Thursday, February 24, 2011

GBBC--Not In My Backyard

Did you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count this past weekend?  After participating in my first bird count last year, I was eager to join in again this year, especially since I had two little visitors who would be more than willing to help to count all the different birds they could see.

No, no, I didn't mean these two helpers, although Sophie enjoys watching bird antics as much as anyone, as does Toby--when it's not interfering with his nap time, that is.  No, the visitors I was referring to are two of my grandchildren who spent the past week with us while their parents were off on a much-needed vacation.  Granddaughter, who is 7 1/2, is not only my garden helper, but also a lover of anything in nature.  She is not merely satisfied to name the birds with my help,  she must consult my Birds of Illinois field guide and then go to the computer to look up the species for even more information before confirming its identity.  (The Cornell University website, which is included on the GBBC links, is a great source for identifying birds, by the way, if you've never checked it out.)

But there was no need for either the field guide or the internet to identify the few birds we saw this past weekend. Just the week before, we had so many different birds visiting our yard. I was so happy to see the downy woodpecker finally come for a visit, after being absent all winter long.

There were even a pair of them, as the female lacks the distinctive red mark seen on the nape of the male.  (Please excuse the poor photos--all were taken through a dirty living room window with only the small zoom of my point-and-shoot camera--and I forgot to use the snow setting to avoid all the shadows here.)

Bluejays and cardinals were easy to spot in the trees and as they visited the feeders, though too quick for anything but this one photo.

And the most exciting for me of all, the red-bellied woodpecker visited briefly.  You'll have to look very closely to see him hiding here on a branch.  The red-bellied woodpeckers are not seen as often at my house as the downys, so their few visits are always cause for excitement.

 The week of February 7--12 was bitterly cold, and there was still a heavy snow cover.  But last week's warm spell, which reached into the upper 50's at times and melted all but a few piles of snow, may have prompted the birds to change their patterns.  Even the dark-eyed juncos, which have been around all winter long, were nowhere to be found during Bird Count weekend.  I don't know; maybe they all decided to go skiing in Wisconsin for the weekend.

I don't think I can count this critter in the Bird Count either, do you?:)  By the way, squirrels must be more intelligent than I ever gave them credit for.  This guy was totally impervious to the incessant barking and pawing of Sophie, who I thought was going to crash through the window to get at him!  He looked Sophie square in the eye and kept on chewing on the suet block as if to say, "Ha, ha, ha! You can't get me!"

All in all, our bird count this past weekend was very disappointing.  Despite making sure all the feeders were full, Granddaughter and I spied only a few species.  Our final tally:

15 House sparrows
30 European starlings
5 Crows
1 Hawk--which I believe was a red-tailed hawk, but it flew away so quickly I couldn't be sure.

A winter storm is moving in tonight with a forecast for another 5-7 inches of snow, so I imagine more of the birds will return in the next few days for a tasty meal.  But it's too bad they weren't here for the Great Backyard Bird Count, which ended on Monday.  I hope that you had better luck this past weekend than I did in seeing birds; although the count has ended, you do have until March 1 to report your findings.


  1. Your birds were not snow skiing but rather staying away from that Red tailed Hawk! LOL I just love the little Downey and Red-belly’s but my favorite is the Pileated Woodpeckers. I saw a female last week in our woods. I did not partake in the bird count but if I did there is no way I could get a count on the finches as they are in the hundreds dropping from the skies this time of year. They eat a 40 pound bag of Black Oil Sunflower seed a week! Thank goodness they have left us now…

    Our furbabies love looking out the windows at the feeders. I get such a kick out of watching them...

  2. Love your photos..... especially Sophie counting birds!
    I took part in a British bird count a month or so ago. I only got 3 sparrows & two wood pigeons after an hour of watching.
    There was a talk on the radio recently about why the sparrows are so scarce. The Bird count helped to explain the reason. The more affluent areas don't have so many but the poorer the area, the more sparrows there are.
    If people upgrade their homes & replace the wood under the eaves and gravel their gardens for parking.... that discourages the sparrows from settling.
    I could have blogged about this! Maybe another time.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  3. I think you have had more snow than us this year! But we still have several more months so I shouldn't speak so soon.

