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

    • Jackie
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      • Activity 1-I have a cylinder bird feeder and a log feeder. Everyday I see an abundance of goldfinches, house finches, northern cardinals, mourning doves, red-bellied woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers,
      • Activity 2-Today I went kayaking on Round Lake, NY and used the Merlin app 'most likely' species for my area today. I saw so many birds from the list including a bald eagle, great blue heron, American Goldfinch and a Red-winged Blackbird. I also saw a double-breasted cormorant which wasn't on the list as well as another bird I couldn't get the Merlin app to identify.20200821_12404520200821_12313820200821_122807
    • Yulia
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activities 1 and 2: First, I made a list of birds that I could see on a chosen spot (around 45 species), looked at their pictures and listened to their sounds. Then I went to the river mouth at the beach early in the morning, observed birds and took pictures and videos. This was very helpful later at home. For example, I noticed Blackish Oystercatcher only in the pictures. Finally I was able to identify 24 species. I saw some of them for the first time (Andean Flamingo, Blackish Oystercatcher and Black Skimmer). Pictures helped me to identify Kelp and Belcher’s Gulls and it turned out I saw both species in two separate groups. Pictures also helped me with the bird count and I could submit my first checklist in eBird. After my bird watch experience I realized that a pair of binoculars and a stronger camera zoom could be very helpful in the future. Activity 3: I looked at Bar charts and range maps of locally seen birds in Merlin Bird ID application. Then I looked up for more information online. Andean Goose: can be seen only in August. It migrates from higher altitudes in the mountains. Puna Teal: wasn’t spotted locally in March through May and mid-September – mid-October. I read that it’s not migratory, but changes altitude to match the season. Austral Negrito: disappears in October and appears in April (breeds in Patagonia). Least Sandpiper: disappears in May, June and July, flies to Alaska and Canada. It can be found at the beach for the most of the year. Tricolored Heron: Starting mid-October through February reproduces in Peru, can’t be seen locally. I realized that many birds, like Roseate Spoonbill or Chilean Flamingo live in the highlands all year round. But sometimes they can be spotted in the wetlands in front of the beach.
    • Beth
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 3: I don’t think I’m using the Merlin bar chart feature correctly because all that came up for me were American robin, common grackle, northern cardinal, and house finch. I’ve already seen all those in my back yard.
    • Beth
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 2: Used Merlin’s “Most Likely” feature and the first five birds on their list for my town are already listed in my birding journal for today (meaning, I’ve already seen them in my back yard) — American goldfinch, gray catbird, mourning dove, blue jay, northern cardinal
    • Beth
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 1: I keep a birding journal in which I record the species I see each day and other interesting (to me) observational notes. I’ve noticed that there is usually a little flurry around 1:00 or 1:30. When I can, I sit and watch. Today’s flurry featured 2 American goldfinches, a downy woodpecker, a nuthatch, 2 chickadees, and a blue jay. Items of note during the flurry: 1) this is the first time the goldfinches have spent a good amount of time at the feeder, usually they’re here and gone in a flash, 2) this was the first time a chickadee checked out the new bird bath we installed last week, it didn’t drink or bathe, just looked, and 3) the chickadee checked out the bird house which we recently elevated about 3 feet higher than it was before, spending a good amount of time on the perch and popping its head in to look around. For a new birder who just started birdwatching shortly after we moved here in late May, gradually adding feeders and other amenities, all these “firsts” are exciting, as is seeing our guest list growing day by day!
    • Judy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      5C437336-8D00-4766-8192-C19653091ED151D88877-1915-4A57-922B-03AF15923795 I am trying to identify these two birds but so far, have not been successful. The first picture was taken on August 11 in Rye, NY. The second one was taken on July 25 in New Paltz, NY. When I use Merlin, both come up as a Gray Catbird - is that so? Thank you.
      • Luke
        Participant
        Chirps: 18
        Yes, Gray Catbirds. Nice photos.
