A 30-Bird Day

Today was a 30-bird day.

What does that mean?

Each morning I walk, I count bird species (rather than individuals). I count the species that I see and the species I can identify by their sounds (more on that in another blog post). I average 20-species a day; sometimes more, sometimes less. But, thus far, 30 species is my maximum. I’ve hit the number several times, but have yet to go over it.

What makes a 30-bird day? I was reflecting on that question and feel that it comes from four factors: weather, season, the duration of my walk, and luck.

  • Weather. I know when I set out, a bright, sunny day is always going to bring out more species than a rainy, snowy, or even cloudy day. One of the reasons for walking in the morning is that I often see birds as they’re just starting to be active. If it’s cloudy or rainy, they tend to stay sheltered rather than come out to forage.
  • Season. Curiously, I have more 30-bird days in the winter than in the summer. Much of this comes from the fact that there are more species that over-winter in North Carolina than those that come here to nest. I’ve noticed through the years a definite drop-off in species that make themselves visible after nesting season is over. You would think that August would be a great time to see birds, but that’s when I have the lowest counts of all (usually averaging 12 species a day).
  • Duration. This one is a no-brainer. The longer I take to walk, the more opportunity I have to pause and wait to look for birds. Of course, I see some birds as I walk (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Hermit Thrush by standing and watching), but as a rule, if I can watch a thicket or tree for some time, I’m more likely to see additional species.
  • Luck. This one has to be acknowledged. Much of birding is just being in the right place at the right time. I wouldn’t have hit 30 today if I hadn’t seen a flock of Cormorants, a Great-blue Heron, a Pine Warbler, a Red-tailed Hawk, a whole host of Brown-headed Nuthatches, and so on. Most of these are common to our area, but don’t necessarily make an appearance every day.

So that’s my 30 bird day. I’ll let you know if I ever go over 30. But probably not tomorrow; it’s going to rain.

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