and wonder how this is achieved.

  3. Jan,
    Please tell us what you are feeding these birds? Bluebirds and robin usually do not eat from seed feeders, suet might get bluebirds.

    The two robins facing off is a killer photo, KUDOs.

  4. Thanks, Floridagirl, Edith & Randy;-)

    The robins and bluebirds actually have been eating the hulled sunflower nuts and suet w/seeds. Unusual, maybe--but not here! Bluebirds have eaten these offerings for the past 3 years, although this is the first year I've seen the robins eating the suet.

  5. That's fantastic that the bluebirds eat sunflower seeds at your house. Like Randy said, I've seen them hanging around near suet feeders, but never a seed feeder. And so many bluebirds! I feel lucky if I see one.

    Love the photos of the brown creeper. Not the flashiest bird around, but one of the cutest, I think.

  6. Miss Jan what wonderful pictures! We have a lot of Bluebirds but I have never had any eat at the feeders..
    Awesome! hugs, Cherry

  7. This is amazing, Jan! I love the little brown creeper as well. They are so hard to spot. I've participate in the bird watch as well and was curious how to count so many birds. Your Eastern Bluebird numbers are ... I'm speechless! However, looking at your photos I can SEE what attracts all these birds to YOUR yard - variety of food! A buffet of birdie feasts! Great job all 'round!

  8. Such wonderful photos, Jan! You taught me the brown creeper. I'm not sure I've seen one before. And I love the ones of the bluebird on the snow pile! Such a cutie. I left you something in my post today. Join in if you're so inclined.

  9. Wow Jan, what amazing photos. What type of camera & lens do you use?
    There is certainly a lot of bluebirds there, which I would love to see in my garden. They just seem to flit by.

  10. Now I know where all my robins have gone! I think there has been only three or four bird species in the yard this winter, which is pretty strange, even for Alaska. I have started to hear the birds singing again in the last week. They are appreciating the increased daylight, I think (I appreciate it too!).

    Christine B.

  11. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and information about the count Jan. I can't get enough of pictures of your local birds, there is so much variety!

  12. I can't believe bluebirds are eating from seed feeders, either! I thought you had to put out meal worms or something to attact them.

    Great pics!!

  13. You have so many beautiful visitors to your yard! So many wonderful shots too. I especially love the shots with the Bluebirds together at the feeder, the Bluebird on the snowpile, and the Red-Bellied Woodpecker series. The Brown Creeper looks like he's thinking "You can't see me, I'm invisible." lol

  14. I just loved this post. This is why I'm so glad you returned to blogging. I remember your bird posts last winter too.
    I'm just amazed at the variety and numbers of birds that visit you. I wish I would see just one Bluebird once!

  15. Thanks so much for sharing all these amazing pictures! Almost makes me want to start feeding the birds. But I still think no snow, no handouts...

  16. Jan, this post was such a treat! Your pictures are fantastic! I am so jealous of your bluebirds, I've yet to see one! I have never have heard of a brown creeper either.

    I had wondered how to count large numbers of birds for the count, thanks for sharing how you do that.

  17. Jan -- you have done an amazing job of counting, documenting, photographing and share your knowledge of your feathered friends. My husband and I loved this post.

    We have a year-round bluebird population. Our neighborhood road is lined on one side with board fencing and every 100 feet, there is a bluebird house.

    The big Robins have been here for weeks, pulling worms out of our meadow!

    The Juncos are still here, so I guess it is still winter.


  18. Good grief what colour and variety you attract! Lovely photos of many birds I've never seen before.

  19. Wow Jan what great pictures girl! I am so jealous of all of your Bluebirds.I have never saw the Northern Flickers. They are so unusual with the spots and touch of red. Nor have I saw the Brown Creepers. The remind you of Nuthatch's but their coloring looks so like the bark. How pretty. The Cardinals in the pine is a Calendar one for certain. You need to make a bird calendar.You get a lot of Robins too.

  20. Wonderful photos! I'm really developing a tremendous soft-spot for those're so lucky to have them, and the cardinals too! We do get Northern Flickers here, and last year I had a fledgling that stood outside my office window staring at me for hours (if I'm honest he was probably fascinated with his own reflection)! You captured the personalities of these birds beautifully!

  21. What an amazing variety of birds that are attracted to your feeders. They are all so beautiful, but I do have a favorite...the Bluebirds :^)

  22. WOW. That's the only word repeating over and over in my head while viewed your amazing photos, Jan, until at some point I managed a "HOLY COW." So incredibly gorgeous, and many are birds I didn't recognize. I've been taking pictures here, too, but yours blow me away! The two birds facing off, wings spread -- truly a great photo capture. I need to go put my next suet out right now!

