Monday, February 2, 2015

2015 BIG YEAR - January Update

January 2015

This is the first monthly summary of my 2015 CONDO BIG YEAR!!!

Red dot is my condo building

Red mark is the blue area defined in the first map

Click for - BIG YEAR RULES

The birds! -

Cackling Goose - 2
Canada Goose - 2849
Wood Duck - 1
Gadwall - 8
American Black Duck - 2
Mallard - 80
Redhead - 10
Greater Scaup - 114
Lesser Scaup - 1
Surf Scoter - 1091
White-winged Scoter - 1072
Black Scoter -10
Long-tailed Duck - 7600
Bufflehead - 40
Common Goldeneye - 1433
Common Merganser - 998
Red-breasted Merganser - 374
Common Loon - 1
Horned Grebe - 3
Double-crested Cormorant - 8
Cooper's Hawk - 1
Bald Eagle - 5
Red-tailed Hawk - 4
Rough-legged Hawk - 1
Ring-billed Gull - 535
Herring Gull - 2201
Thayer's Gull - 1
Iceland Gull - 9
Glaucous Gull - 20
Great Black-backed Gull - 479
Rock Pigeon - 2
Mourning Dove - 77
Snowy Owl - 5
Hairy Woodpecker - 3
American Kestrel - 2
American Crow - 6
Black-capped Chickadee - 5
European Starling - 63
Snow Bunting - 1
American Tree Sparrow - 9
Dark-eyed Junco - 3
Northern Cardinal - 8
House Finch - 2
Common Redpoll - 3
House Sparrow - 540

Total species - 45

Total ebird checklists - 29
Complete Checklists - 22

Best birds of the month: Snowy Owls (2-3), Cackling Goose (2), Thayer's Gull

Useless seasonal rarities: Wood Duck, Horned Grebe, Common Loon

Highlight "big year" birds: Snowy Owl, Rough-legged Hawk, Gadwall, Common Redpoll

Checklists of the month:

#1 -  (late season/cold migration!)
#2 - (white birds)
#3 - (solid start to the year)

Total species added to the big year this month: 45 (all of them!)

Big year total to date: 45

Target species going forwards: Should I try for Great Horned or Eastern Screech via audio calls? From my balcony? Or on the ground? Any other "winter-ish" birds would be nice to get, but hard to predict...

eBird needs alerts (the top 10 most common species seen in Ontario in February, that I still need): Blue Jay, Downy Woodpecker, American Goldfinch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Mute Swan, American Robin, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Horned Lark, Hooded Merganser...  I excluded Common Raven, Wild Turkey and Pileated Woodpecker due to my location/situation... 

Previous summaries: N/A



I nailed some solid winter birds in January 2015... Nothing too crazy, but Snowy Owl and Common Redpoll would be hard birds to get later in the year (or even next Nov/Dec) depending on how irruptions go. Snow Bunting, Rough-legged Hawk, white-winged gulls etc are all pretty much expected at different points of the year - but getting them out of the way early is probably a good strategy for a big year!

On the flip side, there seems to be very few King Eiders (or rare ducks in general) around my part of Lake Ontario... Those would be nice - but there is still lots of time. My high counts of King Eiders have come from April in previous years, so we'll see if that pattern repeats itself.

Likewise birds like Thayer's Gull and Cackling Goose are pretty "good" - but if I'm going to blow the roof off of this thing, it would be nice to get one of these marauding Gyrfalcons to make an appearance... Never mind something cosmic like an Ivory Gull or Great Cormorant! All I can do is keep looking...

Birding from a condo (which is now next to a major construction site) obviously poses some other challenges, which makes birds like American Tree Sparrow seem like a major score... I keep toying with the idea of placing seed out somewhere I can see from my balcony (but off property)... What do you think - good idea? Or cheating?

The only other interesting/funny observation is the total lack of some bird species. I still need American Goldfinch and Blue Jay! Thankfully there is a lot of time (and migration) left in this thing! Check back in March for the February recap. 

Exceptional steam fog rolling off of Lake Ontario on the stupidly cold morning of January 13th... 


  1. You have already gotten more birds from your condo than all the birders in the North Bay for the month of January. Except for the Ottawa River in Mattawa and the waste treatment plant in North Bay and a few other places.
    The area is a 80 km radius circle (or Blue Sky region), rather large, and probably has about 40 species for January.

    1. I do well for species totals, thanks to the unusual location/context of the lake... Although it isn't quite the same as having a home with a bird feeder (I'd be darn happy to have grosbeaks or redpolls visiting my feeders)..

      I actually tend to think of Lake Ontario as a giant man-made bird feeder experiment (zebra mussels!)

    2. Ugh ... incomplete sentence. It should say "... place there is little open water". In any case your advantage will be short-lived at least compared to a community of 30+ birders over a vast area over a year.

      Being stuck for the most part in North Bay I tend to spend time counter other flora and fauna, particularly dragonflies and butterflies. Most of my new species are in the plants and miscellaneous categories of bugs.

    3. Haha - yes I would expect you guys to catch up sooner or later ;)

  2. If I ever do a big year I think I might pick dragonflies.

    1. Over what area? North Bay? Ontario? Condo!? (I probably have 4-5 species on my condo's hypothetical life list)...

    2. Oops, sorry about the delay.. I would do it within a 80 km radius of North Bay which is sometimes called the "Blue Sky" region.

      The advantage of a dragonfly count is its short. Most of the effort would be in June and July.

      Of course, that will be when I retire. I would expect about 70, maybe 80 species if I really worked it.

      Butterflies would be another option.