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Active Birding Makes for an Outstanding March Species List

Active Birding Makes for an Outstanding March Species List

Why did I start more active birding?

In this past March, I wanted to hone in my senses and make begin active birding. In my February Species List, I birded very passively. Some days, I had one eye on the window and the other on my computer. Other days, we worked on the van and I kept one eye on the three main trees where the pair of White Tailed Kites perches.

First of all, my February Species List felt like I did not grow in my birding skills. Second, it felt like I hardly learned any new species. Lastly, it felt lazy. While I fully embrace rest time, I actually find birding relaxing. How am I feeling lazy at a relaxing activity?

So, how did I step up my birding game?

For starters, I modified my mentality before going on a daily walk or run. While out, I kept my eyes and ears alert. Instead of blasting out all sound with my incredible taste in music, I switched to a podcast or audiobook. In doing so, I could still entertain myself while listening for bird calls and songs.

Next, I convinced Karma to travel small distances to local ponds, lakes, and one super cool wildlife preserve. We went at times where we expected little to no people. This worked well for social distancing and for wildlife viewing. He found the areas relaxing and I could go active birding.

These two main switches allowed me to see way more birds!

It may not be any Cornell Lab of Ornithology List, but it was a much larger list than I’ve had. Moreover, I enjoyed learning a little at time.

How did a local pond help?

About ten minutes from where we are building out the van, we found a local “lake.” They call it a lake, but it’s pretty small. However, it is pretty convenient.

Primarily, this helped me find new species of birds that I normally do not find in the backyard. There, I saw a whole new array of waterfowl. Now, I know the basics of common waterfowl, but I had not yet delved into the nuances in this category. With this burst of excitement, I filled up a memory card quickly. Maybe I have an unconventional method of identification. I prefer to observe and take photos from different angles. Then, I skim through field guides with a zoomed in photo. I use the National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of Western North America.

In learning new species on purpose, I moved from passively birding to active birding.

Secondly, at only ten minutes away, we could go for an hour. By not traveling far, we could still put in hours working on the van. When we would get super frustrated, we could take an hour break and visit the pond. This way, we went at all different hours on weekdays. The act of traveling for the purpose of viewing birds becomes active birding.

We also visited a Wildlife Area

Karma knew about this amazing wildlife area about 45 minutes away. He had taken me there once, but I had not yet taken the plunge into birding.

We wanted to come here because of the layout. By design, this wildlife area had dirt roads that formed a web around watery areas. This allowed us to view all different sorts of birds from the vehicle. Since the cars drive through frequently, the birds don’t think much cars. I could lean out the window and the birds paid me no mind.

I felt that this way, I could view lots of new birds at closer distances. Simultaneously, I was not disturbing their feeding as long as I stayed in the car. The best of both worlds!

While there, I got to see a few birds I’d never seen! This included a Snowy Egret and three White Faced Ibis. Even cooler, we saw a territory battle between one White Faced Ibis and two others. Simultaneously, a large group of American Coots swam surprisingly close.

This definitely jumps into the realm of active birding!

So what does a species list look like when you’ve gone actively birding?

