How to Finish a Block in a Year

By Julie Hart February 26, 2021
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis

Here is a suggested visit schedule to complete a block in one year. Refer to the Block Coverage Guidelines to know when a block is finished.

Calendar Overview

April/May: Study block, find early breeders, do first nocturnal visit

June: Build nearly complete species list (2–4 visits), final nocturnal visit

July: Work different habitats to rack up confirmations (4–8 visits)

August: Mop up late and double breeders in first two weeks

Detailed Month-by-Month

April: April is still early in the season, so relatively few birds are nesting (consult the Breeding Guideline Bar Chart for guidance), but there are some early breeders getting started such as grouse, doves, owls, corvids, and raptors. Many year-round residents start breeding, like woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadee, cardinal, starling, and House Sparrow. At this time of year, get familiar with your block and its habitats, and figure out if there are particular tracts of land where you would benefit from contacting landowners for access. Woodcocks are displaying, so it’s a great time for your first nocturnal visit..

May: Many early breeders begin nest-building in May, especially in the latter half. Many migrant species return and start setting up territories.

June: June is all about building your species list. Head out at dawn on a nice day and spend the whole morning afield, building as big a species list as you can. Return a week or more later to elevate many of those species to S7. Combine an early morning or evening with your final nocturnal visit. Birds can be harder to confirm during June while many are sitting silently on a nest somewhere, but make sure your species list is nearly complete by the end of the month.

July: Singing drops off rapidly early in July, so it becomes much harder to build a complete species list and gain information about where territories are. July is all about confirmations, and you should make repeated visits to different habitats, hoping to pick up 5–10 or more confirmations each visit. (We have some tips for getting confirmations here and here). As you accrue confirmations for your block, you may need to be increasingly strategic. Check your block list using the Explore Atlas Regions tool and make a list of the species that are still probable or possible — those are the species you need to focus on, and if you find one in your block, follow it until you can tell what it is up to!

August: The first week or so of August can still be very productive, with lots of fledged young and family groups around, but beware of juveniles that may be far from where they hatched (no longer codeable). By mid-August atlasing is nearly over, except for selected late breeders (e.g. American Goldfinch, Cedar Waxwing) and a handful of species with long breeding seasons (Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, Wild Turkey).