[Tweeters] Migration is Here!

Stephen schasecredo at gmail.com
Sat Sep 16 19:07:29 PDT 2017

Hi Tweeters,

I'm relatively new to the birding thing - 3 years in - and lurked the Tweeters entries for quite a while before finally subscribing this past summer. I became a birder quite by accident. My wife and I and our growing family moved into our current place in northern Whatcom County three years ago. The former owner, an older lady who loved her backyard birds, left us her feeder and twenty-some pounds of seed. While filling the toolshed with my junk, I found her stash and purposed to get rid of it. I figure I'd put out the seeds until they ran out, and then throw the feeder away. I put them up and lo and behold, all these exotic birds showed up! (Heh...mostly chickadees, but I didn't even know these at the time!) I had to find out what birds these were, and spent some time with my camera and online trying to ID the birds I'd seen. Pretty soon I had a list going on my phone of all the birds I'd seen in the yard. This was Winter 2014, and when Spring rolled around, I was thrilled to see all sorts of new species show up! I kept the feeders going, was gifted a nice pair of Vortex binoculars for my birthday, and spent many early mornings looking a whole lot like the neighborhood creep, walking around my half-acre, mostly secluded (thankfully!) yard. I enjoyed this for a year or so, but then began to get stuck. I'd see dabbling ducks and swallows and other birds flying past, but I couldn't identify them. They were too far away or backlit by the bright sky. I badly wanted to add these to my backyard list, but the only way I could confidently ID them, I figured, was to see them in their more "normal" environments, begin to recognize their habits, and then take that information and use it to ID them when they flew past my yard. Looking for the right spots to find these ducks and swallows, and other birds, led me to eBird, and I was hooked!

So in 2016, in an effort to learn more birds, I made a goal to see 100 different species during the summer. (I'm a schoolteacher, so I have a fair amount of summer time but definitely not the funds for exotic trips, and besides I have a busy and young family to care for.) I made to it 88 species and was beginning to feel much more comfortable with the local birds. I joined some local and national Facebook identification groups through the winter, learned from some local experts, and built my field guide and general birding interest library. This past summer, I gave myself the same goal, and just wrapped up the summer with a solid 120 species.

I also enjoy gardening, and a recent post on here reminded me to share some of the bird-friendly plant successes I've had. Right from the start of this new birding fad, I began designing my yard to draw in birds. Two Springs ago, I went to a local native plant sale and bought $1 seedlings of Red-flowering Currant, Blue Elderberry, Serviceberry, Black Hawthorne, and Oceanspray, all recommended in local wildlife books. With lots of care, they've taken off and become a substantial natural hedgerow only eighteen months later. I've added Indian Plum and Mock Orange as well, but they're still pretty small.

That brings me to today. What a day - Fall migration is here! The morning began as usual. I stepped outside around 8:30 and saw some collared doves and crows, and so I started a new eBird entry on my phone and plugged them in. Nothing spectacular. I added a bunch of regulars: BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, PURPLE FINCH, CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE, and a few others. Then I set to yard work. I got about thirty minutes in before noticing a flock of fifteen or so CEDAR WAXWINGS, a nice distraction from what I was supposed to be doing. They were joined by a growing number of AMERICAN ROBINS, several NORTHERN FLICKERS, and my local STELLER'S JAYS. I was building a nice Saturday morning checklist. More and more waxwings kept coming in, until there were at least 40 and more likely close to 100. I found it tough to get a good estimate because they were so active and in small groups on all sides of the yard. Between the waxwings were three WESTERN TANAGERS, two YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, two WARBLING VIREOS, and a new yard bird, HUTTON'S VIREO, which first gave me a run for my identifying money, but later came back and gave great looks. Fantastic! A YELLOW WARBLER landed a few yards away from me, red streaks obvious without binoculars. I added a freshly-plumaged DOWNY WOODPECKER working on a trunk nearby, which was chased off by red-shafted flicker. A WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, the first in the yard since May, sang a surprising Gambelii song. 12 BLACK SWIFTS and about 20 BARN SWALLOWS flew high overhead. The waxwings made things overwhelming. The second I found one bird to follow, another moved in my peripherals. They turned out to be mostly waxwings, but I added BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, a noisy resident BEWICK'S WREN, and an unidentified Empid. My resident ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDS were not impressed. They chased their visitors left and right. The waxwings gorged on already-established Mountain Ash and cleaned up the berries on my year-old Blue Elderberry. I call that a gardening success! I saw my first DARK-EYED JUNCO of the season and was surprised by an early RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER which landed directly above me, not five feet away, on the trunk of a Doug Fir. My most faithful customers, two RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, came in for sunflower seeds around 11:30 and rounded off my fantastic yard checklist.

After I'd submitted the checklist on eBird, I picked up TURKEY VULTURE to bring the day's yard total of seen birds to 32. That topped my previous record from last December by three species. That's not bad for a half-acre city lot. What a day!

Thanks for reading. I hope we meet someday - there's nothing like a fellow birder to build competence and interest.

Stephen Chase

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