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Activities 1,2,3 Merlin’s Likely Bird list has been extremely useful. I have seen quite a few of the birds that are likely year round visitors. I made a list of resident likely birds that I had not seen and studied the photos, habits and songs. One day I saw a bird walking the side of our palm tree and remembered that one bird on my list did this. Sure enough when I found that description again it was the right bird, the White-breasted Nuthatch. The distinctive song of the Bewick’s Wren helped make a positive identification when confused by all the small grayish birds. Small gray and brown birds have been the most confusing for me to identify. Before sunset they all show up, flitting between trees, fences and the ground. They mix together on the ground and the late light can mask colors. I just take a good look and sometimes wait to add to a checklist. I also made a list of seasonal visitors from the Likely Bird list. It really helps to have an idea of what you are looking for. I had been watching for the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher for a while. One day there he was on the wire looking just like his picture. Now he sometimes lands right on the deck railing. I was surprised to catch a glimpse of a tiny black and white bird in a big honeysuckle bush. There was a bird like this on my list and looking through Likely Birds Found the Black-throated Gray Warbler. I have seen him a few more times in the same bush.
    • Mary
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 1: Not much activity at the Cornell Lab Feeder around sunset on Aug 11,2020 -  except for a pair of cardinals - one male and one female.  The male was feeding and fluttering his wings wildly, while the female looked on from her perch on top of the feeder.  The male then flew off, followed by the female;  but then she returned, and started to feed, and also started fluttering her wings, not quite as forcefully as the male had done. She finally settled into quietly feeding for a few more minutes. Checking in again at 7:40 am Eastern time on Aug12,2020: The most obvious visitor was a squirrel, but also saw a red-winged blackbird, bluejay and mourning dove. After the squirrel left, more visitors showed up: some type of woodpecker; a medium-size mostly brown bird, with a white strip on head, white flecks throughout, a blunt not very long beak, maybe some type of thrush Then a lot of black birds (10 or so) with bluish-purplish-greenish iridescent bodies (maybe grackles) showed up and everyone else left. A few hours later around 10:00 am I saw a male and female cardinal; a woodpecker, I think downy; mourning dove, blue jay, and then more of the grackles.   Activity 3: Using Merlin’s bar chart , here are 5 birds that I did not know about and should be passing through my suburban Chicago area now in high numbers: 1.Killdeer - I never would have thought I should be seeing one, and actually have never seen one. It is a shorebird but often nests far from water in parking lots, roofs, edges of roads, and other areas with bare gravel. It has distinctive black and white rings around its neck and face. 2.Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - Never heard of this one, and not sure if I have ever seen one.  it is tiny -  a cute little gray one. Its call seems familiar, but I’m not sure. 3. Chimney swift - I have seen these flying around in groups but did not know what they were. 4. Eastern Kingbird - High contrast black and white body:   a black head and back, and all-white chest and belly; black tail feathers trimmed in white. A rather short smooth round crown I don’t think I have seen one before. Cannot tell if I recognize its call . 5. Gray catbird - Gray or blu-ish gray body, with distinctive red undertail., black cap. Has a variety of calls, but one does  seem familiar to me - sounds a bit like a cat  -  but I do not know if I have ever seen one.
    • Kathy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      It  was interesting looking at the graphs in Activity # 3.  I didn't realize how many birds pass through our area throughout the year.  I have never seen a true bluebird, green heron, or loon, and hope to run across one some day when I am out and about . Walking around my neighborhood I saw crows, barn swallow, mourning doves, house sparrows, a mockingbird, and a couple others I was trying to identify with sounds.  I recorded a couple sounds on my phone and checked in with the Bird ID when I got home but the recording wasn't that good, so not sure what they were.
    • wendy
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      I saw seagulls (maybe herring gulls), American crows, Purple martins and ruby throated hummingbirds on about 8/3 in finger lakes area of NY. I would like to see Yellow bellied sapsuckers, pileated woodpeckers, Easter phoebe, gray catbird and eastern bluebird.
