Monday, February 4, 2019

Joy Drive 5MR: Staying Alive in a Dead Week

It's a numbers game. Or at least, it's a game involving numbers. In the 5MR challenge, they're not all great finds, great shots, or even great looks, but championships are won with grit...or money. Grit will have to do.

Being one of few warblers to winter in the eastern U.S., it is fair to say PAWAs  have grit.

The doors of January are closed and with them the first month of the 5MR challenge. After seeing totals from across the country and comparing my own findings with those of Wayne county proper, I feel totally adequately satisfactory. Not as exultant as an Eagle, but neither as brooding as a Red-shoulder who has no cover and no frogs.

The last week of January was a good/lucky one for the Joy Drive 5MR. A trip to the dump yielded incidental roadside Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a female Purple Finch was waiting at the feeders upon arrival home. There were no cool Gulls at the dump though, just the angry attendant known as the Dump Grump. He works there because the baler lets him crush things.

  Photos courtesy of iPhone 6 through two panes of glass , f-stop 30, ISO 10,000, bird was baited and called at from inside the house.

The funny thing is, the weather and overall birding of the past week has been pretty poor. The weather vacillated between very cold and windy, or warm and rainy. It wasn't a polar vortex like in the midwest, but not ideal for bird ogling, and species totals were low. 
For high octane birding competition, it had the makings of a dead week, but giving up on higher totals and instead focussing on specific areas, for specific species, kept the Vultures at bay.

P.S. Does anyone else feel like the large volume of roadkill and large volume of TUVUs should make for plentiful sightings of Vulture-on-carcass-carnage? I find it to be surprisingly rare. 

The glaring weakness of my 5MR is the waterfowl and shorebird potential, or lack thereof. I'm very good at worrying, and my inability to turn up good shorebird habitat this far already has me dreading summer migration. As for fowl, there are several reservoirs in the area but they are hard to access and do not seem to sustain much by way of waterfowl populations other than Ring-billed Gulls and Cormorants. Nonetheless, persistent peeking and borderline-trespassing has turned up a little duck variety.


Plus some Mute Swans, which count for nothing. Nobody has told this to them apparently, as they still behave in the manner of royalty.

Three days ago we had high temps in the teens, but today it hit 74 degrees. Nutso, but typical for this area I am told. You'd be tempted to think it spring time, especially with the Groundhog's prognosticating, but more than likely it will freeze over again, and many of the amphibians and insects mobilizing now will die.
Life is fleeting; life is faint. For final consideration, a Chickadee's butthole:


  1. Besides Belize, ALL of my birding this year has been in my 5MR. The weather has been shit lately (I can look outside and see snow covered mountains, which is really abnormal) so the birding has been mediocre, but still adding stuff for the year relatively easily even though all of our insects and amphibians were paved over many years ago.

    1. Likewise, except my one non-5MR foray was in suburban Phoenix : /

      So are you hinting species-specific now or more birding general areas where you k own you could turn up new species?

      I shan’t take my food chain plinths for granted.

      ...but man, I would manslaughter for a nice smelly mudflat.

    2. I'm currently desperately trying/failing to find rare gulls and in a phase of scouting/birding new places in the radius where I've never been, with (big surprise) mixed results. I'm really curious about one section of my 5MR I've never been to that could potentially have NOPO, which is a bit easier to find around here in late winter/early spring.

    3. Right on. Anything else that would be exclusively hanging in the NOPO habitat for your 5MR ? MOQU or fancy finches?

      I have zero Owl visuals and only Killdeer and Great Blue in the shorebird & wader departments.
      On the one hand, this means I should have plenty of species to pick up, but it’s also nerve-wracking to have so many gaps.

      I’m doing fine right now, but suspect it’s largely due to getting several over-wintering birds, so that may melt away.

      What’s going to be your best month you think?

    4. I'm not sure what the habitat is like, but if there are enough largish conifers PIWO would be a possibility as well. Could be a good place for VATH too, and a variety of spring migrants. Maybe will head out there between storms this weekend.

      I am in a similar shorebird situation. It is very unpleasant.

      I'm not sure what the best month will be...could be April? Sep and Oct are the best months for rarities, but that is when I will be most motivated to be birding outside 5MR as well.

    5. I should probably just save up, buy a couple acres of fallow soybean fields, and flood ‘em on a couple months.

      Sounds pretty cool though, your conifer area. Crazy to think of PIWO in Cali, even though it’s part of their expected range. Just having an area where you’re not sure what to expect—that’s exciting. Looking forward to your post at about it.

  2. I share your worries about not doing well enough, although surprisingly three solid days of high temps in the negative double-digits was very productive for birds of all manner gorging themselves on my feeders.

    I am in the same boat as both you and #7 in terms of shorebirds. There is one lake with a small mud beach where I might pick up 2-3 of the most common species, but beyond that there is really no hope.

    1. Yes, the 5MR and concepts like it make many common birds exciting again, but also makes me stress about whether or not I’ll get Greater Yellowlegs and such (easy in county, a long shot in my radius).

      Guess we just have to hope everybody has a terrible miserable time of it : )

  3. I admire the ongoing 5MR effort. Your perseverance is likely to pull in some fun birds. I did a little reflecting on my 5MR and realized that I already do most of my county birding within the circle, so the 5MR list is pretty well tapped out before I even begin. Surprisingly, shorbs do come up short for me too despite having a PIPL.

    Do you have any sewage ponds at smaller municipalities in your 5MR? Around here, those are key places to check for shorebirds and waterfowl. I look for such ponds using satellite imagery.

    1. Hey Josh. You’re an old pro at 5MR-ing then!
      There are several little reservoirs/lakes but almost all the waterfront is enclosed with private housing.
      There are a couple places to access; Injusthhavent had much in these spots yet..
      When it’s shorebird migration, I ma need to do frequent driving after rains to find the ephemeral watering holes.

  4. Hey, did you see the Bewick's Swan and Trumpeter Swan reports in Edgecombe County? You should hit those up. Pretty close?

  5. I have a suspicion that what I have in shorebirds will pale in comparison to what you have in warblers and other migrants come spring.

    1. And ducks and gulls! Don’t forget your ducks and gulls.
      I mean, I hope you’re right, and that you don’t see another bird in your 5MR at all (jk jk jk wouldn’t wish that on anybody).
      But I don’t think they will ple : )