Friday, May 2, 2008

Yard Birds

Ok, I have to confess there is one other list that I really keep track of and that is my "Yard" list. I have kept an annual list of the birds I have observed from my yard for over 10 years (and three yards). We all have our own rules we use for this list but the primary difference between yard lists comes down to how we record the birds we see. For instance, my Dad only counts the birds that physically enter their yard or intersect a column of air that extends vertically from his property line. My rules are a bit more lax. I count any bird I can see or hear while standing in my yard. This extends my "reach" a bit farther than my Dad but can lead to some interesting situations while trying to get a new bird on the yard list.
I had been trying to get a Broad-winged Hawk on my yard list in Fort Peck ever since I moved back here. Last spring as I was coming home I found a Broad-winged perched in a tree in the drainage just over the hill from my house. I hurried home to see if I could see him from the yard. Nope. How about if I perch on the tailgate of the truck. Nope. Maybe the roof of the garage. Not quite. I could see the tree I knew he was perched in but not the lower branch where he was. Next I climbed on to the roof of the house. Closer, much closer, but still no hawk. One last last desperate attempt found me perched on the chimney peering over the edge of the hill. I could make out the branch just above the one the bird was perched on but still no bird. I gave up after that, resigned to the fact that it just wasn't going to happen with this bird. Later last fall I had two birds soar above the house while I looked out the window as I was eating my lunch at the dining room table. Good enough even under Dad's rules.

Our house in Bozeman had a great yard list. We lived up a small drainage just out of town and had elk, moose, bear, and lions for neighbors not to mention lots of really great birds. The best part of the house from the yard list perspective was that it was perched on the side of hill that looked out over east end of the Gallatin Valley and I could see for miles from my deck. I added quite a few birds to our yard list looking that direction from the porch.

The Helena house wasn't so good. We were right in town a few blocks off one of the major streets and we just didn't have very many birds.

What prompted this post was another addition to the Fort Peck house yard list. I have had a few species show up in my yard that are quite rare for MT including a White-winged Dove two summers ago. There are less than 10 records of this species in MT.
Today it was a Swamp Sparrow, again a species with fewer about 20 records in MT. For a while I thought I was about the only person in MT to have this species on their yard list until Dad came over to look at it with my Mom (it was a life bird for her *) and when I asked him if it was a new Montana bird for him he told me that he had one in their yard a number of years ago.
Even with his rules, Dad's yard list is impressive, including at least one bird that was first observed in the state in their yard. He could have had the White-winged Dove too but his rules got in the way of that one - he could hear it from his yard but it never made it to that part of town.

* Mom started birding later than Dad and I. She told Dad that she would begin birding when a Cardinal showed up in MT. Shortly after that the first one, a female, was observed in a backyard in Glasgow, 20 miles away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love the Broadwing story. Have you thought about installing a very tall tower?