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

    • pat
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      May 1,2020 Cincinnat Nature Center, Milford, Ohio. I observed several local bird species today including, the Red Winged Blackbird, Red bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay,  male Cardinals at the ourdoor bird feeder in  this private nature preserve.   The weather at 12  n oon is cloudy , overcast and chilly for early May.  I am a member and also a volunteer Ambassador at this nature center.  also I participat e in the Cornell Lab Project Bird Feeder Watch from November to April each year and send local bird count data to Cornell each winter.   IN comparison, My home backyard had only robins in pine trees and  hunting worme on ground.
    • Link
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 1: Watching from my yard: European Starling, House Finch, House Sparrow, Eurasian Collared Dove, Mallard, Lesser Goldfinch. (The mallards were a big surprise.) Activity 2: At Antelope Island State Park yesterday, I heard a song in the sagebrush. I couldn't see it, so I pulled up Merlin's most likely. The first bird on the list turned out to be what I was looking for: Western Meadowlark. Activity 3: Birds that I didn't know were in my area: Barn Swallow, Ring-necked Pheasant, Lazuli Bunting, Double-crested Cormorant, and Yellow Warbler.
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 2: Sounds. California Quail, American Robins for sure, Song Sparrow, noisy Red-winged Blackbirds, Canada Geese were quiet under a large tree (They are most noisy when about to take off. They are most plentiful on our large lake). California Quail makes a sound like they are saying boo. lol. Was hard to see the small birds in the large, overgrown marsh area today, but I was sure I saw House Finches, and listening to the sounds on my app it was definitely them. I have to find Chickadees! So cute! But listening to their song on the app, I did not hear one today. IMG_1636IMG_1640
      • Marjorie
        Participant
        Chirps: 10
        Is your first photo of an Audubon's (Yellow-rumped) Warbler? We have those near my house too! They came back about two weeks ago... I always think of California Quail as saying "chi-CA-go ... chi-CA-go" - one of may favorite calls, always makes me laugh.
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      IMG_1643IMG_1639Activity 1: I went to one of our many marsh areas. There were the usual Mallards, Canada Geese, red-winged Blackbirds, Yellow-rumped Warblers which I am seeing for the first time (this is their breeding area), sparrows (I think they were Song Sparrows but they were moving in and around thick bush), American Robin (I have seen these my whole life and I did not know the full name. We have always said it is spring when we see the Robins). I love to watch the California quail; so cute. Didn't see any little ones yet. I heard what I think was Chickadees, but they were very high up in the trees. There were some big nests up there too, but I did not see any birds around them. Owls do inhabit this area.
      • Cathy
        Participant
        Chirps: 45
        Hi Sandra.  Love your quail picture.  It looks so regal! Cathy
    • Rosemary
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      While looking out my patio door I saw Robins, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Canada Geese and sparrows.  I didn't know that I might see yellow or black billed Cuckoos, common tern and blue grosbeak.
    • Donna
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 1: I watched the feeders and birdhouses in our yard/field. I saw mainly common birds today: Northern cardinal, blue jay, red wing blackbird, common grackle, mourning dove, gray catbird (they love hanging out in our arborvitae trees), robin, downy woodpecker (on the suet as always) and at the houses we have tree swallows, house sparrows and Eastern bluebirds who have all nested and flit in and out. Activity 2: I had not used the Merlin bird app before this course and I really enjoy having that information at my fingertips! Knowing what's most likely to be seen helps me to identify the birds easier. Activity 3: The 5 birds that I didn't know about in my area that I read about were: chimney swift, killdeer, green heron, ovenbird, and Northern flicker (which coincidentally I then saw the next morning at the top of a tree in the field).
    • Jason
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: I regularly watch for birds on my balcony. I live close enough to a large river for their to be a range of water fowl and migrating species that show up, but also on a residential street so get a mix of birds that love to hang out near humans. An example of the two extremes is seeing Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, and Double-Crested Cormorants flying overhead, while listening to the cacophony of House Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, and Rock Pigeons at the same time. Activity 2: I use Merlin all the time while I'm in the field and also at home. In the field, I mostly use the Bird ID feature to help me ID things I see. It has proved super useful! At home, I also love to use the explore birds feature, especially the view that allows me to see bar charts for my area, which lets me know what birds are common or are soon to be common for my area that I haven't yet seen. Both in the field and at home, I also often listen to bird vocalizations to help me figure out what I'm hearing while outside. I've been amazed at home much my birding has become auditory as I've gotten into it -- I totally expected birding to be entirely about seeing, but hearing is just as important, and perhaps will become even more important for me as trees and bushes leaf-out, making birds harder to observe visually. Activity 3: I've been doing this a bunch lately. I love to check out what birds people are finding in my area that I haven't yet seen. Before I started observing birds more closely, I was basically ignorant of how much bird migration happened in my area. I knew all about migrating geese, but I ignored how many of the other species migrated as well, and also which ones stuck around, and all of the questions behind why some left and some stayed, etc. The range maps on All About Birds and the Bar Charts on eBird have been super helpful in teaching me about who migrates when and to where. I love it! One bird I'm looking forward to discovering is a bird that bar charts tell me is about to start showing up in big numbers here -- the Yellow Warbler. I've never seen it before, but realized it would be coming soon by checking out the Merlin list of most likely birds in my area with accompanying bar charts for monthly frequencies.
    • Laura
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I am thoroughly enjoying this course, and it has been great to read comments from fellow birders from all over the country. I live on the river, and have both a lawn and woods on our property. Today I have seen a Northern Flicker, Redheaded Woodpecker, Robin (of course!), Grackles, Starlings, and an Eastern Phoebe. Merlin said that bird was rare, but I got a great look at it, and it was a perfect match. The course has been very helpful in terms of knowing which features to look for. I hope to learn birds by sound. My son-in-law can identify all the area woodpeckers by sound. I am finding it very difficult, but hopefully it gets easier by time.
    • Eileen
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I live at the beach in New Jersey, so I am not sure if I will see the same types of birds as most people in this class.  I always see cardinals, grackles, American goldfinch (New Jersey state bird), Purple finch, sparrows (not sure what kind yet) and crows...not to mention a lot of shore birds. I am sad that we never get hummingbirds though because they are my favorite.  I hang a feeder out every year, but I was told that we just don't have enough vegetation on our barrier island to sustain them.  I keep trying though.  I usually see one a year in September, probably migrating south.  There are plenty of them on the mainland nearby though. We have had an unusual visitor the past few years.  A group of yellow-crowned night herons hang out in a tree across the street from my house.  The first two years, they had nests, but storms blew it aways this year.  They still hang out by the tree, but have not rebuilt a nest.  I was told that they often build nests in several locations. Looking forward to learning a lot about local birds.  I need to get a good field guide, a good pair of binoculars and a better long distance lens for my camera.IMG_8166
      • Marjorie
        Participant
        Chirps: 10
        Beautiful night heron!
    • 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
      • 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.