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Siesta’s over – another big year underway

May 7, 2016

Well, last year I took a break from listing birds from our apartment.  2014 was the last big year and I realize that I had not finished my account for the one or two followers that might be interested in my story.  Well, in the end there were 95 species on my house list by December 31, 2014.   That will be tough to match for our place for many reasons.

The on-line bird listing program eBird has its advantages and disadvantages.  I am an eBird user and I have been using the yard list function for a few years now.  That has made me lazy for keeping the blog, for with that yardlist function one can see hundreds of year listers and follow their lists.  Also work has gobbled up more and more of my time.  While I love my work, there is a price to pay when you bring it home regularly – or you are not at home because of it.  Last year we were in Europe in late April and May, pretty much kiboshing any potential for a big year.   Work-related travel in June and July sapped my enthusiasm, but when January 1st, 2016 rolled around, I realized how enjoyable birding from the balcony is and how much I had missed it.  It is also fun to share, and though I am slow at sharing this year, the great spring energy in the air today has motivated me.  There are many amazing things that deserve sharing also – the mysterious disappearance of Blue Jays in the winter, the spectacular arrival of the Pine Siskins and Redpolls, hand feeding Siskins through the window, the return of the White-throated Sparrows, and so on..   Back in January, Cris and I were fortunate to watch a tremendous drama unfold just off the balcony.   An adult Cooper’s Hawk was perched attentively on a neighbourhood tree.  We watched it for over an hour and it barely budged.  Cris was worried that it had its eye on our feeders.  Finally it shifted position and flew to a fence, where it teetered momentarily before launching itself into a glide and disappearing behind the dense cedar hedge.  Then nothing – no movement, no visual contact.  We were curious.  Suddenly a commotion and then a burst of House Sparrows exploded from the near side of the hedge.  Moments later the predator glided back into view, returning to its fence perch, but with a male house sparrow securely gripped in a talon.  We watched with fascination as it plucked feathers and proceeded to slowly devour its prey over dozens of minutes.   During this time a neighbour, oblivous to the drama, moved within 10 metres of the bird, clearing snow, but the hawk remained concentrated on eating and ignored the threat.   Finally, after at least 30  minutes it flew off, leaving just a few feathers behind. So birding from the balcony is far more than listing! 125

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But the list is building, and on this 7th day of May, with virtually no Warblers yet in the hood, I have reached 50 species, Chimney Swift and White-crowned Sparrows being the latest additions.  Last weekend, a surprise Lincoln’s Sparrow sang from the park across the road.   The challenge and delight never ends when I bird from the balcony.

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