  • March 1st: White Tailed Kite (2), Turkey Vulture (5), White Crowned Sparrow (4), Northern Mockingbird, Scrub Jay (4).
  • March 2nd: Anna’s Hummingbird, White Crowned Sparrow (6), White Tailed Kite (2), Red Shouldered Hawk.
  • March 3rd: Desert Cottontail, California Quail (3), Northern Mockingbird, Brewer’s Blackbird (8+), European Starling (10+), White Crowned Sparrow (4).
  • March 4th: Common Goldeneye, Double Crested Cormorant (2), Red Shouldered Hawk, Turkey Vulture (2), Dark Eyed Junco (6), European Starling (30+).
  • March 5th: White Tailed Kite (2), Scrub Jay (2), House Finch, Turkey Vulture (4), Bushtit (6), California Quail (6), Desert Cottontail.
  • March 6th: White Crowned Sparrow (8), House Finch (2), White Tailed Kite (2), Red Tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture (4), Scrub Jay (3), Northern Flicker.
  • March 7th: Red Shouldered Hawk, White Tailed Kite (2), White Crowned Sparrow (6), Scrub Jay (2), Lark Sparrow, Northern Mockingbird.
  • March 8th: White Tailed Kite (2), Red Shouldered Hawk, Desert Cottontail, California Quail, Turkey Vulture (3), European Starling (20+), Scrub Jay (4).
  • March 9th: Bushtit (4), Red Winged Blackbird, European Starling (15+), Brewer’s Blackbird (15+), Northern Flicker, Crow, Scrub Jay (6), Turkey Vulture, Northern Mockingbird (2), House Finch (4).
  • March 10th: White Crowned Sparrow (16), Brewer’s Blackbird, Mourning Dove (11), House Finch (3), Golden Crowned Sparrow, Red Shouldered Hawk, White Tailed Kite (2), Scrub Jay (4), Northern Mockingbird.
  • March 11th: Red Tailed Hawk (2), California Quail (16), House Finch (4), White Tailed Kite (2), White Crowned Sparrow (10), Brown Headed Cowbird (22), Scrub Jay (6), Mourning Dove (3).
  • March 12th: Muskrat (2), River Otter (2), Tree Swallow (6), Black Phoebe, American Coot (30+), Canada Goose (20+), Brewer’s Blackbird (4), Red Winged Blackbird, Red Shafted Flicker, California Ground Squirrel (4), Downy Woodpecker, Mute Swan, White Tailed Kite, Scrub Jay (6), California Quail (6), Mallard.
  • March 13th: White Crowned Sparrow (8), American Coot (20+), Brewer’s Blackbird (17), American Wigeon (2), Great Egret, Black Necked Stilt (4), Greater Yellowlegs (2), Cinnamon Teal (2), Mallard (30+), Least Sandpiper, Killdeer (2), Pied-Billed Grebe, Mute Swan (2).
  • March 14th: Turkey Vulture (4), Western Bluebird (2), Northern Mockingbird, White Crowned Sparrow (6).
  • March 15th: Elk (7), Acorn Woodpecker (5), Red Tailed Hawk, Coastal Redwood (lots), Redwood Sorrel, Witches Butter, Unidentified Owl.
  • March 16th: Red Tailed Hawk, Rock Pigeon, Red Shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, American Coot (50+), Great Blue Heron, Great Egret (4), Snowy Egret, Black Necked Stilt (4), Western Meadowlark, Red Winged Blackbird (Big Flock), Northern Shoveler (2), Juvenile Hawk (Red Shouldered or Red Tailed), White Faced Ibis (3).
  • March 17th: California Quail (6), White Crowned Sparrow (9), Western Bluebird (2), Turkey Vulture (3).
  • March 18th: Scrub Jay (4), Turkey Vulture (8), Red Tailed Hawk, Raven (2).
  • March 19th: White Tailed Kite (2), Red Shouldered Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk (2), Turkey Vulture (14), Wild Turkey (4), Desert Cottontail, Coyote (3), Double Crested Cormorant (7), Common Goldeneye (2), California Ground Squirrel, Raven (2), Mourning Dove (4), Northern Flicker, Rock Pigeon (2).
  • March 20th: Scrub Jay (8), Mourning Dove (6), White Tailed Kite, Red Tailed Hawk, California Ground Squirrel, California Quail (2), Dark Eyed Junco (2), White Crowned Sparrow (8), Desert Cottontail
  • March 21st: House Finch, White Crowned Sparrow (9), White Tailed Kite (2), Red Tailed Hawk (2), Desert Cottontail, Scrub Jay (6).
  • March 22nd: California Quail (5), White Crowned Sparrow (14), Scrub Jay (4), Desert Cottontail, White Tailed Kite, Red Tailed Hawk, Red Shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Dark Eyed Junco, Wild Radish, Mourning Dove (4).
  • March 23rd: Turkey Vulture (8), Northern Mockingbird, Red Tailed Hawk.
  • March 24th: Northern Mockingbird, Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill, Western Bluebird (6), California Quail (18), White Tailed Kite, Mourning Dove (4), White Crowned Sparrow (3).
  • March 25th: White Tailed Kite, Raven (2), Crow (4), Turkey Vulture (2).
  • March 26th: Mute Swan (2), Great Egret, Canada Goose (6), Great Blue Heron, Red Tailed Hawk (2), Unidentified hummingbird (2), White Tailed Kite, Scrub Jay (4).
  • March 27th: Desert Cottontail, Scrub Jay (9), California Towhee, Raven, White Crowned Sparrow, Northern Flicker, White Tailed Kite (2), Red Tailed Hawk.
  • March 28th: White Tailed Kite (2), Mourning Dove (6), Red Winged Blackbird, Scrub Jay (6), California Quail (22), Desert Cottontail (2), Great Egret (2), Red Tailed Hawk, White Crowned Sparrow (2), Northern Mockingbird.
  • March 29th: California Quail (5), Desert Cottontail (4), White Crowned Sparrow (5), Brown Headed Cowbirds (8), Raven, Mourning Dove, Turkey Vulture (2), White Tailed Kite.
  • March 30th: Turkey Vulture (4), White Crowned Sparrow (4), California Quail (22), Desert Cottontail (2), Raven (2), Northern Mockingbird (2).
  • March 31st: Mourning Dove (3), Turkey Vulture (4), Canada Goose (2), Scrub Jay (3), White Crowned Sparrow (8), American Robin, California Quail, California Ground Squirrel, Desert Cottontail.

The March Species List in the Nature Journal

March contained the most birds that I have recorded in a species list. While I had a few days with less birds, I had lots of days with more birds. That being said, I managed to squeeze the whole list onto four pages.

Over the past three months, I have developed a process that works for me.

My Species List Process

First, I keep a note in my phone that says “Species List.” On that list, I record (mostly) birds down more or less as I see them. If I’ve running, I make a mental note. When I get to the cool down, I add them to the list.

Second, in the evening, I add this iPhone note into a Word Document on my phone. I keep this list running throughout the month.

Next, when I get about halfway through the month, I begin a spread in my nature journal. I try to get these first 15 days or so fit on the first two pages. Once I begin, I keep four pages clear. If I’d like to start another spread, I make sure to leave this space.

After that, I write in the journal again on week three. This takes up the third page. This way, I can adjust my handwriting size as I go. I can also add in borders, a photo, etc if I have too much space.

So far, this has worked well for me. It holds me accountable and I have fun doing it! It’s just like a thru-hike where we break up the long trail into smaller parts. That way, each day has a reasonable amount of “work.”

If you’re struggling to make a species list, I recommend this approach. It provides an easy path toward active birding. For more inspiration check out my January Species List and my February Species List.