    • Lydia
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: Out side my window today I saw two female ruby-throated hummingbirds, a house wren, female cardinal, a bunch of sparrows, either a hairy or downy woodpecker, and a male goldfinch at my window feeder. There was also a dark brown bird that I couldn't figure out what it was. It was medium sized and shaped like a common grackle, but slight smaller and just brown.
    • Joy
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      At various times at my feeders were Northern Cardinals and fledglings, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Mourning Dove, Goldfinch, House Finch, Blue Jay, and a very small brown finch that I did not recognize. In my neighborhood I have also seen Mockingbirds and Barred Owls, Swallow-tail Kites, and Red-shouldered Hawks. The Kites, I think, were looking for nests that were blown down during a storm. They were flying very low overhead - maybe 10' above me. I love these birds with their split tails.
    • Joy
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Egyptian Goose? I didn't know this guy came through the Orlando area! I saw them in South Africa!!  Another bird that comes to the area that I've never seen here is the Common Eider. Scoters, Mergansers, and the Chachalaca (whatever that is - have to look it up) make up the rest of the 5. These are according to Merlin. I am getting a new pair of binocs to do some more bird watching and hopefully, I will see some new species (for me).  Haven't been out much as the temps during the day and early evening are mid 90s with feel like in the 100s. Between temps and Covid, I've been staying in the house most of the time. But armed with binoculars, I plan to do some early morning bird watching!
    • Tricia
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 1:  I didn't do very well with this activity.  I walked down to a picnic spot near to the Molonglo River and spent 15 minutes trying to spot birds, but didnt see many.  I saw two Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and three Galahs fly overhead, and there were some very small birds in the undergrowth but they were too far away and too fast-moving to identify them.  There were plenty of birds around - I could hear them in the trees and shrubs, but they kept themselves hidden and I couldn’t recognise their calls.  On the plus side, it was a good chance to practice using my binoculars and it was good to spend a little bit of time just enjoying nature. On the walk back home I saw Red Rumped Parrots, Australian Magpies, Magpie Larks and Red Wattle Birds.
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      This morning I sat out in my backyard birdwatching. I saw lots of Northern cardinals, several Carolina wrens, blue jays, Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Carolina chickadees, red-bellied woodpeckers, a downy woodpecker, an American crow, a brown thrasher, and two red-shouldered hawk. These are all pretty standard visitors in my backyard that I see pretty close to daily. I figured out how to use the "Most Likely" feature on Merlin. I am looking forward to using it in the future. I pulled up the bar chart for my county and went through and found a few birds I have not seen before. I like the way it shows what months they have been seen and in what concentrations. This will be really handy for knowing when I should look for these birds in my area.
    • Jamies
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      In Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the mostly likely birds seen almost all year round are Canada Goose, black-billed magpies and American Crows. They are seen almost everywhere in the city.  It is still pretty hot outside. Maybe go out another time to see other birds.
    • Cindy
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 1:  Sat on my deck in central IL for 45 minutes and several birds came to my feeder.  A white breasted nuthatch, a pair of house finches, a pair of house sparrows, a pair of cardinals, a pair of blue jays, a robin sat on the fence, a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers climbed in the upper parts of my ginkgo tree and a goldfinch flew by without stopping.  Very fun.  I'm beginning to differentiate their calls.
    • Kimberly
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Five birds that I did not know passed through our area the Cackling Goose, the Yellow Billed Cuckoo, a Chick Wills Widow, and Eastern Wood Peewee and a Wood Thrush. Yesterday on my bird walk, I heard both the Wood Thrush and the Yellow Billed Cuckoo. Turns out I have been hearing them in my yard for years. I just didn't know what they were. Very fun to learn. download This picture is of the yellow billed cuckoo. I also heard many Carolina Wrens and Cardinals while out walking. I love the Merlin's tool for listening to bird calls. I have always felt my hearing was not discerning enough to differentiate bird calls, but I am learning! It is very fun.
