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

    • Sherri
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      1.  Watching my bird feeders this afternoon, all I am seeing are the White Crowned Sparrows - so many of them - they are cleaning out my feeders daily.  It is quite windy right now so no other birds seem to be in the yard. 2.  Someone in my neighborhood posted a pic of an American Goldfinch.  I hadn't seen any around, and yesterday on our walk I heard a lot of singing coming from the trees - I used my app to identify the song and it said American Goldfinch.  As I got closer to the tree I could see about 10 birds singing in there - so cute! 3.  I didn't know that American Kestrel or Brown Headed Cowbirds were here.  I saw a Kestrel in Oregon before.  Yesterday I also saw the Brown Headed Cowbird for the first time - had to look it up - I knew it was different from what I had seen before. Enjoying this course so much and learning many new things!
    • cindy
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      Charleston, SC.  I enjoyed this activity.  It also inspired me to Save and share my list With a birding friend in Jalisco, Mexico.  She sees so many more birds than me, but we did have some birds in common.   Loving Merlín and ebird!  Also still researching new binoculars.  If you have a favorite, let me know so I can evaluate them.
    • Paula
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      Activities two (I'm doing it based on the walk I took yesterday and the birds  saw then as it is rainy today.  There are many more species in my area than I might have guessed.  I've seen Robins, Blue Jays, Downy Woodpeckers, Mallards, Red Winged blackbirds and various sparrows, but there are many birds to look for that I have either not noticed or aren't here right now. Activity 3 There are ALOT of birds in my county that I had no clue about including the wide variety of geese and ducks that are around, these include Green-Winged Teals, Wood Ducks, Blue-Winged Teals , Mergansers, Grebes, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, various Rails,  various flycatchers, more birds of prey than I knew.  Really there is far more variety than I ever imaged here. Will have to get exploring.
    • Jay
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      Activity 1. What a wonderful exercise, and I confess to spending more than 15 minutes on it!  Before I knew it, the entire morning had passed… In all, I spotted 17 different species.
      • Many were familiar to me from previous visits (e.g., Carolina Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal, etc.), but a few I hadn’t seen since last year (e.g., Gray Catbird, who, from its range map, seems to winter along the Gulf Coast).
      • One bird, which I wasn’t able to positively ID is pictured below left. He moved about on the ground and was smaller than a House Sparrow. Merlin ID suspects him of being a Chipping Sparrow, but his all white face is throwing me off. What do you think? Has anyone else seen a bird like this?
      Screen Shot 2020-04-26 at 13.46.10
      • Kevin
        Participant
        Chirps: 8
        Yes, that's a Chipping Sparrow. However, it's an abnormal one with an albino-like white patch on the face. Things like this happen relatively frequently, so beware of big white patches, especially if they're not symmetrically placed on both sides of the body.
      • Jay
        Participant
        Chirps: 19

        @Kevin Thanks for the add'l info, Kevin! I'll keep an eye out for lil' "Whitey" -- I've since seen 4-5 Chipping Sparrows at a time (foraging for insects on my patio). Hopefully, Whitey's pals won't hold his abnormality against him.

      • Marjorie
        Participant
        Chirps: 10

        @Jay Yeah! In birds, when it is a white patch like that it is called "Leucism" - which is similar to albinoism. There is a leucistic House Finch that returns to my mom's backyard feeder every spring. Interesting that yours is also missing the black eye stripe. Coincidentally, I saw my first Chipping Sparrow during this exercise today. :)

