2019, a year of birds on (and off) the farm

We’re a bit tardy in our bird end-of-year-recap. Yes. And we have every assortment of excuse, but we’ll spare you.  We invite you to muster your imagination, make yourself a cup of hot tea, pretend like it is mid-January and that we have our act together.

As regards bird friends, 2019 was quieter on the farm than the previous two years, perhaps due to (lack of) deliberation and intensity of monitoring.  In looking at the weekly species count, we can see how the cold snowy start to the year delayed spring migration and stretched it out a bit, but the overall trend matches well with earlier seasons. Last spring, we also had fewer birds making nests on the farm; nesting birds included house sparrows, starlings, house finches, Eurasian collared-doves, and chickadees. Of note: there were half as many successful robin clutches in 2019 as 2018 which suggests that the cold, snowy spring may have been especially hard for some of the common bird species.

We had several species that were surprising in their absence: spring wood ducks looking for nesting cavities, turkeys, only one hummingbird, no orioles, and the fall sparrows didn’t dally at all on their way south.

Even though the season was quiet, we did have nine new species observed on the farm in 2019. Prairie Falcon, American Kestrel, Common Merganser, Warbling Vireo, Tennessee and Black-and-White Warblers, Eastern Phoebe, LaConte’s Sparrow, and an absolutely stunning male Ring-Necked Pheasant showed up on our back porch the day before Thanksgiving.   We had ninety-four known species on the farm, plus a number of mystery birds that either didn’t make it on the list or were hesitantly added and labeled “sp.”

You’ll notice on the graph two considerable gaps in data collection. Mid-summer, we had a chance to celebrate Jeremy’s little brother’s wedding in Norway, and in December we took time to visit Trish’s parents in Baja California, Mexico.  So, although our birding experience at home on the farm was relatively unembellished, the variety of birds we had a chance to see throughout the year was probably the most diverse we will ever experience. Mid-summer Sea Eagles, Puffins, and Arctic Terns feeding their fluffy babies under the midnight sun (!), AND, in December, an estuary full of shorebirds, cardon cactus covered with sunning vultures at sunrise, and four kinds of hummingbirds assertively sharing the feeder at our casita.

Another possibility for the reduced sightings of birds over this year is that being off-farm for almost eight weeks meant that we were working more deliberately, more focused on getting tasks done, and Jeremy’s attentions were wandering off towards the branches and the sky a little less, but that seems unlikely.

Lastly, because it is already May and we are mid-Spring migration here is a link to the Migration Celebration reggae playlist we put together last year. And a poem by Billy Collins, one that speaks dearly to Trish’s relationship with bird watching.

We hope this note finds you all happy and healthy and enjoying joyous intimacies with your gregarious, feathered neighbors. Love, T and J

P.S. For those of you interested in specifics, here is a link to our 2019 weekly bird species monitoring list and check out ebird for a deep dive into the magic of citizen science.

P.P.S! If you are interested in Cycle Farm’s previous years’ bird summaries, here you go: 2017 and 2018.

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