Conservation Ecology: Citizen Science Project [Field Observations/April 1]

Saturday, April 1, 2017 Hi 56.7°F / Lo 45.3°F

Warm-Up Birding @ Home | Christiansburg, VA | 8:55 AM (5 Minutes)

This is my backyard. It’s about 25′ wide, and about that deep to the bottom of the hill. This picture was taken after I finished my 5-minute birding session when I was trying out my eBird app for the first time.

As you can see, we were experiencing early-early spring weather then and there were no leaves on any of the deciduous plants; however, the grass (weeds) was (were) starting to turn green again. In my backyard, I have that “thicket” old plant material that I’ve been casually watching birds in since we moved into this apartment. Not too long ago, I found the moving box that had my bird feeders in it, so I set them up with some real basic birdseed from the True Value down the street. For the ground-foragers (mourning doves), I tossed a double-handful of the seed out on the ground. In my back yard, I also have a compost heap that I’ve noticed birds foraging in–blue jays, sparrows, and American crows. And last but not least, I keep a dish of water out in case somebody gets thirsty out there.


I only birded for a duration of 5 minutes because the user interface was relatively easy to navigate and I felt like I had the hang of it. (Also, breakfast was ready!)

Here is what I saw:

1 Northern Mockingbird, 3 Dark-eyed Junco, 1 House Finch, & 1 American Goldfinch

You can see on the screen at the bottom where it classifies the kind of checklist I was completing and some simple stats about the checklist as well. It tells the number of Taxa that were observed, the “Protocol” refers to how the birding was completed: Stationary (vs Traveling, etc.), the number of observers, and the duration is represented by just a number, but it counts it in minutes.

 Coal Mining Loop Trail @ Heritage Park (Huckleberry Trail) | Christiansburg, VA | 2:54 PM (76 Minutes)

So we headed out to the Coal Mining Loop Trail and started our hike just before 3 PM. We had a great time and I really enjoyed the opportunity to do some birding while we walked the trail. I tried to ID birds while we were moving–which I was able to do some of the time, but not always. Sometimes, I made my husband stop so I could spend time looking between my field guide and the whatever it was I was trying to ID (i.e. a woodpecker that was moving up the trunk of a tree and thus, proving to be a challenge).

Here is what I saw (or heard): 2 Turkey Vultures, 1 owl sp., 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 5 American Crow, 19 Carolina Chickadee, 1 Northern Mockingbird, 4 Northern Cardinal, 1 American Goldfinch.

Birding while hiking is fun, but it was definitely a little bit of a challenge at times. On this excursion, I tried to fill out the checklist as I saw the birds, but this was pretty difficult because I kept mis-stepping OR just kept my face looking down in my phone while we walked, and so my full attention wasn’t up in the air/trees/etc looking for birds. I’m glad we decided Chance would wear Lilah instead of me–like I said, I had to watch my step often–I don’t want to have an accident or trip and fall while carrying the baby since the birding keeps me rather distracted. Having him carry her was great bonding time for them and it gave me more freedom to move around, turn, twist, and crane my neck to look for birds to point out to the group.

I decided that next time, I would keep up with my observations on a little piece of paper and then input it into my phone either on a rest break or after the hike altogether. The whole idea behind getting out for a hike is that my face is in Nature, spending time with my family, not my phone. All-in-all, it was a whole lot of fun and I look forward to getting back out there for another hike.

Chance and I stopped briefly to check out the detail of the bridge.

Baby Wearing = Sleepy Dust

A happy Chance & Lilah.

We stopped to take a rest on an artifact from the coal-mining community.

Maybe it’s coal. Maybe it’s a painted rock.

Lilah & I took a selfie.

Chance read the signage out loud for us while I worked to update the eBird app with my observations.

EDIT: When I was writing the post for the April 8, I decided these posts would be more effective if my audience could see the birds I was spotting out in the field. Below, you will find pictures of each species with a positive ID from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s All About Birds Website. In addition, I will share the IUCN conservation status of each species listed.

*The formatting below gets a little weird and I apologize, I’ll have to come back and play with it some.I meant for each photo to sit next to the species name.

Dark-eyed juncoJunco hyemalis | Conservation Status: Least Concern

House Finch | Haemorhous mexicanus 

Turkey VultureCathartes aura | Conservation Status: Least Concern

Yellow-bellied SapsuckerSphyrapicus varius | Conservation Status: Least Concern

American Crow | Corvus brachyrhynchos | Conservation Status: Least Concern

Carolina chickadeePoecile carolinensis | Conservation Status: Least Concern

Northern MockingbirdMimus polyglottos | Conservation Status: Least Concern

Northern cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis | Conservation Status: Least Concern

American goldfinchSpinus tristis | Conservation Status: Least Concern

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