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Thread: BACKYARD BIRD CONTEST

  1. #1
    COL AgentOrange's Avatar
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    BACKYARD BIRD CONTEST

    Got to thinking on "Bird Books".

    I have a few. Over the years they kinda collected as people gave them to me, and I also bought one from time to time. Bird books are fun.

    Birding is a cheap hobby, but one I have enjoyed more than the many others I have.
    Maybe because it requires little work, just sit on the porch with a bottle of cold beer, maybe throw out some seed.

    peterson.jpg

    My first book obtained was "Peterson's" on the advice of a friend (member here). I have later copies of it, but this first remains my favorite. That is because it is beat up, and I don't have to worry about it. It stays on the porch with the rain and snow. I have written on the pages and marked it up here and there with notes over a couple decades of use. I know every page, and which pages to hunt down whoever. I use it all the time. It is valuable/priceless -> to me.
    http://www.amazon.com/Peterson-Field...petersons+bird
    I have other field guides and use them also to verify what I see. Some use photos and some use drawings. These days the internet is a wonderful source of information. It cannot replace a good book, but adds endless info and photos and even sounds.

    In 2001, my Bride gave me a Cornell Bird Diary for Christmas. I don't keep a "LIFE LIST" as do many of my friends, but I do keep a list of the birds I have seen here in my backyard along with notes. My count is over a hundred. There would be more, but I don't "cheat" me. If I am not sure, I let it go until I am. I try to also get some type of photo which can be impossible as some are just passing by for a moment. I live on a minor "flyway" along the Blue Ridge and so Fall and Spring can bring most anyone by for refueling.

    My brother is pissed at me for taking back his "YC decoder ring" until he abides by the rules. So I thought I would send him a copy to show I still love him. The damn thing is out of print and starts at $80 on Amazon and goes up. I don't love him that much.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listi...&condition=new
    It is $215 at Barnes and Noble:bull_head:.
    I found a used copy, added the Peterson field guide. I hope he likes/uses them and see this as his Christmas present.

    Many people who consider them self to be a "bird watcher/birder" keep a life list of birds they have identified. I recommend that as a way to add to the fun.
    I don't have a "life list", wish I did. Some of my friends plan a trip or a vacation around adding one just bird to their list. They get to see a lot, do a lot and also have a fun goal in the background of the trip.

    Building a list is easy - to a point, then it is very, very difficult.

    Starting a list changes everything. It can make a casual sighting more like a hunting trip. My heart beat goes crazy if I see a new bird or even one I have not seen in a few months. Adding a new bird is very exciting. Just seeing what "might be" one for the list gets my heart beat so high I can't hold the binos steady. I am not exaggerating. Instead of killing it to hang on the wall, I write it down, maybe get a photo.

    Like I posted above, you need rules. "You" get to make them if you are a hermit and don't play well with others. If you are mainstream, common rules are already out there for you.

    Mine are:
    - must be seen and positively identified, no guessing.
    - must be seen by me around the house. Birds seen once a car is used don't count. Boat is OK, if I don't pull it some where with the car (separate list for trips).

    In my book I also have a list of birds I have lured to "perch" on the porch. That list is at 52.
    Starting a list is fun and easy. Of course every time a bird is added, it gets harder to add another. It also gets much more exciting.


    Maybe Toad, and I, and you? could start a new list here on YC.
    It could be birds sighted in or from our backyard.

    The rules will be on the honor system:

    - the bird must be positive ID, no guessing -
    - the bird must be seen while you are at your residence. If you can see it from there, it counts.
    - Contest will start 01Sept14 and go to midnight 31Dec14.
    - anyone joining in not now members of YC must be vetted and Gnome approved.

    Prize will be a quality bird feeder.

    Who will play?

  2. #2
    inactive sundance's Avatar
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    OK, sounds interesting.....

