Date: 1/3/19 2:50 pm
From: Warblerick <ricksussman1955...>
Subject: [MDBirding] My Yard Big Year
Since I work from home, last year I decided to try for a Big Year birding in my yard (3.45 acres). My goal was to beat the previous years total of 114, which included both House Sparrow and European Starling, but to try to do it "clean", ie, without the HOSP or EUST. At the start of 2018 my yard list stood at 158, so finding anything new would also be a challenge. My first day back in the shop, January 2, I stepped outside with my binoculars about 4 PM to watch the many flocks of Canada Geese coming over, and to scan for anything new. Luck was with me as a pair of Greater White-fronted Geese were flying low out in front of a flock of CANGs, in full setting sun as they headed from SE-NW. This was a new yard bird, No. 159. By the end of January my yard list was at 36.

By the end of February I was at 46, with Field Sparrow my last bird of the month. March added only 8 new birds to the list, and April saw 17 additions, including 3 Blue-winged Teal on my neighbors little farm pond, about half of which is visible, down the hill from my yard. This was also a new species for the yard, No. 160!

May was to be the biggest month as migration was in full swing. 29 new species came through, and highlights were the half dozen or more Cape May Warblers that stayed for about a week, feeding in my large holly trees. On May Count day, May 12, I was out most of the day with family obligations, but I stepped outside at 6:30 PM, and 5 minutes later was watching a Mississippi Kite flying over my yard and over my neighbors fields. It went back over another neighbors woods before coming in low again over my back yard, feeding on the wing. Another new yard species, No. 161 and a crazy unthought of record! Grasshopper Sparrow was the only June addition, seen and heard from my neighbors hay field, one day before he mowed it.

August added only a single species as well, a Chestnut-sided Warbler to bring my list to 102. But September was going to be a good month, as it turned out. I added 11 new species to bring the total to 113, just shy of my goal. On Sept. 16, in the late afternoon, I stepped outside my shop with my binoculars, and stood near the fence by the front meadow, and spished several times. Much to my surprise, an immature Connecticut Warbler popped up right in front of me about 20 feet away, in dense cover of goldenrods. It worked its way to the bottom branches of a small cherry tree giving me great looks. Another new yard species, and one I never would have thought I would seen here, No. 162! Even more mind blowing was that on Sept 25 another COWA, this one an adult male popped up in nearly the exact same spot and time of day. Hard to beat that, but September also surprised me with a Philadelphia Vireo on the 30th (and again on Oct. 5 and 10!), and the first of the invasion year Purple Finches (still present as I write this on 1/3/19), and Red-breasted Nuthatch on several occasions.

A heard only Greater Yellowlegs sounded off in dense fog as it flew above me in circles before flying off to the NE, on Oct. 16, making yard bird No. 114, tying my total from last year. The record breaker came on October 19, when 5-6 Pine Siskins visited my feeders, yard bird No. 115! On October 28 I watched a Hermit Thrush skulk around in the shrubbery in the way back, and on December 7 there were several pairs of Hooded Mergansers on the farm pond, ending the year at 117 species (not counting HOSP or EUST).

Big misses were Great Horned Owl, Northern Harrier, Lincoln's and Swamp Sparrow, Black-billed Cuckoo, Great Egret, Belted Kingfisher, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Savannah Sparrow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Ovenbird and Peregrine Falcon, all of which have been seen here and were possible.

I will write up the complete list, in order, maybe tomorrow.

Rick Sussman
Woodbine, Carroll County

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