Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Bird Count

This morning as I fixed my cup of coffee, I watched American Goldfinches, House Finches, Carolina Chickadees and an Orange Crowned Warbler at my three feeders. A familiar sight for this ritual to be sure which stands in stark contrast of yesterday. By this time yesterday, I was leading my team into Area 3 of our local Christmas Bird Count.

Area 3 has been the area assigned to me for the last three years. Yet, my team was completely new. For Jane and Gary, this was their first CBC in which to participate. They had wanted to do so for years, but the pressure of family events had prevented an earlier participation. However, to my great pleasure, they knew their birds and have done enough hiking and camping to be comfortable in the outdoors.

We had good weather, sunshine with temperature climbing into the 70’s F by noon. The anticipated cold front started pushing into Central Texas by mid-afternoon, with the wind kicking up as we ended our day.

Our first stop placed us at the Highway 84 Bridge crossing the South Bosque River. Fruitful it was with sightings of Chickadees, Goldfinches, Red Winged Blackbirds, and a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker. As we moved on to differing spots we set up a good system of sighting, verifying, and accounting for the numbers and kinds of our avian friends. We faired well in the different types of raptors found, the best of which (for me) was a Merlin. We found six species of buteos, accipiters and falcons. However, the Northern Harriers that come into this area in winter were absent. Speculation on my part is that it has not been cold enough to send many of our northern birds south.

By afternoon, we found ourselves in the northwestern corner of our assigned area known as Rattler Hill Road. This road has been in the past a most productive and significant part of the count area. This road we call a “sparrowy” place. So it proved today, also. Vesper, Lincoln’s, Harris’s, and White Crowned Sparrows were counted at this locale. We also were treated to Cedar Waxwings and Eastern Bluebirds, and Meadowlarks on Lifestyle Lane.

We returned home having counted forty-nine species. All agreed it was a good day having enjoyed the company, camaraderie, and experience of participating in one of the oldest and enduring events of citizen science.

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