birds, ’22 in review

Earlier this week we spotted a Marsh Wren (a new species for the farm) in the front lilacs and it suddenly occurred to us: “Jeepers! the bird report! We haven’t yet shared the bird report.”

Here it is. 2022 in feathery summary.

Since beginning this monitoring project in 2017, we had been on a declining trajectory of new bird species seen on the farm each year (actually (and very coincidentally) a fun math pattern — 33, 17, 9, 5 – divide by 2 and round up). This decreasing pattern was of interest more than of concern. And yet! There were 8 new species (and 1 additional new genus) seen to visit the farm last year. All exciting and quite unexpected birds.

  • A Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the spring, singing
  • An immature Cape May Warbler up in the walnut tree over the driveway, a lot of double checking ID on this one
  • An Indigo Bunting, an all blue surprise suddenly popped into the binocular’s field-of-view while watching sparrows
  • A Say’s Phoebe in the orchard in late August (we are half-sure one of these came through a few years ago too)
  • Common Poorwills – We have been hearing these late in the evening for the last few years, but finally felt confident in the ID.
  • An Eastern Whip-poor-will was flushed from the path in the orchard mid-morning in mid-September. Although startled when it flushed from the path, Jeremy had a very clear view of buffy tail corners as it flew off. Not a likely bird to see here, but possible to encounter as they are passing through on migration.
  • A Canada Warbler hung around by the house for a morning in September
  • A Yellow-breasted Chat spent a night in the elderberry patch


  • Three unidentified sandpipers that flew off from ponding on the tarp in the back field. Probably Baird’s Sandpipers, but again Jeremy was startled, and doesn’t really know anything about shorebird ID.

This number of new species was also surprising in context of the time we (Jeremy) spent out in the field with binoculars.  Last season was hard from a farm management perspective and there just wasn’t as much space for taking a morning bird walk in the field, or to have the binoculars on the picnic table with us at lunch. And while both 2020 and 2021 felt quiet, last year seemed to have a bit more bird activity throughout the year, though still much less abundance (not species count) than ’18 and ’19. 2022 did have slightly more species diversity (101) seen on the farm than ’21 (95) and quite a bit more than ’20 (86) We haven’t sat down with any local birders to talk about how what we are seeing matches up with trends from the area.

One of the challenges we know we have with our data is that we are only recording presence of a particular species on the farm over each week.  This doesn’t give us any sort of numerical grasp on abundance of those species.  Are there more grackles this spring than five years ago?  It feels like it right now but our memory of such things isn’t very reliable and will increasing become less so.  We have tried to have one set hour a week where Jeremy actually gets counts (and notes like male/female, juveniles) of the species on the farm to provide us (and friends we share it with) a little bit more robust information, but that has proven hard to get started with the various demands of the growing season.

Last year there was one species that was conspicuous in its absence. In 2022 we didn’t see any Pigeons flying over the farm.  We have never seen a lot of them, usually small flocks of four or five flying northwest over the field in the evening or southeast in the morning a few times a week.  This year none.  Did they get evicted from whatever cozy roost they had found?  Related, the last few years we have seen less frequent Great Blue Heron flyovers, we are pretty sure no one is using the nest over near Tinton Road which has stopped our every-evening-flying-home-sighting.

The graph for species counts per week fits right in with the trend from previous years.  Fall migration was stretched back out over a month and a half instead of compressed into a couple of weeks like it was in 2020. And spring migration lasted a week(ish) longer than most years, though still shorter than fall migration. Going into and throughout this winter of fluctuating weather, the count has remained higher than previous years.

Also! Check this out. A plot illustrating the week of arrival for a few of the most common spring migrants to the farm. (Just incase week numbers are Norwegian to you, Week 10 is the first week of March-ish, Week 20 is roughly the 2nd week of May, Week 35 is end of August-ish). It’s neat to see the relative times of arrival for these species as well as patterns for the year. Migrant arrivals in 2022 seemed to be a little bit earlier overall, but all in all it seems like most species are pretty consistent with when they show up here (note: our weeks run from Sunday-Saturday). We are interested in pulling together a fall version of this graph as we expect the timing to be more variable within each species, stay tuned for this.

We are also curious to see how bird presence and encounter on the farm changes in response to the adjustments we make in layout and management this year.  For instance, we certainly would never have seen, or possibly had the right habitat for this little Marsh Wren who was hopping about in the lilacs, had the bushes not been recently (and liberally) thinned to make room for a new deer fence. 

Wishing you all a bright and wonder-filled greening season, Jeremy and Trish

PS For those of you that want to wade in a bit deeper into the farm’s bird situation – links to past bird update blogs are here: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020&2021.   And if you’d like to explore data directly and bask in the marvel that is citizen science, here is a link to ebird. And, if after all this, what you really need is a poem, here’s one we enjoy especially by one of our favorite poets, David Budbill.

a poem by David Budbill

One thought on “birds, ’22 in review

  1. From a chickadee who wants to let it be known to those who don’t know that you two are no ordinary sharp-eyed chickadees. Thank you for the big world.

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