Great Backyard Bird Count Weekend
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The 24th annual Great Backyard Bird Count wrapped up with impressive citizen-science efforts to benefit birds. For 4 winter days, February 12-15, 2021, volunteers spent time in their backyards, local parks, and city spaces, to count more than 6,200 avian species across the globe. Wildside Nature Tours jumped into the event to record birds from our favorite local patches.
Based in New England, Alex Lamoreaux and his partner Lauren counted 45 species in New Hampshire and Vermont – a good count for the frozen northlands. The birding highlight was a beautiful female Hoary Redpoll that briefly visited his yard to feed on birch catkins with 22 Common Redpolls. Other notables included Wild Turkeys plucking rose hips, Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks pairing up, and numerous Horned Larks and Snow Buntings scratching in fresh manure spreads of local farms. They found one each of Red Crossbill and White-winged Crossbill to add to the tally. On the non-birding front, Alex and Lauren enjoyed seeing American Beavers and a stunning Bobcat skulking along a frozen creek.
During most of the GBBC, Chris Brown focused on his backyard and locations within a 5-mile radius of his home in central New Jersey. He was excited to see a pair of Long-tailed Ducks on the mostly-frozen Delaware River – an unusual winter visitor this far inland – as well as an Eastern Phoebe and Baltimore Oriole at the local sewage treatment plant. He spent the last day of the count along the New Jersey coast, enjoying King and Common Eiders, all 3 scoters, Common and Red-throated Loons, Purple Sandpipers, Northern Gannet, Boat-tailed Grackles, and more. A sunset treat was watching 4 Short-eared Owls hunting over fields at his county park.
In nearby Philadelphia, Adrian Binns and his partner Debbie explored different habitats to find a variety of bird species. Rough-legged Hawk (main photo) was the big highlight, a rarity that attracted many birders to observe it hunting over a forgotten green space surrounded by industry on the north side of the city. An urban water treatment plant hosted Northern Rough-winged Swallows along with Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets, American Kestrel, and an assortment of sparrows. They scanned several spots along the Delaware River, finding Horned Grebe, Common Goldeneye, Great Cormorant, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A striking juvenile Iceland Gull stood out from abundant Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed Gulls. Eastern Screech-owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl vocalized after dark at the local state park.
Gabriel Lugo covered his favorite spots in north-central Puerto Rico, aiming to add endemic and Caribbean bird species to the Wildside GBBC list. Highlights include Puerto Rican Flycatcher, Antillean Mango, Antillean Euphonia, Puerto Rican Bullfinch, and Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo. Being passionate about photography, he managed to photograph and video some cooperative Grasshopper Sparrows, and found a pair of Puerto Rican Spindalis nest-building. The Great Backyard Bird Count served as a vehicle to involve local birders, and explore locations that will be surveyed for the second Breeding Bird Atlas, sponsored by the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society (SOPI)