  3. #3
    Registered Users Snoop65's Avatar
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    I don't seem to get much variety in my back yard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snoop65 View Post
    I don't seem to get much variety in my back yard.
    That was what I thought.
    You are wrong, very, very wrong.
    You don't have to find birds, they will find you. Put out the feeder you won in last year's football contest (your daughter has the books as I mailed them to her a year ago) and be amazed.
    Anytime spent with kids on crap like this now will now will be priceless later on.
    All geezers here will shout that this is true.

  5. #5
    COL AgentOrange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sundance View Post
    OK, sounds interesting.....
    I did not see that coming.

    Just "amazoned" you the latest Peterson field guide. I have 2 day free shipping, but you might not get it until Monday.

  6. #6
    Registered Users Snoop65's Avatar
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    The feeder is out, I do have to refill it though. We see the most birds when we go out to the parks, remember I'm in the city. I've only seen sparrows, robins, cardinals, bluejays and a occasional pigeon .

  7. #7
    COL AgentOrange's Avatar
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    It will be hard to play in this contest if you do not own binoculars.
    I hate that, but it is true.

    I have several, and use most daily, but I will loan some.


    Here is the best place to shop if you are not up to speed on binos:
    http://www.eagleoptics.com/binocular...FcRbfgodLz0AwQ
    They are excellent, go above and beyond. I have been a customer for decades and they are 100%.

    There is a used market, but finding a deal there is hard for a novice as few "deals" appear. The market for decent binos is large.
    Maybe between now and Dec I could find a deal and offer that as opposed to a bird feeder.

    On the other hand, China is in the market and decent binos are less what they once were.

    Here are tips, but check with me before you buy:
    - "roof prism" only.
    - there are two ends. One lets in light and you are on the other end. The best would be about a mile across on the "IN". That is too heavy to lift.
    - The popular power for bird binos is 8X. that is because they are for weak girls walking in a field. 8X is very good. If you can handle 10X - better. I use 12X, but I sit on my ass with these. I suggest to buy 12X50, but if you get a buy on 10X42, grab it with glee. My best are that.

    Ten years ago decent binos were near a thousand, now that is not true. I am not saying your $300 pair are equal to a $3k pair, but saying not long ago they would have cost $700. Don't buy used on the old retail sale list.
    Good glass is good glass and China is in the market in a big way. Look for weight and "close focus".
    email me before you buy.

  8. #8
    COL AgentOrange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snoop65 View Post
    The feeder is out, I do have to refill it though. We see the most birds when we go out to the parks, remember I'm in the city. I've only seen sparrows, robins, cardinals, bluejays and a occasional pigeon .
    Good deal, I lived in a cluster like that for many years.
    Birds go with the action.
    Put out some yard plants for cover. (I can help).

    Birds can fly from the park to you if there is a reason to do so - feeder.


  9. #9
    inactive sundance's Avatar
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    if you do not own binoculars.
    I probably got some K-mart 'blue light' specials somewhere.
    I see quite a few birds, red, black, blue but mostly brown.
    I guess I could take a picture of them; post 'em and then AO could identify them. Appears to be a good way to spend a few minutes a day.

  10. #10
    COL AgentOrange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snoop65 View Post
    I don't seem to get much variety in my back yard.
    Quote Originally Posted by Snoop65 View Post
    The feeder is out, I do have to refill it though. remember I'm in the city. I've only seen sparrows, robins, cardinals, bluejays and a occasional pigeon .

    If you start making a list, you will be surprised over a few weeks who shows up. Now most likely you are not paying attention. It does not take a lot of dedicated time, just start glancing out the window at the yard as you pass, put your feeder there.

    Feeders can help to a point, but some birds don't come to feeders, all come to water.

    Towns have their own birds. Unlike you I never see a House Sparrow, Starling, or Pigeon. I rarely see a Gackel or a Black Bird. That puts you several up on me right there. I suspect we all have the more common backyard feeder birds everyday. They are my favorites and my everyday friends. I am on the porch now, seen several, but not one that does not visit your yard. The trick is to become aware of what is going on out there -> it is more than you think.
    I lived in town for 30 years on a postage stamp lot. Once I took notice, I was amazed.

