I had a consulting gig in one of the Atlanta suburbs last week and since I haven’t done much birding in Georgia, and even though I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do much birding because I had to work the whole time!, I packed the binocs, the walking sandals, and the Sibley’s Eastern and headed out. Additional identification tip: since my geography skills aren’t great for areas of the country I haven’t spent a lot of time in and that means the range maps in Sibley can be challenging for my at-a-glance identifications, I’ve taken to working initially from iBird so I can limit my bird lists to the state. Then I use Sibley to confirm ids especially if there may be some flight patterns or relative size help. So the phone loaded with iBird comes with me on walks and the Sibley stays back at the house so I don’t have to juggle it since it’s not the lightest thing ever. And that makes me a little curious: if you’re reading this, do you carry around paper field guides on your birding walks? (No fair answering this with “no” if you’re David Sibley or somebody else good enough to never really need a guide for identification). If you have a different solution to keeping your hands free and not carrying guides with you, how do you do it?
The weather was lovely and not too hot (says the Alaskan). And I was staying with friends, so every morning I’d have a little breakfast and go for a short neighborhood stroll to get out of their way as they prepared for work. I tend to wake up on full throttle when traveling and I know I can be incredibly irritating to non-morning people. So best I just get out of the house for a bit until they were ready to leave. I could always talk to the birds and the local feral cats (some of whom were quite friendly) instead.
Their neighborhood was fairly heavily wooded so lots of spotting options. What truly amazed me was just the sheer volume of the birds in the morning. Okay, most of it may have been coming from the Northern Mockingbirds–they’re deafening! and were even scaring the feral cats–but the birds in my neighborhood in Anchorage even in the height of the season are not this loud. Of course, we’ve had a pair of resident bald eagles for a few years now so that may have something to do with the smaller guys keeping the volume down a little.
At any rate, I saw 21 species, six of which were life listers for me. That’s definitely one of the benefits to going birding in a section of the country I’ve not spent much time in–I tend to pick up a high percentage of birds for the life list. I still have some memories of birds I never did get identified (one small-midsize bird of prey and a couple of LBJs), but maybe one of these days I’ll spend a little more time with iBird and Sibley’s and see if I can get a better idea. And I know I saw at least one wading bird in flight that just was too high up and silhouetted against the sky for me to see well enough to id.
The life list additions: brown thrasher, eastern phoebe, northern rough-winged swallow, red-bellied woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, and tufted titmouse.
The rest: American crow, American robin, blue jay, Brewer’s blackbird, Carolina chickadee, Carolina wren, downy woodpecker, house finch, house sparrow, mourning dove, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, song sparrow, turkey vulture, and yellow rumped warbler.
I almost hate to admit how long it took me to nail down that Y-R warbler id. I really wanted it to be something other than this and they’re enough different looking (I try to convince myself) from the kind we get here in AK that I was desperately trying to make it something else. But no, it wasn’t anything different. Just another butterbutt.
Here’s a look at that Carolina wren. Unlike the titmouse which was incredibly flighty, it sat and posed on the neighbor’s fence for quite a while so I could get a good pic of it from the living room window.
One of the things, though, about birding in a residential neighborhood when you’re a relative stranger is that you’re going to get some weird looks. There I am, ambling around the neighborhood about the time people are leaving for work or walking their kids to the bus stop, and I’ve got a pair of binocs hanging round my neck and a camera hanging off my shoulder. I saw one woman and her daughter three mornings in a row. The first couple of encounters she was clearly very dubious of me and made sure she was between me and her daughter at all times. I think she finally decided somebody who looks like me (middle-aged, blond, rotund) was unlikely to be a thief casing the neighborhood. Hope they don’t have a string of burglaries now in that neighborhood or somebody may be looking for me.
Georgia is definitely calling me back. I’d really like to get to the more coastal areas too. I’ll just have to keep an eye out for fare sales! If you’ve birded in Georgia, where are your favorite places to bird?