Monday, December 31, 2012

Yardbird Data Compilation Tools

     Several years ago while watching White-Throated Sparrows in my yard I noted the date and realized that it was the earliest spring date that I had ever seen them in my yard.  At the time I thought that in order to know the latest spring date for them and other species, I would have to keep track of every species that I saw everyday in my yard.  My solution was to create an Excel worksheet that I call BIRDLIST. 
    The first sheet of BIRDLIST is a general comment page that list the species, followed by a comment column that usually contains the first date I ever saw the bird in my yard and any other significant sightings.  The last 12 columns represent the months of the year, with the months that the species has been seen in my yard highlighted in yellow.

  Sheet two of BIRDLIST is a narrowed version of the first sheet minus the comment column.  Its purpose is to allow me to fit 150 species on to one sheet printed in landscape format, that I can  fold in thirds and leave in field guide that I use primarily in my yard.  Here is a zoomed in view of sheet2. 

 The third sheet of BIRDLIST is the meat and potatoes, the dog that herds the sheep, the trashcan that catches the puke in the data gathering process. It lists the species, followed by the numbers 1 thru 0 three times followed by a fourth 1.  Any guesses to what these numbers represent?  Answer : the days of the month, the first 1-0 represent the days of the 1st-10th, the second group of numbers represent the days 11th-20th and so on.  The dates were abbreviated due to space restrictions.  I print one out each month and mark with a pen the days that I see each bird. At the end of the month I total all the days I saw each species.

   Here are 3 photos of the sheet I used in September with explanations of the marks I made on it.



The data gathered monthly is totaled and entered into another Excel worksheet I call "BIRD SURVEY", that totals the number of days a species is seen for the year and compared to previous years.

NAME J F M A M J J A S O N D 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
1 HOUSE SPARROW 24 26 31 30 21 30 31 26 27 31 30   307 355 364 270 246
2 NORTHERN CARDINAL 24 25 26 29 19 22 25 24 24 24 28   270 282 315 217 209
3 MOURNING DOVE 14 23 29 30 19 22 15 20 26 20 19   237 252 247 196 205
4 EUROPEAN STARLING 21 25 31 30 21 30 29 24 25 29 28   293 295 278 226 223
5 ROCK DOVE 13 14 26 28 21 26 19 16 20 15 27   225 279 280 238 177
6 DOWNY WOODPECKER 1   10 5 8 1 3 9 16 16 20   89 76 57 107 144
7 HOUSE FINCH 5 11 23 30 21 20 8 12 20 11 13   174 138 111 94 143
8 RING BILLED GULL 20 14 29 30 21 28 21 18 22 16 24   243 203 179 164 139
9 AMERICAN CROW 4 10 16 17 10     1 3 2 1   64 71 81 40 32
10 CANADA GOOSE 2 9 11 8 2 1   1 5 3 1   43 39 35 24 16

    If anyone is interested in more info, I can send you my excel files that may make more sense than what is depicted here. You can contact me at

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lawn Lion

Soft kitty

Warm kitty

Little ball of fur

Happy kitty

Sleepy kitty

Purr, purr, purr

Friday, December 14, 2012

CBC Recon pt. 2 (with meteors)

    Went to work a little early last night and spent the extra few minutes trying to photograph the Geminid meteor shower.  I was able to capture a couple of them with my camera's sensitivity set to ISO 8000.
see answer below

Faint meteor passing between Jupiter and the Pleiades star cluster
The zoomed in inset shows Jupiter with its moon Ganymede

    Now the birds.....
Adult Black-crowned Night Heron

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron
Male Wood Ducks

Pair of Hooded Mergansers

Belted Kingfisher

Tree Sparrow

Brown Creeper

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Thursday, December 13, 2012

CBC Reconnaissance

 The 2012 Monroe, MI  Christmas Bird Count (CBC) will take place this Sunday December 16.  Christmas Bird Counts have been an annual event since Christmas 1900.  It replaced the traditional annual Christmas Bird Shoot because of legislation pushed through during a literal lame duck session(independent verification needed). 
  Work obligations will prevent my participation in the CBC this year but this morning I did a little bit of advance scouting of one of the covered sites in the 15-mile diameter count circle.   No rarities but here are a few photos I took.