    You have had a lot of birds visiting...I think having suet cakes really does a fine job in attracting more varieties.

  4. Hi Rose, It thrills me to know your little grand-daughter has a love of nature. Our world is changing, and often not for the better. We need more little people to take an interest in the world around us, and the creatures that share our planet.

    Lovely to see the birds in your garden Rose.

    I had to smile when you said you thought Sophie would go through the window to get at the squirrel.
    I have thought the same with Nella so many time. Squirrels have a very bad habit of teasing dogs.........they may just regret that one day!!!

  5. Didn't realise other countries do the bird count thing! Ours is always the last weekend in January. The birds always know and make sure they pack their little suitcases and go off for a city break that weekend!

    Lovely photo of Sophie

    Sorry you have had so much snow :-(


  6. We did the count too Rose. We had the same trouble of not a great variety of birds. I will have to look at what Gary sent in for the count and do a post about it. I am happy to hear that your Grand loves nature. It is good for them in so many ways.

  7. I think it is wonderful that so many people are counting and looking all on the same day! This has been such a challenging winter - hopefully the more exotic varieties are safely sheltering elsewhere...

  8. Rose, we had fewer species for the count, too. I've seen all kinds of things in recent days, but we were having an ice and snow storm while I was doing the count, so that's likely why there weren't that many.

    I added a link to this post along with the others. Hope that was okay with you!


  9. Hi Rose, I was unable to participate this year... though I continue with the Project Feederwatch. Were your grandchildren disappointed? Hopefully not! :-)

  10. I wish I did participate but sadly did not. Wow on the count, I would've expected some of those bird feeding birds-the squirrel-no way. Rascally boogers!

  11. Skeeter, You may be right about the hawk scaring the birds away. I haven't seen any finches this winter; I think they must have all packed up and gone to Georgia:)

    Maggie, There are no shortage of sparrows here; I guess we're not affluent enough:) Seriously, they have plenty of places including brush piles to roost here.

    Rosey, We've definitely had our fair share of snow.

    Cheryl, I wish you could have met my granddaughter! She amazes me sometimes with all she knows about birds, butterflies, and such. The squirrels usually don't come near the house, but this one must have known Sophie wasn't coming out.

    Suburbia, I love that image of the birds packing their little suitcases:)

    Lisa, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one whose bird count wasn't as good as last year's. My grandkids seem to enjoy nature more than my kids ever did.

    Cyndy, The strange weather surely must have affected the birds. They probably thought last week that it was time to head north for spring.

    Kylee, Thanks for adding the link; this is really a fun and easy activity to get involved with.

    Shady, Granddaughter was still excited, even though we didn't see as many birds. Have you ever tried to count starlings?:)

    Tina, Those ornery squirrels always seem to find a way to get to the birds' food!

  12. Rose, I am pretty sure that the birds at my house hid when it was time to count! They do the same thing when they see my camera! Do keep warm...and safe. gail

  13. Hi Rose, How wonderful that your granddaughter is showing such a keen interest in Nature, I'm sure your interest has influenced her there :)

    Sophie is such a sweetheart, I do love to see her on your postings!

    You may not have logged a large number of bird species during your count but I'm sure you enjoyed taking part and that is the main thing, I believe.

    You are so lucky to see the woodpeckers in your garden, I have only had one brief sighting in my garden. I love your Blue Jays and Cardinals too, I have seen them on other blogs and am getting quite familiar with them now.

    I did laugh at the image of the Dark-eyed Juncos skiing :)

    We had a wonderful, sunny and mild day today (I bet you can guess where we went :) ) but it isn't set to last. I hope your snow storm isn't too severe!

  14. Squirrels are very smart! He looks very cute hanging from the suet feeder although I know how aggravating squirrels can be.

  15. Thanks for sharing, Rose. We should all look out the windows and be so blessed.

  16. Love the squirrel photo! I've seen that scene many times. They are pesky critters! Cute post!

  17. Our squirrels are few and far between, thank goodness. My bird count was so limited, not sure where they all were. When I went to count, instead of having a dozen or more Goldfinches, I had 4! Still need to send my count to GBBC.