    People have success with this from a patio at an apartment. In fact my birding "guru" lives in a condo with no yard. Early on in my birding adventure, got him over to see "my" birds.
    We folded out a couple chairs in my driveway (had no deck and my porch was too tiny for two). Soon he was pointing out birds I was missing. It shocked me. Birds are there, but it takes time to discover them. Anyone can.

    For a feeder, the best food to attract the most different birds is Black Oil Sunflower. Pick up 40 pounds at Tractor Supply for $20. Two other ones to consider after that are millet seed (cheap at about $25 for 50#) and suet cakes ($1.50) or just use chunky peanut butter (I mix it with corn meal).

    Keeping food in the feeder all the time is a plus. Birds are creatures of habit, but are also scavengers. As they can fly, their range increases or shrinks a lot due to available food supply.
    If you get birds stopping regularly at your feeders, others are attracted by that action . I only get Robins and Waxwings a couple times a year even though they live in my area all year. They show when my Pyracanter berries are ripe, sometimes for water at the pond.
    Finches eat most of my food, but their constant activity draws in others who might other wise pass my yard by.

    The other variable is water. Birds love water. They drink often, just like all critters. All you need is a flat saucer like used for potted plants - cost a couple dollars, but the ceramic ones are better due to being heavy, or put a rock in the middle. 5 or 6 inches is enough but bigger is better. Sit it on the porch rail or window still, someplace you see it. Dump and fill ever few days to keep it full and avoid skeeters.

  11. #11
    COL AgentOrange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sundance View Post
    I probably got some K-mart 'blue light' specials somewhere.
    I see quite a few birds, red, black, blue but mostly brown.
    I guess I could take a picture of them; post 'em and then AO could identify them. Appears to be a good way to spend a few minutes a day.
    I bought my first pair for about $15 from your cop buddy at the pawn shop on Freedom Dr.
    They make all the difference in the World. The trick is too keep them handy and put them on the bird whether you are inside or out. I am good at ID, but am often surprised once the bino goes on a bird. A Gold Finch becomes a Warbler.

    As to ID, get that photo (you kids always have your phone handy). I am sure some of us can figure it out. Before the Bird Club kicked me out, I often had a dozen people trying to figure out a bird from my poor photos.

  12. #12
    COL AgentOrange's Avatar
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    How to ID a bird is part of the hobby. Many things other than your "sighting" come into play.

    If you see a bird clearly, check your bird book or computer and positively ID. If it as an Ivory Billed Woodpecker, there will be doubt as they are extinct (not so say some guys in Arkansas).
    If you say you have a Ruby throat at your Hummingbird feeder in November, maybe, but more likely you have just become a member of the "rare bird sighting club". Look and remember, get a photo if you can. That goes for all birds. I still argue for a couple of my sightings with Dr Larry. One he disavowed and I later proved it with excellent photos, putting me on the SC list of the "R.B.S.C."
    Stand your ground and gather some data.

    Every guide book comes with ID tips, and help can be found on line and in books and magazines. Improvement takes time and practice.

    First you need to learn what to look for as the bird may not sit there for an hour while you get the field guide. Look for size. Look for shape. Look at the beak and feet. Look at eye color. Look for markings, especially near the eye. Look for wing markings. Learn to do all that in a couple seconds as that may be all the time you have.
    As you look, memorize. Take mental photos. Then pull out the field guide and search.

    Things like movement and habitat help as birds act differently. For instance, Eagles and Mallards are often around water. Eagles don't float, so that is a clue. A Gold Finch don't eat suet. A Wren likes to hoist and shake his tail feather (as do I after a few).
    Cardinals go "cheep", Crows go "caw". Sparrows like to jump on the ground, Kinglets eat in the trees. ETC, ETC. ETC.

    Put your bino on the bird, still your heart, and memorize as much as you can. Don't just see --> learn to observe. It is like when audiophiles try to get people to listen, not just hear.

    It becomes second nature if you practice a little. Try it on any bird. Look at it like you did not know the ID and later would have to search a book.
    Then search the book. The sooner you are at home in your book, the better you will be. Read the few comments as to food, habitat. Look at the range map.