    • Julian
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      I saw a nice yellow bird finally investigating the bird seed I put out. I thought it was an American Goldfinch, but it didn't have a black forehead, and it didn't come in a cute little flock. It was mostly dusky yellow, but not brownish like female goldfinches. It wasn't a Yellow Warbler because those birds are insect eaters. I was showing a family member all the online bird resources I know of, and we watched several live bird cams. It was fun seeing baby osprey and their mom. We looked at the Sapsucker Woods bird feeder right when a big squirrel was sitting in the box! There was a mourning dove, I believe, that the squirrel really didn't like. That was the only bird the squirrel seemed to scare away. After the squirrel left, lots of birds stopped by.
    • Katie
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      It is a drizzly type of day but in a 15-30 minute span at my feeders, I've seen House Finches, Gold Finches, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, Chipping Sparrow, and House Sparrows. So thankful that I have some feeders up and have attracted a decent variety of birds in my more urban setting, although the city is designated a Tree City.
    • Paula
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      Activity one. It's drizzly and cold by me today so I looked at the Sapsucker Woods webcam which was hopping with birds even in the rain.  I saw a pushy grackel and then another behind the feeder looking on, 3 blue jays, 2 red wing blackbirds, 2 starlings a mourning dove, 2 birds I think were mockingbirds, 1 male cardinal and what I think was a female or juvenile cardinal. This last was hard and the id apps weren't helping.  I guess the crest can go up or down and that makes it confusing. In this case the didn't appear to be a crest.  Also, 2 downy woodpeckers
      • Katie
        Participant
        Chirps: 13
        I've often found that their crest do go down when they feed and often if you see a male cardinal, a female will be nearby as they do breed for life, I believe.
      • Paula
        Participant
        Chirps: 19

        @Katie Thanks for that information Katies

    • Sylvia
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 1. Cornell's feeder (on the birdcam) was hopping today. I saw mourning doves, blue jays, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, female and male northern cardinals, red-bellied woodpeckers, a chickadee, and a couple of starlings. Activity 2. I saw many of what Merlin said were "most likely" in northern Manhattan where I live: robin, blue jay, northern cardinal, house sparrow, mourning doves, mallards, red-winged blackbirds, rock pigeons (of course, this is NYC)...and lots of ring-billed gulls (which Merlin didn't say were most likely, but I am near Hudson River which many Manhattanites are not). I also heard (but did not see) white-throated sparrows and a flicker. Oddly, I didn't see any starlings or grackles. Activity 3: I didn't know we might see the following five birds in NYC...or passing through, but I guess anything's possible: (1) Broad-winged hawks (thx to Merlin, I now know the high-pitched whistle to listen for...though if they're flying high I probably wouldn't be able to see them). (2) Bonaparte's gull (I think I'd have to go to Jones Beach or somewhere oceanic to see these...but now I know their scolding call...and during breeding season I'd certainly notice the black head and red legs, if I did see them. (3) Cerulean warbler - since they're high canopy birds, I probably wouldn't be able to see them (though Merlin gave some good tips for IDing from below)...I've heard people say there are places north of NYC where you can find them nesting. After corona virus lockdown, maybe I'll go look for them. (4) Common raven...never seen one in NYC...but I know that big call and the wedge-shaped tail. (5) Common nighthawk. I doubt I could find one roosting during the day since they blend in so well with tree branches, but Merlin gave some good ID tips..the fluttering flight and wing patch near end of primary feathers...which, if I saw one flying, I might use to ID one.  
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 1:  Sitting in my back yard, I identified 5 birds.  American Robin (surprise, surprise :), house finch (male and female) mourning dove, American tree sparrow, and black-capped chickadee.  I saw another small yellow and black bird, but was unable to see enough of it to ID it. It had a yellow throat and a large black stripe from the chest up - I think!  Merlin did not help me. Activity 3: Yesterday, I was unable to make the most likely feature on Merlin work.  Today it is working - Yeah!  I love it! Birds I did not know that pass through here: Cassin's finch; Green-tailed towhee; Yellow-breasted chat; Wilson's warbler; Dusky flycatcher. Activity 2 I plan to do later today when we will visit a local small park with a wide variety of habitat.
    • Mackenna
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      When I was swimming there was a coopers hawk sitting in my pistachio tree.  It was really close to me. It stayed there for a while than some swallows chased it away.IMG_3510
    • Kathy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 1:  Western Bluebird, Tree Swallow, Yellow-rumped Warbler all seen where I'm birding nearly everyday this month as part of a volunteer effort for a local preservation organization, tracking Western Bluebirds.  Tree Swallows present and the warblers who seem to be arriving now for the season. Activity 2:  Apart from birds in first activity, I continued down to a neighborhood beach and saw a Black Oystercatcher, Glaucous-winged Gull, and Harlequin Ducks. Activity 3:  Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Bushtit, Marsh Wren, Wilson's Warbler
    • Ryan
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      For the longest time, the same bird kept coming to my feeder, and I couldn't figure out what it was.  Is it it some sort of blackbird?  No, its head doesn't look like any blackbird I'd ever seen.  Was it a crow?  No, far to small.  Then I tried the Merlin bird ID and poof!  Now I know that it was a brown headed cowbird.
      • Sherri
        Participant
        Chirps: 6
        I just saw one of those for the first time yesterday too!
    • michelle
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I sat and watched the birds at my feeders this morning. We see dark eyed juncos, chestnut-backed chickadees, bushtits, Anna's hummingbirds, red-breasted nuthatch. Sadly, we recently found a deceased varied thrush in the yard. We do not know how it died. A very beautiful bird and a shame to find it this way. We also have wrens, but struggled to identify which type. We used Merlin to help identify from the sound function. It sounds like it's a Bewick's wren.
    • Donna
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      Good Morning! I have been interested in wild birds since I was a little girl and my grandmother let me put peanuts on the windowsill of her Queens, NY home to feed the birds.  Cardinals, Blue Jays and Northern Flickers were among the popular birds that arrived.  My grandmother would put out sunflower seeds in the early morning and dusk just for her favorite birds, Mrs. and Mrs. Cardinal.  I was mesmerized by the birds' beauty and how they came to the windowsill like clockwork. As an adult, I have noticed many changes of the birds who visit my backyard.  I have an acre of mostly wooded property on Long Island, NY.  For the past year I have had a flock of Cardinals who come to the feeders.  I have not experienced this before.  Usually, I had one "couple" and sometimes I witnessed "air fights" between Cardinals.  Lately, I have 4-6 males that come in with 4-6 females at the same time.  Is this common? Recently, I noticed that when I put shelled peanuts out for the wild birds in my backyard that the Blue Jays have mimicked the sound of a red tailed hawk.  It is a shorter sound than the hawks, but it seems to scare the smaller birds away.  This is the first year that I ever noticed Blue Jays making this type of sound.  Is this common? Thank you for your help!  Have a great day!
      • Katie
        Participant
        Chirps: 13
        I've seen something like that with Blue Jays. They seem to be very good mimics as well as singing a variety of their own songs.
      • Marjorie
        Participant
        Chirps: 10

