Veery by Darlene Knox
American Redstart adult male from tringa.org
As a followup to the posting that we did just a little while ago with the totals from White Memorial for the 2011 Litchfield Hills Summer Bird Count I wanted to clarify the reasons for some of the high numbers. No, we aren't imagining birds or counting the same ones several times over. Numbers like these do occur in some places at the height of the breeding season when there is a flood of new babies into the population. In many years this occurs after the Summer Bird Count. This year birds got started earlier than usual with their breeding activity so rather than incubating eggs during the SBC period they were mostly feeding nestlings. Some even had fledglings already! A dead giveaway to the presence of young is an adult carrying food or a fecal sac. That's why this type of observation is perfectly good as a means of confirming nesting for Breeding Bird Atlases or ebird. When we observe this behavior we take a few extra minutes to watch and listen for young birds. They are usually pretty quick to give away their presence with food calls when they are hungry. We then count the babies that we can see or estimate the number that we think that we can hear. It also helps to have excellent hearing like I have. If we can't see or hear babies we just add 1 more to the tally for the species of bird that is carrying the food item because we know that it is destined for a baby. The photos above show a few examples of the species of birds that were found in much higher-than-average numbers on the SBC this year, largely due to the inclusion of nestlings.