    This is a good hobby. It is competitive and is not just looking at a bird.


    (Mostly I just like to watch the bird:love_heart:, but I am not a real birder.)

  13. #13
    Registered Users TOAD's Avatar
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    I have a bird identification book.

    "Birds of Eastern North America " A Photographic Guide.
    by Paul Steery & Brian E. Small

    I bought this guide because it somewhat narrows down species to what is native to where I live, and the migratory birds that normally pass through.

    It also has excellent close up photography.

    As to the contest, do we post a running tally ?
    As in the American Crows I posted about today, and the numerous other species they spooked from my feeders?
    Or do we wait and post at the end?

  14. #14
    COL AgentOrange's Avatar
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    The count does not start until Oct 1. Like you, I am ready to begin. All are on the "honor system" which is OK as we are all honorable people here.

    I like guides with photos, have a couple. The one I mailed you is drawings which helps tell you what to look for on a bird. I use both types. One draw back of just photos is birds of the same species can look very different. No one photo can cover it all, kinda like you and I look similar but different. The drawings focus on the finer points. I find both types of guides to be helpful.

    I am going to post a running tally of mine. Maybe the first post will be labeled 1,2,3,4,etc and the next 6,7,8.
    That not only will be more fun, but also alerts others what to be on the look out for.

    Soon adding one to your tally will become harder:05.18-flustered:.

    October/November/December is a good time period for this contest.
    There will not be a stagnant period.
    Now you have Summer Birds, but the Winter Birds will be arriving, and you will loose your Summer Birds.
    In OCT/NOV almost anything can be passing by during migration.
    To top it off, we have our year-round birds, and there are a lot of them.

    I believe people who play will have fun and be amazed when they start listing.
    Your list will become longer than you might have believed.

  15. #15
    COL AgentOrange's Avatar
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    One group of birds soon arriving are the Warblers.
    There are a million. Most have some yellow on them.
    Here is where you must have binos or get a good photo. The markings can be slight. Most will be migrating by, but a few Winter here in the Southeast.

    The most abundant one is the Yellow-rumpled Warbler, and you will eventually add this guy to your list now that you are looking for him. The Yellow Warbler also stays as does one of my favorite birds, the Pine Warbler.
    I bring this up now as most Warblers will not be showing at your feeders. You will need to look at your trees, shrubs and water to discover them. They will migrate past in big numbers. They like to sing. They can be hard to ID.

    Warblers are meat eaters, not seed eaters. So, if you have out a suet cake, maybe they visit it. The ones who "over Winter" surely will after the freeze starts to kill off the bugs. In fact they can become your best feeder friends as they will hang out all day and even defend the suet. In Summer I have Hummingbirds all about me in my Catbird seat, and in Winter they are replaced with Pine Warblers:applouse::applouse::applouse:.

    Real "suet" is beef fat you can ask your butcher for.
    Before I moved here, I used store bought suet cakes which are not real suet. Now as I have posted, make my own (also not real suet). Now my birds will not eat store bought.

    Ingredients:
    - corn meal
    - flour
    - lard
    - crunchy peanut butter

    Basically use equal parts of each. Melt the lard and peanut butter in the microwave. Stir in the other, let it cool. It will keep for months, no need to refrigerate. How simple is that?

    There are many additions people add, but no need to that, especially don't add bird seed as they have to crack those seeds so don't make them greasy.

    Peanut butter is the key ingredient as is the lard. Birds want high energy fat and protein. The corn meal and flour make it harden to a cake. This is good high energy food even for you. If you need to bug out when the feds or zombies are closing in, take a tub of this with you. It will help you survive longer than a case of power bars.


    It is a necessity to attract some birds to feeders including all warblers as they are insect eaters. Most birds that eat insects will nibble at it. Woodpeckers love it.
    Just give the recipe to your Bride and ask for help. She will be thrilled to be part of your new hobby (unless she is like my Bride).

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