        @Katie We don't have Blue Jays where I am (Washington state), but Steller's Jays imitate Red-tailed Hawks all the time! I even caught one in my yard imitating a Bald Eagle (we have these in this area too). I was so excited when I heard the "eagle," and had to laugh out loud when I saw it was a jay. They are very smart birds, and good at imitating.

    • I am very lucky to have an abundance of birds in my backyard and around town in Ann Arbor Michigan.  One of my favorite, beautiful birds that has been very abundant for the past couple of weeks (since the beginning of April) has been the Northern Flicker.  Such gorgeous markings - they seem to be enjoying a smorgasbord of bugs in my lawn.  We also have quite a few raptors that visit often.  I spotted a sharp shinned hawk on the tree outside my office window the other day, but my viewing was cut short when s/he was chased away by a crow.  Lastly, a local park has a nest of Great Horned Owls.  They have the area roped off, so as not to disturb the birds - but we got a great view of the fluffy babies with our binoculars.
    • Emily
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      I spent some time in my yard. I observed a Black-Capped Chickadee, a Spotted Towhee, what I think is a Song Sparrow, and some kind of Hummingbird. I heard a Chickadee call. I wrote down notes to take back to my computer for identification, but I feel like I'm getting the hang of identifying a few of my local birds. It's lovely to spend even a little bit of time outdoors right now.