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 points for surprises on every visit, like this Merlin last week

 Bonus points for multiple raptors on each visit (Cooper's Hawk)

2. Visit random unbirded (or underbirded) spots with potential like duck ponds, neighborhood parks, and cemeteries.

Here's a sample of what I have found in the last month at random places I have turned into eBird hotspots.

 Varied Thrush, David Douglas Park

 Pacific Wren, David Douglas Park

Intergrade Northern Flicker, David Douglas Park

 Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pacific Park

 Ring-necked Ducks, pond along Evergreen Highway

 Random field along Burnt Bridge Creek that attracts tons of ducks when it floods

 The cemetery where I walk my dogs- that goose A3% was born in 2010 or earlier!

Wood Duck, Burnt Bridge Creek

3. Find a gull field or parking lot.

A good gull field (or a strip mall parking lot) can add several species to your 5MR list that you might not find elsewhere.  A middle school field less than three miles from my home has been consistently gull-filled when I have driven by on weekends.  The first time I stopped to check it out I immediately noticed a Herring Gull, an Iceland Gull, Mew Gulls, a Ring-billed Gull, and Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Ring-billed-Herring-Iceland combo

 Iceland picking up trash

 Another day Jacob and I stopped by and found another good gull:

Western Gull!  This was my 200th Clark County year bird and Jacob's straight up 200th Clark County bird.  200's all around!

4. Keep an eye out for spots with owl potential.

Jacob and I have been talking about the potential for Northern Saw-whet Owls at various spots in our 5-mile radius and I thought I finally found a roost last week.

I found a bunch of whitewash in this dense super tall tree and what looked like pellets below.  It didn't seem quite right for a saw-whet but the cemetery surrounding it is ideal hunting grounds.

Jacob and I visited at dusk to see if we could find an owl.  As the sun set and the temperature dropped we noticed activity in the tree.  Juncos were flying in to roost and they were settling in right at each patch of whitewash.

Dammit junco.

Another day we went searching for saw-whets and spent an hour checking trees before Jacob noticed some pellets on the ground.

It took several minutes of searching the tree above before I noticed something interesting, probably a weird stick or a squirrel.  I walked around to a different side and realized I was looking at my favorite heart-shaped face.

Barn Owl

 This bird was impossible to detect from most angles as it was nestled perfectly behind layers and layers of branches.

I still hope to find a saw-whet this winter but for now I'm content with this lovely owl.

So, any takers on a 2019 challenge?  I updated the 5MR FAQ page at the top of my blog in case you need help getting started.  To make it fair-er across the board we could compare percentages rather than total species.  Take the number of species seen in your 5MR and divide by the number of species seen in your county.  For example I've had 141 5MR birds this year and 234 species have been seen in my county (per eBird).  141/234 equals about 60%.  Just an idea and I am open to any others y'all might have.

**Edit: I created a Facebook group to connect with other 5MR-ers and share our sightings in 2019!

Good times!!!!  I'm leaving you with a dog pic because it's been awhile since I've posted one on here.

Evergreen Memorial Gardens, one of my 5MR cemeteries


  1. Oh, Sure . . . I was planning to blow off my 5MR patch next year, and focus on augmenting my ABA list. I'll probably get less birding in my neighborhood than I will in Texas or something... Ah well, I'll get back to the "patch" in 2020.

    On the other hand, your blog got me going on my 5MR, and I'm up to 187 species on the list, centered on my front porch. Many thanks for being such an instigator.


    1. Oh wow, that's awesome to hear about your 5MR, even if you won't be focusing on it next year. Glad you've had fun with it, 187 is damn impressive. Good luck in 2019 with reaching 650 (just checked out your blog)!!

  2. Fabulous idea Jen, I'd love to be in your challenge when you get it up and going..Mega birds in this post...absolutely love that Flicker Photo and the Barn Owl you know how bad I want one!! What tool are you using to drag out your radius? I tried with Google maps and I guess I just don't know how to do it.

    1. Hey Sondra, I have used a few different tools including the Map Developers one ( and Google Earth (instructions can be found on this website: Hope that helps!

  3. Hello, I've been working on my 5MR list and actually found your blog when doing research about 5MR lists. Right now I have 211 birds on my 5MR list and 265 birds on my county list, so I'm currently at 79%. Interestingly, I have about 12 birds on my immediate needs list for my 5MR list, ones that I'm sure I can pick up in the coming year, but the other ones are going to be a bit harder.

    One thing that I've also done, just to mix it up a bit, is to create a list of all of the eBird Hotspots in my 5MR. I then ordered them from ones with the fewest species to the most and I have started to focus on those with less species. My goal here is to get all of the Hotspots in my 5MR up to 100 species. Additionally, I've created a list of parks, ponds, cemeteries, and other spots in my 5MR which I plan to scout out and suggest as eBird Hotspots. Therefore adding to the Hotspots needing some attention.

    I love the 5MR patch and think that everyone should work on theirs!

    Here is my full list:

    1. Hey thank you for sharing all this! Amazing that the Great Black Hawk is in your 5MR, that's pretty awesome. I like your idea about getting your hotspots up to 100 though that would be unlikely for most of my weird little hotspots. Birding them regularly so that there's more consistent data for them would probably be my goal instead of getting higher numbers. How long have you been working on your 5MR?

