For the Birds Radio Program: Ithaca: New Yard List!

Original Air Date: Jan. 10, 2008 Rerun Dates: Jan. 30, 2009

What’s Laura seeing in Ithaca as she starts her new yard list?

Duration: 4′07″


I moved into my new apartment in Ithaca, New York, on January 3, and that means I am starting a whole new backyard list. My apartment is above a protected wetland and bottomland forest, so it looks like I’ll be enjoying a lot of quality birding. And as I drove past the Welcome to Ithaca sign, a Blue Jay flew right over my car—an auspicious sign. But just so I wouldn’t get too complacent, the first bird I saw while moving in to my actual new yard was a crow—apparently there’s a rather large roost near me, so I get to watch them flying to and fro every day. This wasn’t quite as exciting as the first bird I saw when Russ and I were carrying in packages to our house on Peabody Street—that was a gorgeous adult Bald Eagle. But crows are way more intelligent than eagles, so I guess seeing a crow first makes sense in the vicinity of an ivy league university.

My second yard bird here was a Pileated Woodpecker, a quality bird by any standard. Then I added a chickadee, goldfinch and Red-bellied Woodpecker. I set out my feeders on January 4, but didn’t have any luck attracting birds to them for two days. Then, on January 6, the neighborhood birds apparently decided to honor the tradition of giving gifts on the feast of the Epiphany, because suddenly here they are! The first one I saw was a Tufted Titmouse, and then a bunch of chickadees, more titmice, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. These local birds already have an established winter feeding route, so it may be a while before they make my yard a regular part of their day, but I’m hopeful that I’ll build up a respectable feeder and yard list pretty quickly. I don’t know that it will be possible to match my Peabody Street list of 162—not only won’t I get northern specialties here, but also I’m not directly on a migratory flyway here. This is a winter finch invasion year in Ithaca, so I’m hopeful that some of the birds I missed on my Minnesota Christmas Bird Counts will show up here. No way will I ever get Boreal Chickadees here, and it’s not that Tufted Titmice make up for that, but I always said I could be happy as long as Black-capped Chickadees and Blue Jays figured in my daily life. Tufted Titmice OR Boreal Chickadees are a bonus, but sadly, the ranges of the two species are mutually exclusive.

I’m doing a Big Green Birding Year, called a BIGBY, which allows us to count birds seen while walking at home and at work, and so I’m also keeping track of birds I see when I’m strolling around Sapsucker Woods, which is where my job at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is set. I stopped by there the day after I arrived in Ithaca, and naturally had to take a little walk, though I was too busy moving in to spend much at it. But I did see goldfinches, House Finches, chickadees, titmice, crows, Mourning Doves, Canada Geese, Mallards and an American Black Duck.

It’s weird for me to have gone through a whole week of January and have a year list of less than 20 species. It will grow by leaps and bounds in the coming weeks, but right now I’m having so much fun with other things that I’m shockingly patient. Eventually I’ll be back on track with my birding, and in the coming days and weeks will be having jolly fun bigbying. Once I have internet again, I’ll be posting photos of the birds and places I’m seeing at