Birding at My Place

Birding at My Place
My favorite pastime is enjoying the birds of my one acre paradise in southeastern Arizona.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Coming Home to Birding

I used to bird frequently, both for myself and for work. Then somehow, I drifted away from birding as life was filled with other activities, jobs, and concerns. Now that I've returned to birding, I find it incredible that I could have allowed it to slip away for so long.

When we bought this house on an acre, we were not thinking about what kinds of birds might be here. We moved in on April 1, 2010, and began keeping a yard list but we didn't spend much time or effort on it. We'd jot down each new species we saw here, rarely noting anything else such as the date seen. We knew basic information such as that most of the warblers moved through in spring migration and weren't here year-round, and that the kestrel numbers increased in the winter, but we didn't keep detailed records.

Fast forward to last fall when we were recuperating from a very stressful period of caregiving for my husband's mother and then dealing with her passing. We found that going out birding was a recuperative activity. Just being outdoors was relaxing and the attention needed to look and listen for birds took our minds off everything else. We started getting out more and noticing what was in our own yard.

Believe it or not, we were not aware of the eBird website. That's how far out of touch we'd gotten with the birding world! As we started checking the weekly Rare Bird Alerts for Arizona and then the Arizona-New Mexico Bird News listserv, we noticed mentions of eBird. I checked it out and found it a very useful tool for seeing what birds were being seen in the places we were visiting, such as Catalina State Park and Sweetwater Wetlands.

Eventually I decided to start entering my own checklists, which meant keeping better records. Because checklists entered on eBird are also used for science and research, more detail is better. Rather than simply checking whether a bird species is present, noting the number of birds seen and/or heard at a specific location on a specific date is better. Noting sexes, age, and breeding information provides even more useful data.

I had not kept these kinds of records for our property but I started doing so as soon as I signed up for an eBird account. I entered the information we did have, as well as checklists (without numbers) from Christmas and New Year's Day birding efforts at home and around Pima County. For our yard list, I pinpointed our location on their map and named it. We chose "Angel's Corner" in honor of our dog who passed away a few years after we moved here. While she wasn't a bird dog, we do miss her noisy alerts letting us know when the local coyotes were passing through her yard.

As we paid more attention to what was happening at our place, we kept finding more birds. We left the front yard and started wandering around the entire acre. And we began to watch for birds by the mountains off in the distance. The variety was probably always here but we simply had not noticed. Our casual list has grown by more than half just in a few months of birding frequently and at different times of day in our entire yard.

The basic yard list was 63 birds at the beginning of this year. On May 2, we added our 100th species. This morning, I found #101! Check out the current list here to see what we've found so far.

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