    2. Side note- I just looked at that cemetery you mention living near and eBird says I saw my lifer Wood Thrush there in May of 2015. Neat.

    3. That funny about the cemetery. I bird it a lot and live within walking distance.

      I've had the same concern about the Hotspots. Some of them just aren't going to get to 100 because they are kind of small or have changed in some way since the Hotspot was created. So after this year of 100 birds in all my Hotspots, I think next year (2020) I will attempt to fill in holes in each Hotspots Bar Chart. For instance, that cemetery has Mourning Dove reported every week except two, so I would like to report those MODOs for those weeks.

      I've been really working--with effort--my radius for about a year, but there are so many great spots to bird around me that I had already been birding it fairly intensely for 3-4 years priors to that.

      Great pictures!

    4. Yes, I've started paying attention the bar charts as well. So many gaps to fill in! I think I will need to do what you did and make some lists so I know what is missing and remember to visit Park A on the second week of February and Park B on the fourth week of March.

    5. Hmm. I was confused about my numbers. My patch is at 211 and my county is at 376. So my current percentage is more like 56%. Much lower. Looks like I have some work to do this coming year.

  4. Count me in for a 2019 5MR challenge! I was thinking of focusing on mine anyway, and this will be just the motivation I need.

    I think 2019 5MR birds as a proportion of all 2019 birds for that county is a fair way to compare. It may get a little dicey for people whose radius includes multiple counties (or states) though.

    Google Earth Pro has a free version that includes a circle tool under the measurement features. That is the best way I have found for creating a radius.

    1. Yeah, I realized after I suggested the percentage that a chunk of my radius is in Portland, Oregon (different county, different state). Glad you're in for the challenge! I just created a Facebook page for it too:

    2. Yes! It's totally official now. I was wondering if a FB group might be the best way to get people into it.

    3. Yeah, it makes sense! Once I get the challenge completely sorted I want to throw it on the local list servs also.

  5. Count me in!
    5MR is a relatively new idea to me, I don't have access to the car much of the time, so I'm mostly a green birder - size of my patch depends on how far I'm willing to stomp! My green list is on 147, with my 5MR on 151 (I've been here just over 5 years). I love the idea of venturing a little further and seeing what else I can add next year.
    Hmm....stats for this year....126 in my 5MR/191 seen in county = 66%.
    Bonus points/Gold stars for lifers seen within our radii? I only had one this year, but it was my first Saw-whet so no complaints!

    1. Sweet!! I do like the bonus points for lifers! I think there's a lot of overlap with a green list and a 5MR list with the 5MR being just a bit easier for more birders. I hope to make a page soon where I can list anyone involved in the challenge and what there totals are (or whatever their goals are) so far. Stay tuned! Also, if you're on FB I just made a page for it:

    2. Ok, messed up, made a *group* not a page for it!

  6. Well you didn't convince me to start, even if I do think that such local patch birding is a good idea.

    One thing I note about San Diego County, it has as many birds as Oregon on its list (520), though I have yet to break 300 in a year. However it is hard to find lots of species in any one location. You might reasonably be able to find 150-175 species in a day for the county, but hard to find 65 species in a single 5mr circle. Thus your % rating idea would be harder in large counties with many different habitats.

    1. It's true, there's no standard across 5MR's which makes competition less fair than plain old county or state or whatever listing. That's why I think part of the challenge could also be submitting checklists for unbirded areas consistently, or something along those lines.

      Have you looked at patch lists in eBird for San Diego County? There's a number of 5MR's that seem to do about as well as I might do in my own county in Washington.

  7. ooooeee i am excited.
    I am going to try to only count birds in my 5mr that I walked or biked to like AJ.
    I will keep track on blog maybe?
    Also, when talking about bonus points, I found a state first in my 5mr that was also a lifer.
    I will not tire of reminding people that.
    I wonder if I will remind people of that when I am an old angry man birder.
    Anyway, thanks for getting this started, I look forward to being an active participant in your facebook group!

    1. Yes, that would have been such a good 5MR bird if I hadn't moved! Well done on the bonus points, you'll have to do better next year though. Not even sure how.

  8. Just when I was thinking that next year I might try to get back into doing more day/overnight trips to see different birds to the usual and possibly work on my life list a little you suck me back in with a challenge!!!

    I was still planning to keep up 5MR birding in 2019, particularly with the goal of getting my list to 100 (I'm so close!) But I'm totally in for a challenge! Have joined the FB group! Yay!

    1. Ha!! Hopefully you'll still be able to find some lifers this year! Also, you will be able to make SO many people jealous if you share what you're seeing on FB.

  9. Oof, this 5MR thing is getting harder and harder to ignore... I was just contemplating 2019 birding resolutions and I think this is a good one to go along with my checklist-a-day resolution (because that's worked out so well for me in past years :p ). Might even expand it to non-birds just because I'm trying to become a better general naturalist. Such a great idea!

    1. Haha awesome!! I like the idea of expanding it to non-birds too. Glad you're giving it a shot!

  10. I'll do it! I love this idea. I live in bird-rich Marin County, so let's see what I come up with in my 5MR.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts