1 January 2023

Yard list 2022

Posted by Callan Bentley

Click to enlarge

It’s an annual tradition here on New Year’s Day to share my “yard list” for the previous year. This is a list of all the birds I’ve seen in my yard over the course of one calendar year, in chronological order. Last year’s list had 87 species. This year, I spent a lot of time birding, and I boosted the count to 114. The list is below, followed by a few thoughts:

  1. Mourning Dove
  2. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  3. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  4. Blue Jay
  5. American Crow
  6. Carolina Chickadee
  7. Tufted Titmouse
  8. White-breasted Nuthatch
  9. Carolina Wren
  10. Eastern Bluebird
  11. American Robin
  12. Cedar Waxwing
  13. American Goldfinch
  14. Dark-eyed Junco
  15. Song Sparrow
  16. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  17. Northern Cardinal
  18. Red-shouldered Hawk
  19. Pileated Woodpecker
  20. Northern Flicker
  21. White-throated Sparrow
  22. Downy Woodpecker
  23. European Starling
  24. Hermit Thrush
  25. Red-tailed Hawk
  26. Northern Mockingbird
  27. Turkey Vulture
  28. American Woodcock *
  29. Canada Goose
  30. Common Raven
  31. Winter Wren
  32. Black Vulture
  33. Bald Eagle
  34. Field Sparrow *
  35. House Finch
  36. Eastern Phoebe
  37. Eastern Meadowlark *
  38. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  39. Cooper’s Hawk
  40. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  41. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  42. Belted Kingfisher
  43. American Kestrel
  44. Brown Creeper
  45. Purple Finch
  46. Common Grackle
  47. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  48. Hooded Merganser
  49. Hairy Woodpecker
  50. Red-winged Blackbird
  51. Wood Duck
  52. Brown-headed Cowbird
  53. Pine Warbler
  54. Chipping Sparrow
  55. Rock Pigeon
  56. Fish Crow
  57. Eastern Towhee
  58. Great Blue Heron
  59. Brown Thrasher
  60. Tree Swallow
  61. Osprey
  62. Louisiana Waterthrush
  63. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  64. Green Heron
  65. Barn Swallow
  66. Palm Warbler
  67. Broad-winged Hawk
  68. Blue-headed Vireo
  69. Merlin *
  70. Wild Turkey *
  71. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  72. House Wren
  73. Wood Thrush
  74. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  75. Chimney Swift
  76. Spotted Sandpiper
  77. White-eyed Vireo
  78. Yellow-throated Vireo
  79. Red-eyed Vireo
  80. Orchard Oriole
  81. Baltimore Oriole
  82. Black-and-white Warbler
  83. Yellow Warbler
  84. Indigo Bunting
  85. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  86. Great Crested Flycatcher
  87. Ovenbird
  88. Eastern Kingbird
  89. Gray Catbird
  90. American Redstart
  91. Cape May Warbler
  92. Blue-winged Warbler
  93. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  94. Barred Owl
  95. Eastern Screech-Owl
  96. Common Yellowthroat
  97. Scarlet Tanager
  98. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  99. Veery
  100. Northern Parula
  101. Bay-breasted Warbler
  102. Canada Warbler
  103. Prairie Warbler
  104. Grasshopper Sparrow *
  105. Magnolia Warbler
  106. Acadian Flycatcher
  107. Worm-eating Warbler
  108. Blue Grosbeak
  109. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  110. Summer Tanager
  111. Great Egret *
  112. Red-headed Woodpecker *
  113. Black-throated Green Warbler
  114. Philadelphia Vireo

Thoughts and reflections:

  1. I made it a priority this year to spend time birding. I got into the habit of going for morning “bird walks” down a rural road near my house, sometimes doing 3 miles, sometimes 4, and sometimes 5 (roundtrip). While I walked, I used the eBird app on my smartphone to keep track of the birds I observed (“observed” = saw or heard). I’ve been resistant to eBird for years, but for some reason a year ago today I decided to dive in. I haven’t looked back. One advantage to the app is that it “gamifies” birding, with a list of the “top 100 eBirders” in a given state, county, or city – ranked by number of species seen (my county list for 2022 stands at 130 species). As spring migration came on, I was thrilled to see my name rising through the ranks, reaching as high as #11, though I’ve slipped back this fall, and ended the year at #28. I posted 254 species lists to eBird for my county over the course of the year.
  2. One key service that eBird offers is rare bird alerts – daily emails about unusual birds in a given area. I signed up for rare bird alerts for my county and surrounding counties, and have used them as motivation to go off on special missions to seek out a Loggerhead shrike, some Mississippi kites and Swallow-tailed kites, and a Surf scoter. (Those weren’t in my yard, and so they are not on the list above.) There have also been a couple of rare bird missions that fizzled out with no sightings – one, literally a wild goose chase.
  3. Another app that I utilized this year was Merlin, published by the Cornell Laboratory for Ornithology. Merlin has several functions, but the one I relied on and learned from the most was the “Sound ID” feature. Basically, this uses your phone’s microphone to listen for birds, and then provisionally identifies them by their distinctive calls or songs. It is a bit like magic, how effective it is. And there was an update to the software pushed out mid-year which made its performance even more impressive. It’s not perfectly accurate, but it’s pretty darned good. I found it to be an excellent “tutor” for training my ear for the subtleties of various songs.
  4. So I listened a lot this year. That’s different from previous years of birding – I made a point to really reach out with my auditory senses to probe the sonic landscape for avian signatures. I got better at it through practice. I still have a long way to go before I am “good at it,” but I’m much better at sound ID than I was a year ago.
  5. On eBird, I included birds I saw on my bird walks as part of my yard list. So I’ve got a yard list sensu stricto and a more permissive yard list sensu lato. I’ve added an asterisk (*) to the eight species above that were in the “sensu lato” category – i.e., never actually observed from the viewshed of my property, but observed on my daily walks from my property and back again.
  6. Because I traveled to Costa Rica over the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the treat of seeing many of these “Virginia yard” species down there too – the neotropical migrants that spend the summer in Albemarle County spend their winters hanging out with toucans and laughing falcons in Central America. So cool! [Examples I noticed include: Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, and Spotted Sandpiper.]
  7. I joined the Piedmont Virginia Bird Club, and have benefitted from attending several trips on weekend mornings with their crew of dedicated, knowledgeable birders. I also had a student last semester (an active member of our Geology Club) who is an active, expert birder. He has taught me much also.
  8. As noted in my commentary from last year, my new home has better birding habitat than my old home – lower elevation, east of the Blue Ridge, more variety of field/forest/lake + ecotones between. I’m really grateful for that change; it’s a hoot to have such variety.
  9. Three species I had last year that I did not see this year are: Black-billed cuckoo, Common nighthawk, and Golden eagle.
  10. I’ve been doing the same feeders as at last year – hummingbird feeders in summer, and black sunflower in the winter. So that’s a variable that’s been more or less constant.

Happy new year!