The Cornell Lab Bird Academy Discussion Groups Joy of Birdwatching Activities: Local Bird Exploration

    • Barbara
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Looking at my bird feeder, here in Rhode Island, I have seen many American Goldfinches, some house finch and a song sparrow.  So I did not know what they were except the  goldfinch and feel good I now can recognize the song sparrow and house finch.  Thanks you for this course.
    • natsuko
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Drive_027   Hello. I am taking this course in Hokkaido, Japan. Yesterday, I went to Lake Toya with my husband to see cherry blossoms. We saw and hear lots of birds, most of which we could not identify. I am sorry I can not find a suitable content pack to be installed for my Merlin. Anyway, here is a picture of Varied Tit. We could also identified Japanese Willow Tit, Narcissus flycatcher, Black-faced Bunting, Japanese nightingale, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Oriental Greenfinch, White Wagtail and some water fowls. We usually do birding from our window or while walking around the neighbourhood. There are flocks of Dusky Thrushs in our back yard now.
    • Michelle
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I live in Central Ontario near Georgian Bay. For Activity 1, I tried using Merlin for the first time even though I've had it on my phone for months. It was pretty fun looking for keys to bird identification using the easy questions Merlin poses. Because it was snowing (in May!!!) I  stuck to viewing birds through my window :) For Activity 2, Merlin's "Most Likely" told me that Baltimore Orioles should be back in the area so I added an orange half to my bird feeder. Bingo! This morning a male oriole visited and I expect to see him back. Hopefully he will bring a friend. For Activity 3, I used Merlin's birdsongs to check and hear whether the new song I was hearing came from visiting White-Crowned Sparrows or if I'd have to continue my quest to discover the singer. Sure enough, the new song matched the one on Merlin for the White-Crowned Sparrow. They visit my feeder every fall and spring but I don't think I'd heard their song before. These lessons have been great for making me look and listen more intently. I'm hoping to head out later this week to Stayner Lagoon which is a local hotspot. Taking Merlin with me as my new aide.
    • Vicki g
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      Activity 3 Sort-of Update. From the course, I ended up putting myself on Cornell''s rare species alert for my region (Barnstable County, MA USA), so I decided to go try to find the Purple Gallinule that has been listed for several days in a row at a location about 10 miles from my home. I went to the right "spot" using the google map plus luck, but would never have seen it, without the graciousness of two gentlemen with binoculars who exited their car at the same time as me - (there were only 4 cars there and the others were off hiking). They assented to me tagging after them - which turned out to be about a 10  yard tag - but they knew how and where to look, and waved me over after a few minutes. Beautiful colors! I stayed and watched for a while. Here is a poor I phone photo IMG_4206
    • Jody
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1:  For Big Global Day, I spent 30 minutes in my backyard this evening (May 9.)  The very first bird I encountered was a male Ruby -throated hummingbird - or so I assumed since his throat was a brilliant fuchsia color!  Next I saw his female counterpart in colorful green.  Both spent several minutes, individually feeding at my feeder.  But guess what?!  To confirm the ID, I looked up  ruby-throated hummingbirds in American Museum of Natural History "Birds of North American Wester Region" bird guide and this hummingbird was not listed.  I then consulted the Merlin app and learned the RTHB does not hang out in COLORADO, but the Broad-tailed Hummingbird does!  Score for guidebooks and apps. My other positive IDs included: Red-tail hawk mama sitting on nest, spotted towhee, black-capped chickadee, house finch,  black-billed magpie, eurasian collared dove, and I learned that house wrens have taken up residence in a vacant bird house! Greenwood Village, Colorado 80111
    • Jennifer
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 1:  We expected high levels of different migrating birds this weekend in north FL due to the change in weather and it has been busy indeed. I saw a pair of  Purple Finches (they could have been House Finches, I didn’t get a good look at the male’s breast.)  Ovenbirds are migrating through and I used Merlin to identify these birds that were previously unknown to me. Sadly, 2 have flown into my window and perished. I also saw severalDowny Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees, & Tufted Titmouse  today as well.
    • Vicki g
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      Combining activity 2 and 3 in my fashion, I focused on identifying and learning more about some common local birds. I was happy to distinguish (elementary, I am sure!) an Eastern Towhee by notating (in my fashion) its song while in the field and then listening to a couople of possiblities when I returned home. Similarly from using Merlin and then listening to songs, I identified and then read  up on the black capped chickadee which is a new favorite bird for me. Also getting familiar with Northern Flicker, which I realize I hear often in my yard and nearby. Realized that many of us have been calling tree swallows in a nearby field "barn swallows" although there are some of these around - the swallows we see have bright white breast/belly feathers and steal the blue bird nesting boxes. I have gotten better with my binocular, have purchased the Kaufman North America Field guide and use it, joined a local birder Face Book page, and love seeing their wonderful photos, which on occasion confirm what I have identified, and in many ways is edifying and delightful. Almost anyone I walk or sit  with outside knows more about bird than me - so I am enjoying picking up bits of understanding here and there. If I don't try to "get" too much at once, I find it all a very delightful way to enjoy being in nature. OH - I also now get "rare" bird alerts, which is acquainting me with some new areas to go walking - even though I have not yet rushed out to see a rare bird!
