After a few years of missing out on it, this season I finally joined Project Feederwatch. This is a program run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and it's actually quite ingenious on their part: get people to pay to do research on Avian behavior and feeding habits for you.
All joking aside, it is a fun project (and, all told, it doesn't cost that much to join). The instruction kit alone is worth ordering as it is a veritable smorgasbord of unintentional hilarity. Really though, all you need to do is:
1) Pick two consecutive days on which you will count birds each week.
2) Look out the window on said chosen days.
3) Count the number of winged theropods of each species you see and write this down.
4) Head to the website and enter the highest number of each bird you saw at one given time.
This last bit is by far the most confusing, though it makes sense if you think about it. Say a female Cardinal visits your yard. Later on a male Cardinal visits. Obviously, there are two Cardinals in the neighborhood - but since you haven't seen them visiting as a couple (yet), you must state that you've only seen one Cardinal. And if you're still confused, replace "Cardinal" with "Chickadee". (For all we know, the Black-Capped Chickadee is sexually dimorphic - too bad human eyes can't see it.)
The real fun starts when you see one hundred (at a conservative estimate) House Sparrows and the data entry site's computer says you're lying. Or you have an incredibly diverse crowd of animals visiting your feeders... on a non-Count Day. All sarcasm aside, this is a fun project and I'm happy to be a part of it.
So here's what I saw this week, starting Sunday, January 4 (I am also inviting armchair ornithologist readers to join me in doing this):
House Sparrows - at least 50
Song Sparrow - One
American Robin - One
Cardinal - The pair (male and female)
Sharp-Shinned Hawk? - One; at least a small Accipiter swooped overhead spooking the Sparrows.
House Sparrows - Flocks of about 20-25
Cardinals - The pair
Downy Woodpecker - One (male)
Also a cat and a squirrel.
Tuesday, 1.6.09 (Count Day!):
House Sparrows: 20
White-Breasted Nuthatch: One
Squirrels - 3!
Wednesday, 1.7.09 (Count Day!):
House Sparrows: One Hundred, at least.
Starlings - Two
Cardinals: The pair
Downy Woodpecker: One
Blue Jay - One
Squirrel - One
House Sparrows - About 25.
Starlings - Three
Chickadees - Two
House Sparrows - About 25, as usual.
Starlings - About 25, as unusual (thankfully).
Chickadees - One
W. B. Nuthatch - One
Song Sparrow - One
On second thought, maybe I'll just post what happens on the most interesting days.