Great Backyard Bird Count 2015

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Great Backyard Bird Count 2015

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Sunday, February 15th was the annual Great Backyard Bird Count at Powell Gardens. The Great Backyard Bird Count is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada to gauge bird populations at the peak of winter in February before birds begin their migration northward for spring. This year 17 people participated in observing and counting birds at Powell Garden — the weather was the coldest in all the dozen years we have been conducting the count and many participants cancelled. Visitors who still made the trek to Powell Gardens were treated to good birds at the feeders, observed comfortably from indoors.

The count provided a good opportunity to see up close many of our unique sparrow species, sometimes called LBB’s (little brown birds). This is a White-throated Sparrow, a bird that breeds up north in Canada (I believe it’s their national bird because of its beautiful song). It does have a white throat and always has a bit of “egg on its face” — yellow “lores” (between the bill and eye) in birder’s language. 

This is an American Goldfinch in winter plumage. He is showing a bit of yellow around his face and chin and in a few short weeks will fully molt to be blazing yellow with black wings and tail.  Female birds still molt but remain close to this color.

You gotta be quick to capture an image of a Black-capped Chickadee (left) as they fly to the feeder, grab a seed, and quickly fly off with it. They take the seed to their favorite perch and crack it open with their bill while holding it in their feet. The image of the American Goldfinch on the right clearly shows its white wing bars.

This American Robin looks grumpy but entertained us from indoors as he would drink from our water feature and eat berries from some of the containers that included cut sumac and juniper. Robins begin their northward migration the last week of February and reach northern Iowa by the second week of March. There have been loads of wintering robins around Powell Gardens (and the region) this winter as the berry crop was exceptional.

Here’s a picture of some of our Great Backyard Bird Count participants watching birds from the comfort of our bird watching setup in the Cafe. This display includes tips for bird feeding and bird houses and is open daily to all visitors at Powell Gardens through February.

We were supposed to hike our 3-mile Byron Shutz nature trail but just a one-mile morning hike through the gardens proved cold so we opted for the short, one-mile loop of the nature trail in the afternoon.

Here is the final tally of birds on our cold, windy day:

  1. Canada Goose 38
  2. Swan (Trumpeter?) 4
  3. Mallard 10
  4. Hooded Merganser 2
  5. Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
  6. Bald Eagle 1 (immature)
  7. Red-tailed Hawk 3
  8. Barred Owl 1
  9. Red-bellied Woodpecker 4
  10. Downy Woodpecker 2
  11. Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker 5
  12. Blue Jay 10
  13. American Crow 7
  14. Black-capped Chickadee 7
  15. Tufted Titmouse 6
  16. White-breasted Nuthatch 2
  17. Eastern Bluebird 8
  18. American Robin 40
  19. Northern Mockingbird 1
  20. European Starling 13
  21. Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler 1
  22. American Tree Sparrow 51
  23. Fox Sparrow 1
  24. Song Sparrow 6
  25. Swamp Sparrow 12
  26. White-throated Sparrow 7
  27. Harris’s Sparrow 1
  28. White-crowned Sparrow 8
  29. Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco 26
  30. Northern Cardinal 24
  31. Purple Finch 1
  32. American Goldfinch 5
  33. House Sparrow 16

Watch for our Great Backyard Bird Count next February and we hope you can participate!