    • Ann
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Today I took a different birdwatching walk and headed to the pier at Quincy Bay, coastal MA south of Boston.  With the help of Merlin App and the The Audubon Society Field Guide, if identified many Barn Swallows living at the pier. I now know they have migrated from South and Central America for breeding. What expert flyers they are! So fast and agile as they zoom along catching insects (way too fast for a photo, always on the move). They must make their mud nests underneath the pier, but I was unable to see them. Later I saw some again around a small fresh water pond (I assume they need fresh water to drink). What fun! This course has really enhanced my enjoyment of birding. Stay safe. Ann
    • Laura
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      After the last lesson, I knew how to locate a "hot spot" so I looked up one near us on Long Island and we went there (wearing masks and social distancing of course). I was disappointed we didn't hear or see more birds, but using the app we could identify a Gray Catbird as well as an Eastern Towhee. This morning on my walk I was able to identify the song of the Black-capped Chickadee which had stumped us on an earlier outing. We put up a feeder but have not attracted any birds yet, so I enjoyed watching the bird cam from Sapsucker Woods - I could watch it for hours! A great way to practice identifying birds too.
    • Charlotte
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Over the last three days here in northern New Jersey I have seen catbirds, male and female orioles, grosbeak, a bluebird, robins and the hummingbirds have returned. It is very interesting to see how the regular year round birds like the blue jays, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches and mourning doves interact with the newly arrived migrating birds at the feeder. There is a definite pecking order and sometimes the party gets a bit rowdy!
    • Marlene
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      Merlins's Most Likely found many of the same birds I see in my local area in Northeast Wisconsin. A few I didn't mention, but they are also here are Red-winged Blackbirds, Mallard ducks, Common Grackle, American Crow, Canadian Geese, Song Sparrow and Tree Swallows. There were many, many others mentioned. This area is great for bird watching.
    • Marlene
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      Bird watching in the month of May in NE Wisconsin is great. Here are some of the migrating birds I have seen in my yard since the last week of April or so. Eastern Bluebirds, Robins, Baltimore Oriole (just came in about 2 days ago) and Brown-headed Cowbird. I'm still waiting for the Indigo Buntings and the Red Breasted Grosbeaks to come in. Two of my favorites. Then there are my local year round favorites: American Goldfinches (with bright yellow summer colors), Black capped chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Morning Doves, Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.  I tried to get a few pictures to share. Tricky to capture some though.. I was able to snap a picture of the Oriole. I typically use the Peterson Field Guide for Eastern Birds for identification. I have had it for years and reference it often. My new favorite reference is the Merlin App. I am pretty sure the other bird pictured below is the Red-bellied woodpecker, although sometimes I get it confused with the Northern Flicker. 20200505_064408[1] 20200507_170619[1]
    • Betsy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      1. I feel so fortunate to be watching a Barn Owl in my neighborhood on a Webcam, The Mother Barn Owl laid 5 eggs in April. Incubation is approximately 30 days. Four have hatched, one is left. It is hard to get a good look at the babies because they are so small but I can see their movement under her wings. When she stands, I have seen her caress the babies with her talons which I know have very sharp claws. Nevertheless, she strokes them, one at a time. I have seen her fly in with a rodent and then eat it. She does a lot of preening of her feathers and occasionally will expand her wings almost as another way of protecting her babies. My grandchildren made me an owl box for Christmas which will be mounted early next year with the hopes of housing an Owl family. 2. Likely birds in the area that I have identified and seen within the last few days are Dark-eyed Junco's, California Scrub-Jays, California Towhee, Acorn Woodpecker, Violet-green Swallow, American Robin, and a Northern Mockingbird. The Northern Mockingbird was at a friend's house who has learned to call the mockingbirds to her. This one came about a month ago, injured with half its beak gone. As it was very thin and unable to get a good grip on food, she helped by feeding it mealworms. The bird will come to her but until I was there , would not come down when anyone else was around. I felt privileged that the bird felt it could come to the feeder while I was there approximately two feet away.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Sat on my back deck and watched birds while working this morning. Really enjoyed watching a pair of nesting robins forage and bring their three little chicks food, as well as remove white fecal sacs from the nest! Other treats were a calliope and a rufous humming bird, each of which flew right up to me and hovered in front of my face checking me out. I saw two birds that I didn't know, a yellowish, grayish songbird, and some sort of sparrow with a lovey rust-brown cap. Using a field guide and Explore birds, I decided the sparrow was a chipping sparrow (black eye stripe, white brow, striped tan and brown back, and light, un-striped breast - although I saw a very faint rust-brown spot in the middle of its breast, something I couldn't find in my book or online), which was exciting because friends have identified them by ear for me before, but today I finally got a really good look at one. Has anyone else seen a chipping sparrow with a breast spot? The songbird was harder - very distinct white eyering, gray head, yellow breast, dark yellow/olive wings, yellow on the rump and under the tail, but a bit more white under the legs. It was moving around pretty fast, but I watched it for five minutes or so and took down all those details. My best guess is a Nashville warbler.
