Yes, I know it's Valentine's Day, but Eliza called last night at 11 to be picked up from a sleepover that just wasn't meant to be, Ani started vomiting around 3 a.m., and Dan is fighting off the same stomach bug that started with me a week ago. To say we are a bit tired would be a beginning. The best news is that we are handling it all well, and even got in some delicious naps this afternoon when Dan came home for a break between classes and rehearsal (oh this guy is so busy). The naps and the Papa company were the exact Valentines we needed today.
So, this is about birds! We decided to join in the Great Backyard Bird Count this year, and it started today.
I often feel as though I should have lived in the 1800's, when so much of natural science was in the hands of the obsessed amateur observer (have you read The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert yet? Can you handle a lot of descriptions of moss? Then you might love it), so it is no surprise that I am a fan of Citizen Science. This particular project looks at the numbers and distribution of different species during a four-day period in February every year. I always have good intentions, but this year I also have a little help and interest from everyone else. Maybe it's because it's been such a cold winter here, but the feeders have had a steady flow of regulars.
The process is very simple, and you can join in for one or all four days. Today I took a break from holding Ani on the couch (she is so cuddly and attached when she is feeling sick), to sit and eat something while looking at our feeders and writing down who I saw there during my twenty minutes.
It was an awesome twenty minutes! From 10:40 to 11:00 a.m. I saw:
male and female Cardinals
2 Song Sparrows
1 male European House Sparrow
1 Starling (how I managed to only see one when it is usually a flock, I don't know!)
male and female Downy Woodpeckers
I am still working on my identificaton for the LBBs (Little Brown Birds), but I use the field guides we have and the incredible resource that is the Cornell Ornithology Lab website - they have "tricky bird ID" pages through their Project Feeder Watch - for more details. I think I've figured out the black-capped versus the carolina chickadee, and the downy versus the hairy woodpeckers.
My favorite bird by far this year is the Carolina Wren. I stop what I'm doing every time I catch this guy at the feeder, and he and his mate live in the backyard, so I see them a lot. I was lucky to be walking from the car to the front door with my camera when he decided to come down for some food. He is so sweet! His mate hung back for a while, but I have seen them both at the feeders, together, a couple of times.
I know that my need to name can get a little obsessive, but I don't think it has stood in the way of me feeling connected to the extended family that lives just on the other side of the kitchen window. Our cat Charlie and I talk about the unbelievably friendly chickadee who stares right into our window and chats at us (well, I call it a "carolina chickadee" - he calls it "one bite", but we're tolerant of each others' limited views) and we both drool a little bit when the wrens come to call.
Great Backyard Bird Count (now! Feb 14 - Feb 17)
Project Feeder Watch (November - April)
Hummingbirds at Home (all year)