Yard atlasing

Birders keep lists.  We all know that, even if we don’t do it ourselves.  Some are more compulsive than others. A few months ago, I wrote about the potential for adding atlas data without ever leaving home and I noted that I’d confirmed breeding in a fair number of species just by watching the birds from my office window. At the time, I didn’t know the exact number, but this weekend I made a proper list.

On Sunday, while on a call with family, I heard the distinctive call of a fledgling cowbird high in a tree on the edge of our yard. Spotting some movement and a flash of red, I grabbed my binoculars and realized there was a male scarlet tanager feeding the cowbird. This discovery prompted me to tally up my “yard-confirmed-species” list, and I discovered that this was the 29th species.

A little later in the afternoon, I was weeding an overrun vegetable bed and heard raucous, but rather high pitched, cawing coming from a tree across the small creek that runs along the edge of the yard. Suspecting this might be another “tick”, I got my binoculars again and located the bird.  Sure enough, it was a young crow, one of two, still a little wobbly on their wings and accompanied by an adult.

So now I’m at 30 confirmed species and, although I’m lucky to have a nice yard, I don’t live deep in the woods or embedded within particularly good birding habitat – just a regular semi-rural neighborhood surrounded by other houses.

And, there’s several more species I could still confirm here. For instance, I still don’t have Carolina wren, a bird that nested in our yard almost annually until the year before the atlas began ….