    • Ken
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Watching back yard feeder and pond early this morning and later in the afternoon. Saw a few Brown headed cowbirds and house finches at our feeder. A crane waded around the pond for a little while, as did a goose couple with three goslings. A mallard couple has also been in/around the pond over the past couple weeks, but lately it’s been just the male. We’ve been hearing a bird singing around sunrise over the past several days and I’ve been searching Merlin’s “most likely species” feature to find a match to the call/song. I think that it’s a Scarlet Tanager, but haven’t actually seen it yet. Need to get out around daybreak to look for it.
    • Vicki g
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      This morning just reporting on activity 1, as I went to stand at a favorite spot the other day, as - when departing from a nearby spot earlier in the week my friend slowed her car and pointed - and later told me that she saw night herons, which I did NOT see then. SO, I went and stood with my binoculars late one afternoon - not considered "prime time" but it was the time I had - and close up, I watched a red wing black bird, mid vision cormorants perching on posts sticking up from the water, and occasionally drying their wings, far off to the left while I was watching some great egrets, down and around swooped an immature bald eagle (no white head). Bald eagles have only recently returned to nest in Barnstable County, MA - so still thriling to see them. I had only seen the "classic" white heads before - and thanks to this course when it LOOKED like a bald eagle but with different head color, I trusted myself to check further and confirm, and finally - looking off to the far right ... I saw two night herons (I am going to need to comce back to edit whether black crowned or other) perching at the very top of some medium sized pines ... I realized that when people told me "look in the trees" I was looking too low down. I am facebook friends with two local spectacular bird photographers (and now the local bird club). One of them recently posted a beautiful photo of a night heron in flight at sunset - which I hope to see in person some day. So that is what I saw, standing still late one afternoon.
    • Connie
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I work for Missouri State Parks and I am doing this class as part of my continuing education.  I know several birds but there are so many more and so much more to learn and I am excited that this class has helped tremendously with ideas on how to explain bird id to others.  I have even made up an Observation sheet to help with a future event that is coming up. With that I was able to get some field work in this afternoon. I spent approx. 30 min at Current River State Park in Missouri set my timer for 15 min. and then there were so many birds I just kept watching.  The list is relatively short but I was watching and noting behaviors.  Indago Bunting  3 adult males 1 juvenile male at least 1 female. They were really fun to watch they were eating and occasionally one bird would jump over the other like leap frog! Several brown headed cowbirds, they were eating as well.  Two Eastern Kingbirds. a Carolina Wren, Crows, Gold Finches, Northern Cardinal and a couple that I didn't get a good enough look at to be able to id. I spent 15 min. at Echo Bluff state park and only SAW one bird a Turkey Vulture soaring overhead.  I heard several and tried using the Audubon app. sounds to help not sure if Merlin  has that feature I am still learning it.  I know that I heard a crow and a Northern Cardinal but other than that unsure but could have been around 7-9 different birds per vocals.
    • Brad
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      My backyard in Long Island New York has started to see some new visitors with the coming of Spring and warmer weather.  The last 3 weeks have brought us Brown-headed Cowbirds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and American Goldfinch's.  My eyes are open for more visitors as it warms up more.  Stay safe and healthy everyone.
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      1. The birds that I saw were: Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, King Parrots, Noisy Minors, Crimson Rosella, and Currawong 2. I  have checked on Merlin for the birds most likely to be found in our area. Going out to look for them is not practical at the moment. I will however go asap. I will  also continue to watch from our back deck. 3. 5 birds that apparently can  be found in our area that I have not seen  are: Little Lorikeet, Eastern Yellow Robin, Rose Robin, Eastern Spinebill, and Golden Headed Cisticola. I am on their  case!