    • Bill
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 2 Merlin's most likely is a feature I hadn't used before.  Very interesting and helpful tool.
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: I saw a variety of birds, many that i know, especially the Cape Weaver which is very common in our area. I did see 4 birds that I have not seen before. The first bird "White-faced whistling duck" (Dendrocyna viduata) there were two of them sleeping in a standing position on the edge of a dam in the reeds. The 2nd bird I am still not able to identify it is a small stocky bird with a sharp heavy black bill and as I was looking into the sun it was difficult to be sure but I could see tinges of yellow and black - it could of been a cape weaver, but is was much smaller. The 3rd bird "Karoo Prinia" sitting on an electricity wire. The 4th bird "Yellow Canary" also sitting on an electricity wire.      
    • C
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      This morning I woke up to the sounds of a Carolina Wren and a Worm-eating Warbler.  I was able to see both of them from my window, as well as a Mourning Dove and several House Sparrows.
    • mei
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity #1 - Sitting in my backyard for morning coffee, I saw 5 house finches, 2 morning doves, 1 Anna's Hummingbird and 2 Allen's Humming birds, 1 spotted towhee, 1 song sparrow, 3 lesser gold finches, 1 black phoebe, and 1 mocking bird.
    • Chris
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I spent time in ebird checking out new birding spots near me.  Level of detail was great.  Very informative. I also listened to a local WBU podcast regarding setting up bird feeders which is something that interests me.  There’s a lot to learn.
    • rita
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      activity # 1- I spent time watching the bird cam today and saw a couple different woodpeckers, one red bellied and I think the other was a hairy woodpecker. There were turning doves, starlings, a cardinal. I used field guides, Merlin, and bird today.  recorded my first sighting in EBird- I recorded the red-bellied woodpecker. I think the it must be lying in a tree nearby as the tree has cavities and I see this bird somewhat often. activity #2- I saw a cardinal, a pair of house sparrows, two goldfinches, a black capped chickadee, a red bellied woodpecker, several blue jays. They were just out and about and at the bird feeder. activity #3- lots of the warbler species fly through here on their migrations between Canada and central and south America. Their maps are really fun to watch. Other birds seen in migration are the red-necked grebe, which according to the map should never be seen here, the Ruby-throated kinglet, which flies down to Central American, then through Michigan and back up to Canada, Lincoln's Sparrow, which flies through Michigan all the way up to Alaska and then back down to Central America, Swainson's thrush, which makes it all the way down to South America and then back up to Canada, and finally the Rusty Blackbird, which flies through Michigan on its way north to the upper half of Canada and Alaska, and back down south to the upper half of Florida and Texas. I don't know that I've ever seen any of them.
    • rita
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Activity #1, part 1 Today I heard many birds but didn't get to see very many. I have a new pair of binoculars, and the first bird that I was able to see through them was a hummingbird. Hummingbirds spend a lot of time at the monarda in the garden, but also travel from plant to plant. My favorite way to feed the birds has been to have plants that they like, but today I put out bird feeders with seed and suet and suet cakes around the garden. I heard a cardinal, a woodpecker, a jay, m goldfinches, chickadees, and a few others. I plan on watching BirdCam ad trying to identify more birds. I have been listening to a video of birds and their bird songs from my region. I find that I am not as up on my birdsongs as I thought. Even though I was up quite earl this mornings I was unable to identify very many birds by their songs. There was definitely a cardinal this morning singing quite boldly, but I could not find it to view it or take a photo. So I am creating a bird watching area out of my own yard, using my house as a sort of blind. I can go from room to room and see areas of the garden out different windows. Then there is a park next to the house and there should be more birding opportunities there. But using ebird I have also discovered that there are several hotspots in and around Ann Arbor, and a large variety of birds to be seen, if I just get out and about in the parks and nature areas.