Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cary BirdCam Year in Review 2013

Every year with the backyard birds is a good one, but 2013 definitely had its moments for those of us at Cary BirdCam.  I picked up a new species, saw some interesting behavior, and enjoyed the comings and goings of migrants.  As is my annual little tradition, I'll recall the highlights.

The top moments of the year for me were spotting our first Baltimore Oriole on the property, proving that Barred Owls were list birds, and scoring an amazing photo of male and female hummingbirds at the same nectar feeder.  There are bad moments as well, like the battle I fought with two pesky Mallards that seemed to move into my front yard in June, a bad family group of Grackles, and an onslaught of Red Winged Blackbirds in late winter.  Also in the category of "exciting" is a new model BirdCam from the good people at Wingscapes!, as well as a world-class fun time with the Great Backyard Bird Count in February.

Seasonal visitors are always a delight to welcome back, and among the ones I enjoyed were the Hermit Thrush (now in year 4!), White Throated Sparrows, and the wonderful Juncos in the winter, and the Hummingbirds and Gray Catbirds in the summer.  One parting in the spring seemed final -- I did not see the Red Breasted Nuthatches, Ruby Crowned Kinglets or Pine Siskins come back in the fall, and another seemed quite delayed (Hummingbirds, almost to October).  I made a play to attract Rufous Hummingbirds this winter, again, and that continues to come up empty.  "Hermie", by the way, has become an exceedingly talented feeder bird.

Juveniles are also a treat when they first check in at the feeders.  Ones that made a splash were the young Cardinals, Bluebirds, and Red Bellied Woodpeckers.  I may have been oblivious to the junior Mourning Doves, because we ended up with a bumper crop of doves!  In addition, we had a bunch of late (third brood?) arrivals.  Cardinals were also noteworthy in that group.

Juveniles must come from successful nests, and as is our story nest boxes often don't work out here.  The White Breasted Nuthatches used "their" same box to success, but a Chickadee attempt aborted--in a box the bluebirds persist in avoiding.  Weird happenings took place in the ever-jinxed "bird bottle", with fillings-and-emptyings going on into November!  Feeders also kept me busy, and top of the list was the cold winter re-installation of our busy window box and a new peanut feeder--one I expect to be impervious to squirrels.

Ah, most wretched Sciurus carolinensis!  Squirrels continue to cause what trouble they can, but again in 2013 didn't raise total havoc.  I kept a close eye on Chumley and his kin all year and am surprised how little bother they caused.

I try to get out in the field when I can.  And I did see some treats in an otherwise disappointing year.  My winter visit to the coast was derailed, but I got one fine nonbreeding Tern, and otherwise curious exotics abroad in March and some old salt marsh friends in August.  I did better locally, scoring owls at the top of the year and at an underrated city park.  And the office park afforded experiences with a Blue Grosbeak and two peculiar Black Vultures!  And greenways can offer surprises of their own, like friendly Guinea Fowl!

We're been adding native plants to the property in part to support birdlife and 2013 saw all my additions flourish, especially those that attracted hummingbirds.  Growing sunflowers only aided sociopathic squirrels.  I added more plants and species this fall to make 2014 even better!

All in all, a pretty good year with many sensory delights.  Now we can look forward to the fun in 2014.

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