    • Michelle
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      By sitting long enough and quietly, I guess, more birds flew close but I’m still sorting out which hummingbirds and songbirds are visiting. Using the Merlin app photos and songs/calls actually confounded things, as there are overlapping color patterns and my ear is not refined. I love to learn, yes, but the joy of birdwatching for me is in the watching and the listening, and talking to them, to the gestalt of sharing space with them. I did use “explore birds”, and look forward to noticing if the soaring swift I see has a white throat, spotting the forked tail of the barn swallow, catching the sweet song coming from the plain brown-ness of the house Wren, spotting the distinct black phoebe (name source for the daughter of a birder friend), and looking at the woodpecker in our nearby oak grove to see it looks like a Nutell. Also, when restrictions lift, and I can visit my Dad again, I want to see the Northern Road Runner with babies that he watches from his back porch in the mornings.
    • Danya
      Participant
      Chirps: 20
      We spent the day at Griggs Reservior and then Walnut Woods Metro Park (Columbus, Ohio).  My sister and 11 year old nephew went to Griggs with us to try out birdwatching.  Ian, my nephew, was good at spotting birds with his young eyes but got bored easily.  Oh well!  We saw barn & tree swallows, Baltimore Orioles, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Yellow Warbler, Palm Warbler, Eastern Kingbird at Griggs.  My huband and I then saw House Wren, Orchard Oriole, Cowbirds, Eastern Towhee and Field Sparrows at Walnut Woods.  We used Merlin a lot.  At Walnut Woods we were walking and saw a bird in the distance.  We couldn't make it out very well because the forest was a bit dark so we used the Merlin app to narrow down what it might be.  I suspected that it was an Eastern Towhee so we played that song on our phone.  Immediately, the bird flee to a tree next to us and sang back to us.  It was so close!  I guess it thought it had found a mate or something.  See our picture below (plus a few more from yesterday's outing.) 30-IMG_4837 12-IMG_477218-IMG_4794
    • Mary
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      1. During my observations I spied Cassin's Finch, Black-capped Chickadees, magpies, Hairy Woodpecker, Bullock's Oriole, robins, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Vesper Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Canada Goose, and five Sandhill Cranes. 2. I love Merlin. Most all those on the "Most Likely" to see today, I saw except for the Song Sparrow. 3. Most of those I selected, interestingly, happen to be shore or water birds which do inhabit our county but are in habitats unlike where I live. They included the American Coot, Wilson's Snipe, Sora, and then I hope to see, near where I live, the Pygmy Nuthatch and the Belted Kingfisher. I've really enjoyed using the resources available through our classwork. I've also added the National Geographic Guide to Birds in Western North America. I, too, need a better zoom lens for my camera! Could someone explain why the Bullock Oriole, I believe, was once called the Northern Oriole?
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Sitting in my back yard around 6:00 p.m. and observing my yard and an open behind it, I saw grackles, house sparrows, Inca and whitewing doves, some kind of flycatcher (ash-throated and Great crested, couldn't tell), a hummingbird (I think buff-bellied), and two mockingbirds that were...doing a mating dance?  Not sure; I've never seen that behavior before. Usually if I see two mockingbirds, one is trying to drive off the other.  These two were on the ground doing what looked like a Mexican hat dance, sort of circling and doing a tapping step.  Also I could hear a killdeer, a mourning dove, a kiskadee, and some kind of oriole (I think). Looking at eBird for this month for my county was pretty amazing. I was surprised at the number of birds I associate with water, ducks, for instance.  We don't have a lot of large water features in our county, besides the Rio Grande, but I know there are small ponds and lakes on private ranches, and irrigation canals, and I guess collectively they offer more water resources than I realized.
    • Jill
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      IMG_0178IMG_3291IMG_0169 This section's activities prompted us to use our local Audubon Society's bird map to explore locales new to us. Cornell's E-bird site led us to lesser noted sites so as to seek out out less foot trafficked places. Using our optimized binoculars, and the well loved Merlin App, we identified buffleheads and a turkey vulture along the shore. The red-winged blackbirds were everywhere with their distinctive sounds. When we returned home the Black-capped chickadees were defending their territory (as usual) with the American Goldfinch. As Brown thrasher's have taken up residence in Arborvitaes adjacent to the bird feeder the Chickadees have been forced to relocate to yews in the backyard. Thanks to the course we're using bird behavior as an added discriminator for bird identification!
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      this morning, I was able to see and hear Cardinals, a Mockingbird, Crows, and Field Sparrows. I saw a Phoebe, a Kingbird and a Bluebird. I also saw four Turkey Vultures. My walk lasted more than 15 minutes, but time flew by with so many birds to see and hear.