Steve Stedman's 2014 UCR Blog

Items relating to the natural history of the Upper Cumberland Region are the focus of this quasi-blog.  Birds and butterflies are the main focus, but other matters natural occasionally intrude.

To report items of interest, send an email to this address:; if you don't report such items, don't expect there will be much below other than my own musings.

14 December 20145 January 2015

  • 115th Christmas Bird Count

By some accounts the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is the highlight of the birding year; by any account it is the longest-running citizen-science wildlife survey in the history of the planet.

This year's CBC period fell during the period noted above. Eight CBCs were conducted in the Upper Cumberland Region, while over 30 were conducted in Tennessee and probably that many more in Kentucky.

The 53rd Cookeville CBC was conducted 14 December 2014; this date fell on a Sunday, so I got out the news early in the hope that at least four parties could be fielded that day. A sufficient number of participants to make 6 field parties replied to my request for help. The resulting count was a good one with 86 species being tallied. Thanks to the 17 others who took part in this effort to monitor the birds of the county.

Dates for other UCR CBCs may be accessed at the page of my website via the link provided below. I am told that no one has ever accessed this page to determine the dates of Regional CBCs, so you can be the first to access it for that purpose; if so, please let me know so that I can inform the person making that extremely dubious claim that the long access drought has ended.


26 November 2014

A late afternoon walk around the yard yielded the subject of a natural moment, which can be read at the following page (after clicking on the link, scroll down the page to the item for 26 November):


20 November 2014

Recorded species # 196 in the yard, a flyover, calling Horned Lark.


10 August 2014

Recorded species # 195 in the yard, an Olive-sided Flycatcher perched in the top of the large, nearly dead, double-trunk American sycamore in the northeast corner of the yard. I was able to obtain some images of this fine migrant. When cut down later in the year to prevent its branches from falling on a nearby powerline, each of the trunks of this tree measured about 90 feet tall.


19 May 2014

Recorded species # 194 in the yard, a flyover Golden Eagle, quite an unexpected and pleasantly surprising species for the date on which it appeared.


1417 February 2014

  • Great Backyard Bird Count

The most recent version of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) took place during the dates cited above. I was particularly interested in obtaining GBBC data from Morgan County, Tennessee, so on 16 February 2014 several of us collected bird data in that county, despite icy roads and cold conditions until noon EST. Ed LeGrand found a new bird (Red-breasted Merganser) for Morgan County. Other nice finds included single Brown-headed Nuthatches at Soloman Park (Ed again) in Wartburg and on Meister Hill Rd. (me) in the west-central part of the county. Complete results of this Pooled Data Event are posted elsewhere in the website.

I did not request or deal with GBBC data for any other county of the UCR this year, but I encouraged all who claimed interest in the welfare of birds to get out on one or more of the four days of the GBBC, to count birds, and to report results via the GBBC website (now part of eBird). Thanks to the many Regional observers who did this and a mild migraine to those who did not.


11 January 2014
  • Almost Anywhere You Find a Coot, You Can Find an Eagle

During a walk along the edge of the little lake bordering my yard this morning, I spotted a coot, not found on the lake for several weeks (including not during the Cookeville CBC 14 Dec.), and thought "Now why can't there be an eagle here today, too?" As I was working near the lake later in the morning, I noticed the coot skittering frantically toward me in the way they do, flapping its wings and simultaneously running along the surface of the lake on its webbed toes. Wondering what caused the coot to come toward me and take cover in some nearby lakeside vegetation, I looked about for the source of the coot's unrest and there, not 20 meters away, was an adult Bald Eagle; it flew by and continued up the lake, scattering ducks, herons, and the odd goose along its path.

Eagles like to dine on coot, so they appear to be always on the look-out for such a meal, showing up even on the small impounded lake where I live and where I have perhaps 10 times in 25 years noticed their presence.


7 January 2014
  • Yard Lists in the UCR--The eBird Approach

One of the more charming features of eBird is the so-called Yard List, a function that enables users of eBird to report the birds that show up in their yards. A related function is known as the Patch List, which allows eBird users to report the birds located at sites larger than the typical yard and/or sites that are within the public domain. Some overlap in these functions probably takes place, depending on how large a "yard" or how small a "patch" is being surveyed by eBirders using one or the other of these listing functions.

The eBird program keeps track of users' yard (and patch) lists by month, year, and life; it also places each user within a queue of such users so that you can know where you fall within each monthly, yearly, and "lifely" queue both in terms of the number of species reported and the number of complete lists submitted. Furthermore, each user can find his or her rank within an entire country, state/province, and county (or whatever the subunits used within a given country might be).

I maintain a yard list, but so far no patch list, though I suspect I will begin to do that at some point in the near-term future. The habitat within my 2.5-acre yard is diverse, so the array of species that I can detect each day is probably fairly high compared to the average eBird yard.

My yard list is based on two types of check-lists that I have submitted. One type of check-list is a general yard survey that can entail either a complete or an incomplete list of species detected on a given day; the check-list can be for just a few minutes, for the entire day, or anywhere in between; I have been submitting this type of yard check-list occasionally for many years. The other type of check-list I submit for my yard is of more recent vintage (i.e., since November 2011); this type of check-list is for a 30-minute survey of the yard, initiated before or by 1000 CST/CDT; this survey covers a path around the periphery of my yard that is about 300 meters long; I usually do 1 to 2 loops around this path during the half-hour survey. The protocol that I choose for this type of check-list is an area survey rather than a travelling survey, but either would probably work for what I do.

When I submit a check-list for a 30-minute survey of the yard, I usally include in the Comments section of the check-list several sets of information, as follows.

First, I identify each check-list by a number. My short-term goal is to have a 30-minute check-list for each day of the year, totalling 366, all numbered and all completed during a 5-year period (November 2011 to October 2016). Once that batch of 30-minute check-lists is complete, I may start a second batch, but not sure about that yet.

Next, I provide weather data for the survey; eBird does not yet, shamefully, request weather data for its check-lists, but the better birder will always provide this information.

Last, I include in the Comments section a list of all species detected during the survey and where each was located in or near the yard; other data may also be included, such as age and/or sex when such info was obtained, whether the bird was heard rather than seen and whether the acoustic i.d. was by call or song, plus any interesting behavior noted, etc.

I conducted Yard eBird 30-Minute Survey # 83 this morning, counting 28 species, bringing my January 2014 monthly yard list to 42 species. Only 283 more check-lists to go for the first batch of such check-lists to be complete.


5 January 2014
  • 114th CBC Season Ends

Today is the final day of the 23-day-long 114th CBC season. At least eight counts were conducted within the Upper Cumberland Region; two others may also have been conducted. Details about the results of each count will eventually be accessible via links at the page of this website devoted to the CBC.



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