I have passed a milestone of sorts for the current birding season by recording the 60th species observed on or over the home property since my count began last March 21. It was a scarlet tanager heard calling from the nearby woods. Numbers 61 (chestnut-sided warbler) and 62 (warbling vireo) were tallied last week. With almost a month to go, surpassing last year’s record of 64 seems well within reach, especially since several species identified last year – veery, northern parula warbler, eastern wood pewee – have not been recorded this year.
I’ve not been keeping seasonal lists for the home property for all the ten years of my residence. The idea evolved over time, an outgrowth of my winter recording for Project FeederWatch. The impetus for keeping year round records might also have been abetted by the property’s evolving landscape and the greater diversity of species that began appearing as a result.
When I first arrived in 2005, the house was surrounded by forest comprised of a mix of hardwoods and conifers with a few areas of brushy scrub and one open field kept mostly as lawn. At the time my wife and her late husband bought the property in the late 80s, it was part of a Christmas tree farm. Much of the woods on the property were regrowth from the farm’s closing. The first change my wife and I undertook was removing a small section of woods adjoining the house in order to get rid of some tall white pines that posed a threat should they topple. The next clearing was not by choice. The 2007 “Patriots Day” storm hit us very hard, taking down nearly eight acres of trees just to the house’s northwest. Over time, timber was salvaged, open fields replaced what had been woods, and we had a fire pond dug; fed by a newly channeled stream.
Sure enough, the change in landscape brought immediate results, with the pond having the most significant impact. Just two months, after its completion it attracted, to my wonder, two solitary sandpipers. Water-favoring visitors also have included mallards, hooded mergansers, a great blue heron, a belted-kingfisher and even a red-winged blackbird.
The open fields have proven enticing too. Turkeys visit regularly as do ruffed grouse. The fields also draw in insect-eating birds. We’ve recorded tree swallows, eastern kingbirds, red-eyed vireos, and eastern phoebes among others.
Of course in other seasons the mix of birds changes, which means the property’s total species record, has changed. Because I have not entered everything I’ve observed here on the count site on eBird, the life total it gives of 82 is only approximate. Not a bad number. But then I look at the yard records of other birders. Somewhere in NY there is a property that has yielded 141 species records for the month of May alone. Yikes! What must that place be like?