Great Blue Heron......not as warm as it looks
Ring-billed Gulls.......not as cold as it looks
Herring Gull

American Goldfinch

Canada Goose
Golden-Crowned Kinglet
     The best photo opportunity of the morning came from this cooperative 4 year old Bald Eagle. It zigzagged toward me until it passed almost directly overhead.  All the while attempting to keep its sunlit face toward the camera.  



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cranes at Dusk

           Tuesday I spent the whole day trying to photograph birds.  Starting out in my yard I didn't see anything of note except this Cooper's Hawk that visits pretty regularly.

   Headed to Lake Erie Metropark where I saw no migrating hawks.  From there I went to Ohio and refound the Snow Buntings at Maumee Bay State Park.
  Also a late season Great Egret passed by.
   From there I drove back toward Toledo and Woodlawn Cemetery to look for Red Crossbills.  Didn't find any  but got some shots of a female White-winged Crossbill and a Pine Siskin.

   Back in the fall of O-10,  a Whooping Crane made nightly fly-ins with the Sandhill Cranes at the roost in Haehnle Marsh in Jackson County.  Last year high water in the marsh kept even the Sandhills away.  This fall the Sandhills are roosting in record numbers which topped out over 7000 in early November.  Also last week the same Whooper returned.  What's so special about a Whooping Crane?  It is the tallest bird in North America standing about 5 feet tall.  It has a 7.5' wingspan.  In 1941 their population had dwindled to 21 due to hunting and habitat loss.  Even after years of  breeding programs the conservation effort has yielded a wild population of only 421 as of 2011. 
  Of course the cranes on Tuesday didn't start pouring into the marsh until after the sun had set, so picking out the Whooper among the thousands of Sandhills was impossible.  Here is a photo I took two years ago.
Whoop, there it is
Some more shots from Tuesday.

Northern Shovelers

     Everyone wants to live forever or at least leave a legacy.  Very few however have the legacy of their sense of humor etched in stone.

  Back on Thanksgiving, between the 8 hours of work, family get-together,and the cooking of the pierogis and kielbasa, I had time to do a load of laundry.  I took the laundry bag from the hamper in the bathroom down to the washing machine in the basement. 
Laundry basket looking deceivingly empty.
  Five minutes later when I returned the laundry bag to the hamper.  I found this....
Re-enactment of Baby Jessica stuck in the well
    It is well documented( ) that my cat Comet likes to hang out in the bathroom so that she can try to persuade anyone to turn on the water in the sink so that she can get a drink of fresh water.  Beside camping out on the counter waiting for someone to enter the bathroom, she also likes to wait on top of the laundry basket.  What happened here is that she tried to jump on top of the basket.  Being a cat she doesn't notice that the top has been removed.  So instead of landing on her perch she fell into the basket.  Being a quirky cat she didn't care and made the most of her predicament and settled in for a nap.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yard Crossbills

  This afternoon I spent a little time watching my bird feeders when I heard a flock of White-winged Crossbills fly over my yard.  With my camera at the ready, I was able to get some distant shots of them.  This is only the second time I've seen them from my yard.   They are the 91st species I've seen from the yard this year, breaking last years record of 90.

9 White-winged Crossbills

Composite photo of cropped images

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Red Crossbills Woodlawn Cemetery 11/18/12

Red Crossbill

  Reports of both crossbill species drew me to Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo after working a 13 hour shift this morning.  Through a thick morning fog that the National Weather Service promised would dissipate around 9am, I navigated my way in the light Sunday morning traffic.  Right on cue the fog started to burn off just as I pulled in the cemetery driveway.  Woodlawn has been the final resting place for many prominent Toledo residents since at least the 1870's.   The long history of this location results in many mature trees that attract a variety of birds. 

  Today the main attractions for the birds were the Sweet gum trees.  Here are some of the 600 photos I took today.
Red Crossbill

White-winged Crossbill

White-winged(left), Red Crossbill (right)

Dark-eyed Junco

Pine Siskin

Red-bellied Woodpecker

White-throated Sparrow
   While strolling around the grounds in search of the crossbills, I ran into two other birders Chris and Jackie.  While talking to Chris I mentioned that I had worked all night and I was on my way home in a roundabout way.  I told him the line of work that I am in and he said he met a birder at the White Wagtail (at Pt. Mouillee in April of last year) who shared my occupation.  Turns out it was me. It made me realize what a peculiar way it is that birders can use a bird to describe a time and place.  For example, besides Chris I also met a birder named Mary at the White Wagtail,  John  and Karl at the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Scott at the White Pelican, Jim and Dave  at the winter American Pipit.