  18. I saw your juncoes - they were in my garden. I hadn't seen any all winter, and then on Saturday, there were 2 of them poking around under the dogwoods and hiding in the Thujas. I didn't do the count because I'm still on crutches and I got tired of cleaning mud out of the ends of them, so I didn't go outside.

  19. Sorry for the disappointing event Rose. (we could have the great backyard rabbit count here, or the great backyard squirrel count . . . ) Squirrels are incredibly smart, and and pesky as they can get around here, they are alot of fun to watch.

    Hopefully your grandchildren had some fun, and you all enjoyed a memorable time getting out in the fresh air together.

  20. I completely failed to participate in our UK equivalent birdwatch, to preoccupied, I completely forgot. You get some lovely looking birds in your garden.

  21. i really love woodpeckers, they're so pretty. and that's so funny about the squirrel :)

  22. It sounds like you have a budding ornithologist in the family. Or is that fledgling? It's so much fun to encourage the grandkids.

    Your post reminds me that I need to pick up some more birdseed this week. Thanks!

  23. I thought about the count last weekend and thought that I should have gotten involved in it--We've had quite the 'collection' this winter and I've so enjoyed it!

    I hope you're doing well!!

  24. Oh Rose, that is disappointing. It's too bad we can't post a sign and tell the birds we need to count them that weekend! I was lucky and saw all our usual visitors but nothing out of the ordinary ~ like your woodpecker. I've had a pair of Downy woodpeckers hanging in my yard all winter ~ I was wondering if they would investigate a nest box if I put one up? That would be fun, wouldn't it?

  25. What a fun meme, I always seem to miss these somehow. Great bird count Rose and I love the photo of Sophie and the Cat on the couch. ;)

  26. Aren't those squirrels naughty? They are so persistent! I love it that your granddaughter can enjoy birding and gardening with you.
    And never mind, at least you had some birds to count. Perhaps another year it will be more interesting, in the meantime, enjoy your precious pets.

  27. Gail, I think they must have been shy, too.

    Songbird, Granddaughter and I had fun, no matter the few species we saw. And no, fortunately, we had only a light snow.

    Sweetbay, This is the first time I had a squirrel actually climb onto the suet feeder. He about drove Sophie nuts:)

    Joey, Watching the birds is one of the joys of winter.

    Plantpostings, The squirrel was much more willing to pose than the birds:)

    Janet, I'm glad, I think, to hear I'm not the only one with a low count. Now if it had been the past weekend, my count would have been very different.

    MMD, I didn't know you were on crutches! Hope you're back on your own two feet soon.

    Plantiliscious, I'm not sure I added much info to the Bird Count, but it was fun participating.

    Rachel, I love the downy woodpeckers that are usually here, and I do get excited when I see a red-bellied one.

    W2W, There's nothing better than spending time observing nature with the grandkids. I can't wait till it's warmer to be outside with them more.

    Kim, Thanks for dropping by! I don't think I was very helpful with the Bird Count, but it's fun to be a part of it.

    Kathleen, A nesting box for the downys would be fun. I don't see them nearly as often in the summer here.

    Racquel, Watching the birds is Sophie's and the cats' version of TV:)

    Wendy, Even with the disappointing count, it was fun to do with granddaughter. Grandson had more fun exploring all the old machinery outside than watching birds:)

  28. Rose, how wonderful that your granddaughter is so interested in nature. I sometimes have to "convince" Phillip to participate, but then he jumps right in and enjoys it. I'd be thrilled if he wanted to get on the computer to find info on a bird instead of looking up info on an action figure. lol

    I see crows on your bird count list. I mentioned to my husband a few days ago that I've seen more crows in the tree tops this winter than ever before. What's does that mean?

    Dirty windows.....doesn't everyone have them this time of year? ha-ha

  29. All year long, I think about plantings which would encourage more birds to come to my yard!! I love your pics!

  30. We thought about doing it too, Rose, but is there something about setting a date that scares off the birds? Interesting ones showed up before and after the bird count but during the appointed hours we saw nothing but dopey White-wing doves.

    Love the woodpeckers!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose


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