Birder's Eye View

Friday, January 2, 2009

after-Christmas Bird Count

"Birding, after all, is just a game. Going beyond that is what is important."- Roger Tory Peterson

I just spent the last 8 hours or so on my second Christmas Bird Count. This one was at a different park than the last one, but the procedure was more or less the same for the first few hours.

As the 5 of us in our group hiked out into an open field, the sun rose in a great burst of peach and orange rays off to our left. As it rose, the sky filled with a bubbly, chortling chorus of birdsong. Looking up, we observed a seemingly endless river of Tree Swallows flying south-west above us.

We counted them for what seemed like an eternity, and by the time they finally disappeared from sight, we had counted 409 of them. Not only did these count as year birds for my list, they were also lifers as well!

Further down the trail through the field, we stopped to try and identify some sparrows. This area was apparently known for its wide variety sparrow species, but the little birds proved impossible to ID, even by the experienced birder in our group.

After about an hour (perhaps a little less), we came to an area where there had been reports of an American Kestrel. Just as one of the birders was telling us this, I saw one land on top of a tree, and quickly pointed it out.

Kind of funny, I seem to be the one that has found the American Kestrel on both the CBCs I've attended so far. (Well, at least I'm good for something!)

Not far past the Kestrel, we found feathers from some kind of medium-sized black and white bird. Unfortunately, we weren't able to ID it, so we took some photos to look at them closer later on. I have a couple ideas of what it could be, but nothing I'm willing to bet on yet.

Hiking down another trail, we picked up some Eastern Towhees, a Swamp Sparrow (finally!!)Carolina and House Wrens, tons of Palm and Pine Warblers, Sandhill Cranes, and a few Tufted Titmice among other species.

At one point, we went along a bike path in search of a Brown-headed Nuthatch. I was especially eager to find this bird, as it would be another lifer for me. Just as we were nearing the very edge of our assigned CBC area, one of the birders spotted it. I got a brief, but sufficient look at the Nuthatch before it flew off.

Traveling around to different areas, we also picked up a Blue-headed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Red-shouldered Hawks, a couple Ovenbirds, over 200 Robins, three different species of Woodpecker, and even heard a couple Barred Owls.

After lunch, we drove back to the education center where all the CBC groups were gathering to turn in their midday reports. Most seemed to be leaving by the time we got there, but there was still a significant number of birders milling about. The above picture is of a giant checklist taped to the wall of all the birds that had been seen that morning (I was really bummed out to find I my photo cut off the last panel of the checklist! :-().

The man in charge of this CBC was intent upon checking off every single bird, and was sending out groups to find certain target species. It was then that I realized how competitive this Audubon chapter was, and how they had managed to have allegedly gotten so many local records in the past.

After turning in our reports, we were getting ready to head out again, when a reporter for the local newspaper walked up to me and asked if I was "the college student."

Oh god, I thought, my heart sinking. I hate reporters. I did a lot of journalism in high school so I do have sympathy for them, but I hate being the interviewee.

After having to carefully spell out my name for him, he asked me various questions about how long I had been birding, how I got into it, my favorite birds had I seen today. At this last question, I was not feeling too happy about being interviewed, and I drew a complete blank.

"Nuthatches," I said off the top of my head, feeling myself blush. "Uh, Brown-headed... Nuthatches. And an American Kestrel. I like those."

Real smooth, I thought to myself. Just blurt something out.

The reporter and his photographer decided to follow our group for a little while, so we headed out around the education center. We didn't see much, and after about 15 minutes we came back out to the parking lot, at which point the journalists left claiming they had everything they needed. I guess we'll see -- I might be in the newspaper in a couple weeks! It'll be interesting to see what the article is like when it comes out.

After that little adventure, we birded for another couple hours. We found more Palm and Pine Warblers, like those in the picture above, and I and another birder even heard a Bald Eagle in the distance. One of our last birds we saw as we were heading out was another lifer for me -- a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Our final list count was 45 species, which I would say is a pretty good start for the year!

Until next time,

Happy birding!

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  • Haha, looks like you need a copy of the Pyle guide.
    Come to think of it, so do I........ lol

    Looks as if your bird was a decent size. Flicker or larger.

    By Blogger Parus, At January 3, 2009 at 11:46 PM  

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