My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bird Sightings Shared Via eBird

I thought I'd share some of my Sunday activity with you.  There are three of us assigned to work on Sundays at the Visitor Center,  but two of us are plenty.  So our boss lets one of us drive around the refuge.  We can start as early as we want and only have to show up in time to relieve the others for lunch.  I wasn't supposed to drive, but the automatic car used by the volunteers has to go to the shop.  I share the truck I'm assigned with them,  but it is a standard. Both the guys are learning to drive standard but the on-duty driver wasn't comfortable driving on our hilly route. So he offered the drive to me.

WOW! TWO Sundays in a row to play.  Last Sunday I ended up spending two hours with eight bighorned sheep.  This Sunday, I hardly saw any wildlife, even though I had left at 6:30A. M.  So I ended up back in the headquarters area by 8:45 A.M.

I decided to spend a little time checking out the birds.  The first ones I found were the yellow-headed blackbirds. The I found two young sora's.  One of their parents remained hidden, but gave its loud call which is described sounding like a canyon wren on steroids.  But the babies were just giving a one-note alarm call.  I got both their pictures but had to shoot almost directly into the sun.  Then  I was able to catch one of several common yellowthroats sitting on a fence post with the sun on him.

Then, as I was driving down the road, I thought about our owl fledglings and looked to see if I could see them.  I saw one brown blob, which turned out to be one of the babies, when I looked through my binoculars.  I drove down the street by the bunkhouse and found four baby western kingbirds.  We also have lots of Eastern Kingbirds but I didn't notice any babies.

But Monday, as I was walking up to close the gates, I noticed three eastern kingbirds on the fence across the road.  As soon as I started walking on the road, one of them dive-bombed me. So I think those two left sitting on the fence were babies.  Their future white fronts are still a little grey.

I copied and pasted the following directly from my eBird record I turned in Sunday.

Natinal Bison Range Day Use Area, Lake County, Montana, US 
Date and Effort
Sun Jul 14, 2013 8:45 AM
Party Size:
2 hour(s), 15 minute(s)
0.5 mile(s)
Marilyn Kircus
29 species (+1 other taxa) total
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Sora Porzana carolina
Age & Sex

Juvenile Immature Adult Age Unknown


Sex Unknown 2

Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
Note:  The last time I took his picture, he was still a cotton top.
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
Western Wood-Pewee Contopus sordidulus
Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis
Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus
Black-billed Magpie Pica hudsonia
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
House Wren Troglodytes aedon
Western Bluebird Sialia mexicana
American Robin Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia
Vesper Sparrow Pooecetes gramineus
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta
Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
Brewer's Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
And here are a few more pictures from my birding time. Sometimes I get a little distracted by other creatures or plants. 

A young teasel seed pod in the making

Yellow-headed blackbird

Cabbage white on huckleberry bloom

  I decided to share my eBird record with you for a couple of reasons.  One, I spent a lot of time entering my data and wondered if I could open the record up, copy and paste it and not have to re-upload the pictures I included.  That answer is Yes.  And I didn't have to retype any part of the record, either.

The other reason is to encourage you to share all your sightings through eBird. If, when you travel and stop to visit a location, just keep the records of what you saw there that day.  Don't keep one list for several locations.  This date is VERY valuable and each little piece is helping us understand the locations where species are flourishing or in trouble.  Researchers looking for species of concern use the data to figure out where to find the species they want to study. 
You have a great way to keep your own records and  locate them at any time and from anywhere you can access the Internet.  And with a smart phone, you can can enter your birds as you find them, in the field and don't need to carry a separate notebook and paper. Another asset is that your data is filtered by a sort of mechanical filter.  It will ask you are if you are sure you saw a species or saw the numbers you reported. Then a human will check again and sometimes ask you for more details of what you saw or for pictures. Then, if you made a mistake and entered the wrong species, he will help you figure out what species you actually saw.  This is a great learning tool for me and might also help you identify birds.

Entering multiple trips to your own favorite areas really fills out the life histories of each of the species of birds found  there.  This data helps give ever more accurate arrival and departure dates and can help us find out which species are being impacted by global warming.  We can also see how a changing habitat is effecting the different species of birds.

After you upload your pictures - Flickr is perhaps the easiest now - you can just copy/paste the link to that picture.  (I asked Google how to insert a picture in eBirds and the directions popped right up.)

And as an interesting side note:  I met a lady who works in the Houston, Texas zoo.  She is helping to raise Attwater Prairie Chickens for release back into their habitat. For an interesting video on the effort to save this species, click  here.   I have a very soft spot in my heart for these birds because the hardest volunteer job I've ever done was to spend a morning beating tall grass with a net to catch the grasshoppers.  I think I only collected two or three gallons of bugs.  That year, there were eleven hatches and each mom and babies ate a two-gallon container of bugs every two hours during the day.  So it's a tremendous job to catch enough bugs for all the new babies.

And after all that hard work, I got to leave early and didn't have to close - my least favorite job on the refuge.  A very good Sunday.