Committing to submit regular observations to My Yard Counts! has made me more aware of the birds I see and hear every day. My Yard Counts!, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, asks for 20 minute counts of birds within a half acre around your house. They ask that the times of the counts be planned in advance to avoid the tendency to think, "Wow. There's a lot of birds at the feeder this morning. I'll count them now." So, the first thing I noticed was that from 5:20 to 5:40 Friday afternoons (I scheduled my count to coincide with cocktails) there are far fewer birds at the feeder than I expected. For my own satisfaction, I started recording birds at the feeder at other times of day. No conclusive results yet. The determining factor seems to be the twenty minute limit.
The next thing I noticed is that I pay more attention to bird songs and seek out, at least with my binoculars, the birds that don't actually show up at the feeder. My handicap is that I'm not very familiar with birdsongs. For most of my birding life I've depended on my friend Bill to whom birdsongs are as familiar as English. It's like an open-book quiz. I never seem to remember the songs of birds I don't see. I just keep asking, "Bill, what's that...." And he never tires of providing the answer. I've been listening to Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs which is pleasant, but includes so many songs I'll never encounter, that my attention wanders. With the help of sites like Bird Songs, I can fairly easily put together a disk of particular songs I'm interested in, with identification for lessons and without, for quizzes.
Finally, I noticed that the best parts of birdwatching have nothing to do with counting. Last weekend, we were privy to a hummingbird's leisurely shower in the water dripping over the edge of the "cup-runneth-over" birdbath.
Bill tells me hummingbirds never bathe in still water. I imagine when you're that size, there's a danger of drowning. But he happily hovered for several minutes in the dripping water before landing on the wire fence to groom. I didn't run for the camera. I just sat and enjoyed watching the hummingbird's grooming. (This is last year's picture of the birdbath. The hummingbird's not in the picture. You can also see last year's picture of a hummingbird in the bee balm here.)