Vancouver Lake

Jacob and I went birding outside our 5MR (gasp!) this week on a chilly sunny morning.  The temperature at our house when we left was 42 but by the time we got to Vancouver Lake it had dropped to 29.

We had heard from a local birder that a certain owl was using the same roost it had used last winter and Jacob wanted to check it out.  First we walked down to the water for the mountain views and to check out the ducks and whatnot.

Frost on the sand

While I was crouched down trying to get macro shots of the frost I heard a familiar tweet: a Black Phoebe!  This was a bird we had dipped on several times the previous winter here so it was nice to see it actually exists.

Good start to the morning!  Next we checked for the owl but found a squirrel camped out right above its hole.  Grr..

No owl.

We lingered for a bit but the squirrel did not budge.  Eventually we made our way up the trail to see what else was around.

Hairy Woodpecker!  A new one for us at Vancouver Lake.

Golden-crowned Kinglet


2019: The first week.

The first day of the year is always exciting with every bird being a year bird and wondering what will be Bird Number One.  This year Jacob and I decided to head to my newish patch along the Burnt Bridge Creek before sunrise to try for the Barn Owl we had last time.  Jacob remembered how loud the Mallards were in the dark and to prevent them from being Bird Number One we drove around with the windows rolled up. 

After about thirty minutes of cruising the roads around this area Jacob spotted the owl!  It flew across the cow field right in front of us for amazing views.  Good start!  We rolled the windows down and immediately heard a Killdeer.  Phew, that would have been terrible. 

This spot has a fantastic view to the east so we decided to see if the sunrise did anything special.

American Wigeons

Heck yeah it was a good one.  We added some more birds to the year list here including a hooting Great Horned Owl, a Cooper's Hawk, Red-winged Blackbirds, and the ever vocal Mallards.

We we…

January Bar Chart Challenge!

Even if you are not an eBird contributer there is a good chance that if you're a birder you use the data that eBird provides.  The bar charts can be particularly interesting to peruse when planning a visit to somewhere new. A Maine birder that joined the 2019 5MR Challenge mentioned that one of his goals for the year is to work on filling in gaps in various hotspot bar charts which is a great idea.

I took a close look at the bar charts for some of my favorite 5MR hotspots to see what was missing.  Here is a sample of the bar chart for Columbia Springs Fish Hatchery (named Vancouver--Biddle Lake in eBird):

Each month is broken up into 4 sections.  The first week is the 1st-7th, second week 8th-14th, third week 15th-21st, and fourth is 22nd through the rest of the month (varying lengths).  The thick green bars represent birds submitted on complete checklists.  The little green dashes (like the Gadwall from the first week of April) are usually birds submitted on incomplete checklists…

Cheers to the 5MR!

The last few months I have really been obsessing over my 5-mile radius, trying to figure out ways to convince more folks to give it a shot.  I created an Instagram account to give people a daily dose of what's possible close to home which has only reinforced my obsession because clearly, I need a lot of material for it.  My next step might even be suggesting a 2019 challenge.  Eh?

On that note, let me offer some tips for success in growing your 5-mile radius list.

1. Find a tried and true birding patch.

This means finding a location with a decent mixture of habitats that you will enjoy birding regularly in every season.  Meadowbrook Marsh has filled that niche perfectly for me and I try to bird it 3-4 times a month.

Bonus points for reliable Fox Sparrows

Bonus points for two duck ponds that often contain Hooded Mergansers

Points subtracted for messes left by campers (but bonus points for the campers being booted)

Bonus points for consistently solid birding (Bewick's Wren)

Bonus po…