Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mentor Ohio Top City In Great Backyard Bird Count For 2009

For the last several years, I have participated in The Great Backyard Bird Count , which took place on four days, beginning Friday February 13, 2009. The Great Backyard Bird Count web site describes the count as “an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.” Birdwatchers across the country count the species and the numbers of birds during the designated period, and report in their results to the GBBC web site. My hometown of Mentor Ohio has come in second place of localities submitting the most checklists in the last few years, but this year, with the cut off to report results being tomorrow March 1, Mentor is at the top of the list for 2009, far ahead of any other location.

Mentor is a great place for birding. Its location on the shores of Lake Erie, with the Mentor Headlands State Park, plus many smaller parks, make for a great habitat for birds. It also is a place where migrating birds often rest after heading across Lake Erie from Canada. I’m happy to see that Mentor apparently has a lot of other birdwatchers besides me and my husband.

Sometimes the best birding is right in our own back yard. Today my husband observed a bird at our feeder that he said looked “different.” Getting out the binoculars, he noticed the bird had a strange bill, the top of the bill curving down over the bottom bill. After we both made a note of the bird’s color, size, and markings, we pulled out the Audubon and Sibley guides and checked the Cornell on-line bird guide in order to identify it. The bird seemed content to sit on the feeder perch for a half hour, while we watched it and tried to ID it. Silly me, it was the bill that should have tipped me off right away, and when I realized the crossed bill was the key to identifying it, it was easy to pick it out as a female white-winged crossbill, a bird which both of us had never seen. I also realized too late to grab the camera and try to get a picture, and by the time I got the camera set up, she decided she was camera shy and left. She did return later in the afternoon, but again would not wait for me to set up the camera and snap the picture. She flew off into the pine trees, which has the pine cone seeds that she really prefers to eat. Hopefully she will stick around for a few days. It’s always nice to have a new bird stop by.

PS - She did come bank, but didn't stick around long enough for me to get my long lens set up on the camera. Here is the picture that I caught with the regular lens which didn't focus too well - sorry, it's not the best, but you can clearly see the curving bill.

UPDATE – the bird returned on March 1 and posed for a photo, where you can find on my blog entry ”Our White Winged Crossbill Returns “.

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