A yard list is a list of birds seen in or from your yard. “From” is the operative word.
I asked birders on an email list for yard-bird stories. Ladders often are involved.
My friend Mark saw an immature Peregrine Falcon perched on a power line about three blocks from home as he drove off to work. What a great addition to his yard-bird list.
He drove back home, climbed to his roof on an extension ladder, dragging a stepladder with him. He opened the stepladder to straddle the peak of his roof.
“I could just see the top half of the bird at what must have been a quarter mile,” he said.
He also used a parabolic microphone to hear birds singing from the marsh on the end of the street.
His list for that yard is 157. You do what you gotta do.
Jim in Two Harbors learned of a Mountain Bluebird near the city’s Agate Bay. While he and a friend were watching the bird “it dawned on me that I could see the roof of my house three blocks away,” he wrote me.
He left his friend at the waterfront, drove home, climbed to his roof with his spotting scope, and added yard bird number 154. That was, he said, at least the sixth yard bird seen from his roof.
Laura in Duluth stood atop a chain-link fence, using a cherry tree for balance, to see a Barred Owl on a neighbor’s roof. She was obedient to her rule, she or the bird had to be touching her property. “When I tilted just right,” she said, “I could see the owl.”
Dick, a friend in Minneapolis, also added an owl to his list, that by keeping one foot on the curb in front of his house. He stretched into the street to chalk up an owl at the far end of the block.
Brad used French fries to try to lure gulls to his airspace.
“Cannot remember the year, but during gull migrations I’ve have stopped at McDonalds on the way home from work after seeing gulls flying relatively low in the sky. McDonalds is only like a third of a mile from my house.
“Got home on the upper deck and started throwing fries into the air. I was hoping a gull would land in my yard.
“I have a bird photo album I keep with all the birds that land on my property. Was trying to add to the book. The fries didn’t work,” he wrote.
Another friend, Mike in Calgary, will deny this. I seem to remember when he lived in Chanhassen some years ago he modified his yard list rule to include any bird he could see while keeping his house in sight. I like that idea.
Friend Tom on Gray Cloud Island is said, by his wife, to count any bird he can see on his morning walk as long as coffee remains in his cup.
The Web site of the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union holds numbers for several lists. Yard list totals for those serious birders run as high as 235 (a yard in Bloomington). And these guys are serious with rules.
Our yard list, kept by Jude and me, is embarrassing small given our pond and its backup swamp. We’ve recorded only 109 species. We need a ladder.