  23. OMG Jan! I can't tell you how much I love this post! Jeez... I can't even decide which picture is my favorite since they are ALL amazing! I'm so jealous of the bluebirds. I never see any around us, but we do a get a wonderful variety of so many other birds that I can't complain. Thanks for sharing these amazing photos!

  24. ...Gaaahhh, I'm in chock...

    Wow, the amount of intersting, beautiful birds you have hanging around.....

    Cheers from Hillevissan, birdlover and gardendesigner in Stockholm, SWEDEN wishing you a nice weekend!

  25. What a beautiful group of visitors you have! We have cardinals here as well, but those are some of the only ones I can identify with any certainty. The other ones are the green ones, the black and white ones, the ones that look like cardinals but aren't, etc. LOL.

  26. Jan, are you sure you're not giving the birds cappuccinos and lattes on the side. Those bluebird shots are amazing. I think we've seen bluebirds twice this winter in fleeting visits to the feeder. They almost never hang around the house. What a marvelous posting!

  27. Jan, you are amazing! Those photos are amazing. The robins migrate away and come back in late winter to claim their "yards". Last week I knew they were back by the droppings of juniper berries all over the walkways. Sure enough, I looked up and there they were. Quite a happy group of them. Every year I get a few new juniper trees that I pot up and use as potted trees and also give away to friends, thanks to the robins.

  28. Wow, you lucky gal, Jan.. You have some amazing photos here!

  29. Beautiful pictures, Jan. I really enjoyed this detailed accounting of your participation in the bird count. You've reminded me to be thankful for all the birds that lift my spirits at our feeder every day. :)

  30. What a treat. This post was so much fun to view. I loved all the great pictures! Thanks for posting!

  31. That is an astonishing tally - and wonderful photographs.

    Unfortunately, my computer wasn't able to load them all onto the screen but I was delighted the bluebird on the snowpile showed up. What an amazing image, wonderful posture and expression!

    I was pleased to see the cardinals. We don't have anything like them where I live in England. The woodpecker pictures are spectacular.

    Unfortunately, only the bluebird on the snowpile came anywhere near alleviating my jealousy that you are able to entice such a huge variety of colourful birds into your garden. The standard colour of our local birds is brown. Any tiny flash of colour seems exotic.


  32. Sorry I've taken so long to reply! Thank you all so much for stopping by and leaving your comments! I love them;-)

    Entangled & Cherry, From the time I noticed the bluebirds going after the hulled sunflower seeds, I knew I had to keep those feeders full! That was sometime in the winter of '08. I don't know if other people in my area see them or not...but I don't mind if they choose only to hang out here!

    Hi Debbie, I didn't know what the little Brown Creeper was, until I looked it up. They are tiny and move quickly and are pretty hard to spot. Having the heated birdbath is the 'main' draw, I think, for the birds. If I had just one feeder, they'd probably still come, but we'd be out there every hour filling them. Having several takes care of that problem;-)

    Laurie, I just learned about the Brown Creeper recently, myself:) I'll have to check your post...thank you. I'm sorry I haven't looked into it yet.
    Linda, I have a Nikon D40X and my zoom is a 70/300. I'd love a 400 but they are so expensive. We're looking in to an 'extender'. I took all of these shots from inside the kitchen.

    Lotusleaf, Christine, gippsland gardener,Thanks for stopping by;-)

    Ginger, I used to think the same thing about the mealworms. But when I tried that, the bluebirds never even went for them. I did see the squirrels take a big interest, however...and yes, the squirrels actually ate them.

    Sweetbay, Catherine, TM, Robin...glad you liked them;-) I am glad I continued blogging too, Catherine...and Robin, I just learned about the Brown Creeper too!

    Freda, I'm glad both you and your husband enjoyed the birds;-) I know you have a lot where you are, too. They are lovely little birds to watch.

    Carrie, glad you could see some birds you've never seen before;-)

    Lona, the first time I saw a flicker was last winter, and not too often. This year a couple of them have been hanging out. I've just looked in to making cards and calendars but still haven't decided if I will, but it looks quite easy online.

    Curbstone Valley, you're probably right about the fledging...he was curious about his reflection. Cute;-)

  33. What beautiful pictures. You surely do attract a great variety of birds to your bird feeders. Thanks for posting all the pictures


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