Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2013

1. DC cormorant-kab Double-crested Cormorant at Reid Park 2-15-13

I was up before dawn counting birds on this first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count. However, the birds were smarter than I was and didn’t arrive until after 7:30 AM in my backyard! Still, the house finches, goldfinches, Gila woodpeckers and morning doves became part of my first eBird submission of the day. It’s a big deal this year because eBird has merged the GBBC with eBird. They used to be two different programs with two different protocols which required one to submit checklists through both data bases, but now it can all be done in one fell swoop, made even easier if you download the BirdLog app from eBird while it is still on sale for 99 cents! If you are already an eBird user then all you have to do is count birds and submit through eBird like always. Your checklists will automatically be entered into the GBBC.

2. Verfly-kab Vermillion Flycatcher at Reid Park 2-15-13

I planned to go birding at some of the parks around my area of Tucson but when Chris Rohrer called and said he had time to bird we made plans to meet at Reid park and bird together for the morning. I arrived around 11:25 AM and met Chris at the north parking lot with his dad and partner. As I drove in to park I was already seeing European Starlings and Great-tailed Grackles. But more numerous than those species were the pigeons! We were literally surrounded by them! I quickly counted them, then paid them no mind as I was distracted by a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers!

3. verfly-kab Female Vermilion Flycatcher on Fence

We slowly worked our way down between ball fields and over a tree covered knoll where we found Yellow-rumped warblers and a Ruby-crowned kinglet.

4. rock squirrels-kab Down near the rose garden we found a pair of rock squirrels!


5. hybrid-kab When we reached the first pond we started counting ducks. This strange duck swam by that looked to me like some kind of hybrid with a Ring-necked duck. It has far too much white on its face, but you can still see the characteristics of the ring-neck with the eye ring, the bill, and the overall body coloring.

6. canvasback-kab Female Canvasback


7. male canvasback-kab Canvasback Drake

In the north pond we found widgeons, coots, canvasbacks, a few mallards and domestic ducks, as well as a pied-billed grebe and some black-crowned night herons. More flocks of pigeons flew around and past us as various visitors to the park brought bread to feed to the ducks. Flocks of ducks and pigeons would fly from one side to the other, wherever they thought they could get some free food. It was amazing to me to see wild ducks that are usually so shy and wary acting like any other domesticated duck! Mixed in with the widgeons were also a couple of Redheads and Ring-necked ducks.

8. common merganser-kab In the more southerly pond that is located closer to the playground and 22nd street we found more widgeons, coots and mallards along with more domestic ducks and geese. But, we also found this lone Common Merganser and a great egret.

9. eggs-kab Nestled against the roots of a tree I found some eggs that will never hatch.

But the big attraction for Chris and I were the cormorants!

10. neotropic corms-kab Neotropic Cormorants at Reid Park 2-15-13


11. bickering-kab Bickering!

We had seen a flock of cormorants flyover when we were standing on the shore of the north pond. In that flock seven of the birds looked the same, but one looked larger and heavier. Could it possibly be we wondered…

12. DC corm-kab When we saw this face and this display we had not doubt, it was a Double-crested Cormorant! In most parts of the county that would be no big deal Heck, I had seen hundreds of double-crested cormorants while in Alabama a few years back! But here in Tucson we tend to get the Neotropic Cormorants more often, so these guys are a little more rare for us!

13. dragon-kab With those “horns” he looks like a dragon to me!


14. DC cormorant-kab This guy was on display the whole time we were there. I took over 150 shots of him. It took me all evening to process photos for this post! But, hey, I am finally caught up and posting in real time! This feels good! Chris and I finally tore ourselves away from the cormorants and headed back to our cars. We went our separate ways after this. I went home for a late lunch and a quick nap, then headed out for Lakeside Park!


15. blackbirds-kab It was late afternoon when I arrived and golden sunlight bathed the world around me. A flock of cowbirds flew up into a tree…

16. bh cowbirds-kab …then landed on the ground again and resumed feeding.


17. widgeons-kab The widgeons and other blackbirds decided to graze as well.

18. wierdo-kab Hey, take a look at this widgeon with the white face! Looks like the domestic ducks at this pond have been up to some hanky-panky as well! Along with widgeons, coots and mallards, I also found a lone female Bufflehead out in the middle of the lake too far for me to get a good photo of. She was soon joined by a Neotropic cormorant here as well. There were not herons here tonight , but I did see one Great Egret and a lone Vermilion flycatcher. As usual, there was just about every species of blackbird here except yellow-headed. I wanted to get at least one more bird count in before it got too dark, so I left and headed for Michael Perry Park along the Pantano wash. but when I pulled into the parking lot and  saw that it was full of cars and the people from those cars were all over the park and on the trail I decided to go someplace a bit more peaceful. So, with the sun quickly sinking behind me in the west I headed for Saguaro national Park. I wondered if I would get there in time before they closed the gates, and, I wondered if I would even see any birds this late in the day.


19. phainopepla-kab Phainopepla at Saguaro National Park Rincon Unit 3-15-13

I was happy to see the gate was still open as I drove through the parking lot and into the park. I turned immediately right and headed for the Javalina Picnic area as I did not have time to drive the 8 mile loop road. Nor did I want to. I wanted to just sit and relax and watch birds. Since there was no one behind me I drove the 1.6 miles to the picnic area very slowly and with my windows down so I could se and hear birds. When I found a lone male Phainopepla alongside my car I stopped and snapped his picture. He was the only Phainopela I saw in the park this evening. In that short distance to the picnic area I counted 1 phainopepla and 6 black-throated sparrows. It took me 10 minutes and that was all I saw.

20. sunset at saguaro-kab The shadows were already long and deep when I pulled into the parking lot at 5:55 PM. I quickly parked and counted yet another small flock of Black-throated sparrows feeding in the brush around the picnic tables. I did a quick walk about to see what I could see, then stationed myself atop a large cement picnic table and watched birds while the sunset. I soon heard a gilded flicker, a cactus wren, and a curve-billed thrasher. House Finches twittered and flew overhead. the mournful song of a mourning dove drifted over the small canyon where I stood. then I saw them fly, first one, then a pair, then a coupe more and the doves sought refuge for the night. In the west the golden sun threw fire at the sky before dropping below the horizon and softening to peach and apricot and watermelon. It was then I heard the gentle hooting of a great horned owl drift down the mountainside. Over and over it called, like a twilight lullaby. I listened for as long as I could, then climbed down from my perch and headed home.

21. saguaro np-kab Sunset at Saguaro National Park 2-15-13

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Are you counting birds this weekend?


  1. Hi Kathie, you are off to a great start with the GBBC. Your photos are awesome , especially loved the Cormorant shots. I will be counting my backyard birds. Thanks for the info on EBIRD. Happy birding and have a great weekend!

  2. Fantastic birding and photography Kathie!

  3. What a good start! I went owling the other night.... didn't get any responses, but think one was watching me for quite a while making a fool of myself as I heard something fly off after about half an hour of standing on an icy path antagonizing the dogs in the vicinity with all the hooting and hollering. Glad you had better luck!

  4. Sounds like a great day for the bird count Kathie. Unfortunately I am laid low with a heavy chest cold so my chances of being outside in sub-zero temperatures counting birds are pretty slim :(

  5. Some great birds in your count, and your photos are wonderful! That is a weird Widgeon, for sure. I did a full count yesterday in my backyard, but wasn't going to count today....however a Pileated Woodpecker, a Carolina Wren and a bunch of Grackles showed up and I hate to miss counting them!

  6. Hi Kathie,

    I found you through Birding Is Fun! - and am your newest follower. Your photography is inspiring.

    My daughter and I are six months new to birding and have loved participating yesterday and today in counting for the GBBC. I had a question after seeing your egg photo above. While we were birding this morning we saw three eggs scattered by the edge of a pond. Two looked white and one looked brown. Were they abandoned? Is that why the eggs you found won't hatch? Does this happen often?


    1. Michele, I do not know much about egg identification. These eggs won't hatch because they have been abandoned. Too many people going by to let the birds nest. Children are all over the place as well as dogs. Most of these wild ducks will soon be leaving for northern climates where they will breed and nest. I suspect these may be from the domestic ducks.

      Welcome to my blog. It is nice to have you along! Sorry this has taken me so long to get back to you. MY birding life gets very crazy at times!

  7. Looks like you had a very productive day. And some great photos as well!

  8. Fantastic work Kathie!!! Well done! Those shots are awesome!

  9. Your GBBC count is very different than mine. If only I could see a Phainopepla, even if it's not during the GBBC!

    1. Prairebirder, I never thought I would ever see one...until I moved here! My GBBC was quite different when I was in Massachusetts as well. I just happen to live in a very birdy place!

  10. Such wonderful details in those cormorant feathers! I seldom get that close to get one in full breeding plumage. I thought the phainopeplas were more reddish in color...

    1. Denapple, thank you! That is the closest I have ever been to a cormorant! As for the Phainopeplas, no, they are bluish black and the females are gray. Both sexes have red eyes though.

  11. Hi Kathie

    Your photos were exceptional too many to list but some favorites are the first cormorant, the flycatcher, the canvasbacks and bickering.



Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.