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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best Yard Birds of 2012

Over at Birding Is Fun, I posted a recap of my Top 10 Birds of 2012.  I had a great year birding in my local county, with a few longer trips here and there including a cross country road trip to Oregon and Utah with my family.  But I also had a great year birding in our new yard.  

After moving into our home in October, I started 2012 with 67 birds on my yard list.  In 2012, we've seen 94 species in the yard.  But since I started recording the nocturnal bird migration this spring, we've also heard or recorded many other birds.  As of the end of  2012, our yard list is at 122 species--up 55 from last year.  Here are my Top 10 Yard Birds for 2012.

Whimbrel recorded 5-25-2012
1) Whimbrel--there is no way I would ever have this coastal shorebird on my exurban Hunterdon County yard list without my OldBird21c microphone.  Fortunately, I was able to hear and record this bird flying over my house on 25 May 2012.  There are very few county records for this bird, and none in eBird for the past 10 years.

2) Short-billed Dowitcher--same situation as the Whimbrel, recorded on 23 May 2012.

3) Virginia Rail--another recorded flyover, I didn't actually get to hear this one, but the microphone picked one up calling overhead on 15 April 2012.  Nobody was able to see or hear one of these on the ground in the county this year.  

4) Philadelphia Vireo--an uncommon migrant through the county, I was fortunate enough to see one in our yard on 6 September 2012.

5) Alder Flycatcher--another uncommon or rare migrant through the county, I was able to hear and record this bird flying over my house on 23 May 2012.  Since I was also able to hear one at a local reservoir, it wasn't my only one for the year, but as sweet bird to get on the yard list!

Gray-cheeked Thrush recording, showing maximum frequency at 4.5kHz
6) Gray-cheeked Thrush--another bird heard overhead and recorded.  Several of these passed overhead on a couple of nights in September.  Hopefully next year I'll be able to record a Bicknell's Thrush going overhead, but so far I haven't found one (though I have a couple of nights worth of recordings to go through more carefully so maybe it has already happened!).

7) Clay-colored Sparrow--this is a locally rare or uncommon migrant that I was actually able to see in my yard this fall, the first record for the county this season.

8) Yellow-breasted Chat--a rare breeder and migrant, I saw one flying up my side yard during my Big Sit in October, and it was the only one I saw in the county this year, and one of only three reported in the county b anyone this year.

9) Black-billed Cuckoo--these are very tough to find in the county, but I was able to record several birds each night during their peak migration period in May, so nighttime listening is probably the best way to find these illusive birds.

10) Bald Eagle--OK, not the rarest bird in the county, but how could I not include this as a highlight on my yard list!  I was finally able to see one flying over our house on 3 November 2012.

Runners Up--
Microphone recorded Black-crowned Night Heron, Solitary Sandpiper, American Bittern (how didn't this bird make the Top 10?!?), Bobolink, and seen Prairie Warbler, Blackburnian Warblers seen with my daughter, and Pine Siskins--dozens at the feeder and my daughter getting them to land in her hand.  

So, what were your best yard birds of 2012?

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