27 March 2014


There have been some changes at the Namestnik house recently.  First, after over 15 years at JFNew and Cardno JFNew, I left my job and founded Orbis Environmental Consulting with a bat/wildlife biologist and an archaeologist.  Check us out on the web, on Facebook and on LinkedIn.
Then, a week ago, we became the proud parents of an 8 month old Australian Cattle Dog puppy named Cooper.

Wish us luck!!

02 March 2014

2013-2014 Winter Feeder Count Results

Lindsay and I recently completed our sixth consecutive Indiana Audubon Society Winter Bird Feeder Count, an easy and fun citizen science project during which the greatest number of each bird species observed at feeders in your yard on the 20th to 25th of November, December, January, and February are tallied.  Although I mentioned to Lindsay a couple of times during this count how active our feeders were nearly every day, our results show that the number of individuals has been decreasing since we started the count in 2008-2009.  For our results from past Winter Bird Feeder Counts, see our posts here (2012-2013), here (2011-2012), here (2010-2011), and here (2009-2010).

Some of our feeders
Looking back at data from our counts over the years, it quickly becomes apparent that 2008-2009 must have been a standout birding season, as we tallied 27 species at our feeders during that count but have not had more than 23 since.  During the 2013-2014 count, we were just under our average from the previous years of 22.8 species, as we tallied 21.  We had 14 species in November 2013 (the fewest total number of species ever during our counts), 15 species in December 2013, 17 species in January 2014, and 20 species in February 2014.  The 20 species we observed in February was the most in any month of the Winter Bird Feeder Count on our property since the 2008-2009 count, when we had 20 species in December and 25 species in February. 

We get a lot of traffic on the ground under the feeders
The biggest discrepancy in results from this year versus the average of past years was in November and December, as we observed three fewer species than our average numbers during each of those months.  We began feeding a bit later this year than in past years, so it is possible that it takes the birds a little while to find our feeders once we start feeding for the winter and that if we had started feeding earlier in the winter/fall of 2013 our number of species observed in the early months of the count might have been more comparable to our average.

American Tree Sparrow
The list of species observed during our 2013-2014 Winter Bird Feeder Count is found at the end of this post.  Species not observed during this count that we have seen on at least one other count include Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), American Robin (Turdus migratorius), Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus), Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea), and Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus); however, the first four of these were seen on our property (just not at the feeders or during the count period) this winter.  Conspicuously absent from our feeders (and those of others in this area) in 2013-2014 were the winter finches (such as Common Redpoll and Pine Siskin).  We've tallied a total of 31 species using our feeders (or hawks showing an interest in feeder birds) during the six seasons that we've participated in this count.

Dark-eyed Junco (male)
It was much colder and we had more snow during the 2013-2014 Winter Bird Feeder Count than in the past few years, but the temperatures and snow cover during the count periods were similar to those in 2008-2009.  The low temperature during our 2013-2014 count was -7  degrees Fahrenheit in January and the high temperature reached 45 degrees Fahrenheit in February.  The deepest snow cover during the count was observed in January and February (8 inches).

Tufted Titmouse
Species observed most frequently (those present during all four count periods) in 2013-2014 were Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis), American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea), Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus),  American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), and House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).

White-breasted Nuthatch
Species observed in greatest abundance during a single month of the count (with the greatest number observed at one time in parentheses) were House Sparrow (17 in December), American Tree Sparrow (16 in December, 15 in February, and 12 in January), American Goldfinch (12 in February), Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) (11 in January), and Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) (10 in February).

Blue Jay
The most abundant species based on average over the four months of the count were American Tree Sparrow (12.5), House Sparrow (9.25), American Goldfinch (8.75), and Dark-eyed Junco (7.75). 

Downy Woodpecker (female)
The number of individuals of the most abundant species continued to decrease from those reported in the past few years; two years ago we had four species that averaged over 10 individuals during the four months of the count.
Hairy Woodpecker (male)
Just as in 2012-2013, one of our most notable observations during this count was a lack of White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys).  The decline in number of individuals of this species at our feeders, from an average of 3.0 over the count period in 2008-2009 to an average of 0.25 over the count period during the past two years, may be indicative of their shifting population, as reports show that their numbers are increasing in parts of the continent but decreasing in other parts.
Red-bellied Woodpecker (male) (top) and Black-capped Chickadee (bottom)
Another notable observation in 2013-2014 was the presence of a Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) during three of the four months of the count.  This was only the second time during a Winter Bird Feeder Count that this handsome reddish brown and gray bird has made an appearance at our feeders (also present during the 2010-2011 count), and on days when it was present it stuck around almost the entire day.

Fox Sparrow (top) with Dark-eyed Junco (bottom)
2013-2014 Winter Bird Feeder Count Species List
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
American Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow