Christmas Bird Count
Last Saturday, my Christmas Bird Count team helped maintain the century old tradition of counting and not shooting the wintering birds in a small area of Eastern Massachusetts. Three of us welcomed a fourth, Jim, an eager novice with a short but impressive life list (including Harlequin Duck and Northern Gannet), sporting a nice pair of new binoculars and bringing a voracious appetite for sightings, facts and lore.
We were in the field from 6:30 AM until 2:30 PM on what will stand out as one of the few counts done under ideal weather conditions – almost no wind, only a few degrees below zero, and no snow under foot.
Dressed for the cold and with coffees in hand we steamed up the inside of the old F-150 and set off in search of pockets of open water and large open spaces. We gave up on owl prowls many years ago, the distant owls’ “Whooo’s awakes?” and “Whooo cooks for yuooos?” having become increasingly inaudible under the truck tire noise echoing off I-495.
We lamented over the falling numbers of black birds of all types, but were startled by the abundance of Blue Jays, the latter having apparently enjoyed the bounty of two consecutive years of heavy acorn harvesting.
However, on the bright side, our excitement was piqued to levels of breathless awe several times that day.
While approaching a particularly large lake reliable for scoping out the usual ducks, Canada Geese and Mute Swans, we all immediately noticed a large bird on the ice observing a tiny raft of Ring-Necked Ducks fussing around in a tiny pool of open water. As the bird lifted and soared, so did our hearts when we realized it was a Bald Eagle, our first ever on a CBC.
Later, proving that attention to detail is vital, we all rejoiced over a Snow Goose maintaining its chevron with 24 Canada Geese. The perfect response to this unusual sight came from our new birder, who asked us long-in-the-tooth birders “Why is it with the Canada Geese and not with its own kind?” We stumbled around a few behavioral ideas, but in reality, and the one reason why we love nature – we will never know what traumatic event happened in the past to force that Snow Goose to flock with the Canada Geese.
CBC Stats for our team: 41 species, 600 birds, 8 hours, 2 by car and 6 by foot.
If you have comments or would like to share your CBC anecdotes, please let us know.
BTW – No matter what religious denomination you are, get out there and count em up for the Holidays!