Having the day off work for the New Year’s holiday I had planned to sleep in but instead I awoke at my regular time just as the sun was coming up. No matter, I really did need to get moving on day one of my patch list. This list is a record of every bird species I see every day of the year in a 7.5 mile circle centered on my Lake Jackson home –my patch. I tried this last year and did pretty well, racking up 265 species with a very low carbon footprint. But, like most New Year’s resolutions I got busy with other aspects of my life and quit chasing local bids about September 1st. Inspired once again, this year I am going to work to break my own person best of last year. Though birds can be counted anywhere within my patch like driving down the road or stopping at the mall, my patch also has some good natural areas too like the GCBO sanctuary, Sea Center Texas, and a couple of neighborhood parks. I have an app on my smart phone called CountCircle and so long as I have my phones location services turned on- it shows a map of my patch and pinpoints where I am so I know when I “cross the line” so to speak. The landscape mapping also helps me discover new parks and water bodies for birding – spots I never knew existed. So, with tools in hand I am ready to start the New Year right.
My first bird of 2014 was a Northern Cardinal hopping on the patio of my own home. What a great bird to start off the New Year-even better, I didn’t have to get out of bed to see him! The bright red male northern cardinal, with its conspicuous crest, is one of the most recognizable birds in North America. It is found abundantly through virtually all of the eastern United States in a variety of habitats, including suburban gardens. Cardinals are commonly attracted to feeders and its thick, reddish cone-shaped bill is specialized for cracking seeds. 2014 bird number 2 –like the cardinal, seen from the warmth of my bed was a Carolina Wren. This shy bird can be hard to see, but it delivers an amazing number of decibels for its size. Follow its teakettle-teakettle! and other piercing exclamations through backyard or forest, and you may be rewarded with glimpses of this bird’s rich cinnamon plumage, white eyebrow stripe, and long, upward-cocked tail. Wrens do not eat seeds but love suet cakes, especially when it’s cold out, so you will need to add this feature to your feeding station if you want to attract them to your backyard.
Pretty much this was the extent of my January 1st birding –there were parades to watch on T.V. and then household chores. But short breaks to check the patio throughout the day yielded a tiny hummingbird visiting the nectar feeder –a Calliope-species number 3! Check this bird out in your field guide, its really cute! I am so looking forward to tracking the birds of my patch daily, and this year, I will stick with it till December 31st!
By: Cecilia M. Riley