Ghost Birds

This week I rejoined the birders of Rutgers Newark for the Wednesday Walks.  When I arrived, Claus immediately set off in pursuit of the Clay-colored Sparrow and Lark Sparrows he had discovered on his scouting excursion earlier that morning.

Well, we discovered sparrows galore! 200+ Chipping Sparrows, 100+ White-throated Sparrows, a few Song Sparrows, Dark-Eyed Juncos, and even Eastern Towhees and Swamp Sparrows.  We searched long and hard, high and low…. located an unidentifiable (due to distance) falcon… Probably the American Kestrel who frequents the campus and had been seen earlier in the morning, but looked a bit Merlin like for the hopeful.  Woodpeckers were also scarce this morning with only a lone Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in evidence.

It was a chilly morning!  I was grateful I had pulled a lazy birder and thrown clothes over my pajamas rather than change – it provided just the right amount of warmth.  But the two birds that would have been new for the list: the Lark Sparrow and Clay-colored Sparrows were lost in the host of sparrows (reference).  I did see my first American Woodcock of the year – dead, but it was still a woodcock.   (They’re already on my life list so I feel less guilty about counting it!)

Unfortunately as the campus became more active, the sparrows became more restless.  A few times the host swarmed when someone walked too close and a few would inevitably fly into the windows.  We walked through the fall zone, practicing avian triage.   My patient was inclined to scramble away from the others, but for some inexplicable reason tolerated me.

RecoveringChipping Sparrow catches a ride around campus on m arm.

Recovering Chipping Sparrow catches a ride around campus on my arm. Photo by Claus Holzapfel.

He rode on my arm for a bit before he went to rest in a planter to resume his recovery. Claus Holzapfel, excursion leader also writes up the Wednesday Walks. His write up can be found here.  Additionally you can see all the bird species that have been idenified on the urban Rutgers Newark Campus as well as their efforts at wilding an urban oasis to increase biodiversity.

One by Land, Two by Sea?

How many lists should one make?  I  enjoy making lists in general.  I like their ability to track progress. They keep me focused.  So of course, I adore ebird.

My parents have a really lovely set up for backyard birding.    The feeder sits at the edge of the middle garden bed.  Just in the next bed there’s plenty of cover from a small tree and wild rose bush.  The birds frequently sit in both the tree and the rose bramble.  Outlining both beds are rows of large rocks that the Dark-eyed Juncos are especially fond of scrambling around.  Moving away there are trees dotting the landscape in all directions of varying ages most upward of 30 years.  The property line to the west is also provides good cover and to the south we have edge.  So that’s a convoluted way to say there is lots of good cover.

However on the north side of the house it’s quite a different habitat.   Just across the street is both a stream and a pond which compromise a County Park / Wilderness Refuge.  We tend to get mallards, a domestic duck unit, in recent years we’ve had Red-winged Blackbirds, in addition to the anticipated forest birds.  We also see Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets.  About a decade ago, I saw my only true rail, the Virginia Rail creeping along. All visible from the house!

So the question is this:  as I am birding the backyard, do I list species I see/hear concurrently in the stream/pond on the same list or should I create a second list?

Reasons for 2 Lists:

  • Two different habitats
  • Can bird each separately
  • One is public land, the other is private
Reasons to Make 1 List:

  • 2 habitats are separated by 100? feet
  • Can be birding from the same location (within the house)