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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Our Christmas Bird Count

Dawn at our home, Bobolink Farm

We eat breakfast with one hand, search for birds with binos in the other hand

At first golden light we see an immature Bald Eagle
(image digiscoped from 1/4 mile away)

Then an adult Bald Eagle takes it perch

Our friends, Meade and Sandy, looking at the eagles

We find Cedar Waxwings eating Crab Apples

Lillian searching for waxwings

We began our participation in the 107th Christmas Bird Count before dawn, standing on our deck eating breakfast with one hand, scanning with binoculars in the other hand. We were incredibly lucky that some of the first birds we saw were the highlight of our day — 2 Bald Eagles, an adult and an immature. The sun came up and illuminated the pine tree with the immature eagle sitting in it, turning the whole scene gold. We had our scope set up on it and were able to show it to our good friends, Meade and Sandy who had arrived. Then the adult eagle came and took the perch of the immature, a sign of dominance. The eagles were undoubtedly there because there has been a deer carcass on the ice on our pond and Bald Eagles are scavengers.

After walking with Meade and Sandy around our large property, we got in the car and drove our traditional route, stopping at various and diverse habitats to search for birds. It was a sunny and warm day, temperatures climbing into the 40's. The wind picked up, gusting in the middle of the day and that diminished bird activity.

We heard Cedar Waxwings at one spot but could not see them. We went on to another spot at a camp where there were loads of Crab Apple trees, hopeful to find waxwings there. Sure enough, we spotted four Cedar Waxwings and took time out to oooh (and me to snap a few photos). Sandy and I agreed, their feathers look as smooth as velvet.

After searching many more places we returned to our home and watched more until darkness fell. It was so nice to spend the day with the birds, searching for each and every one and delighting in all the species, not just focused on rarities, as is often the case in birding.

We then went to our second favorite part (besides seeing all the birds) of the Christmas Bird Count, the countdown party that took place at a friend's house. Here, the hard working seachers in our geographic CBC count circle gathered and shared their data. It was nice to see all our birder friends and share stories from the day. After warming up with pizza, soup, wine and beer we sat around a table and called out our numbers town by town for each species. The head compiler took down our numbers and would turn these 2006 records into the Audubon Society. We had seen the most eagles, but others had seen eagles too. The only new bird recorded for this count area was a Merlin, which had never been seen before at this time.

Our own groups species list for the day (remember we are inland in southern NH and the farther south one goes in the country, the greater the number of species seen):

Bald Eagle
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Tufted Titmice
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Wild Turkey
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch
Eastern Bluebird
Mourning Dove
Tree Sparrow
Brown Creeper
Cedar Waxwing
American Robin
House Sparrow

This count was one of the warmest ever, with open water on most lakes and ponds. Many birds were not at the feeders but were out eating the wild seeds and fruits which were plentiful this year. Some species, such as Dark-eyed Junco, which in some winters goes farther south, had higher numbers than usual. The same was true for American Robins and Eastern Bluebirds.

Hope all of you who still have your CBC's to come (different areas of the country count at different times) have a fun and successful time.


Anonymous said...

Looks like you had as much fun as our group did! Great birds and this was our warmest that I can remember also!

Lillian Stokes said...

We did have a fun time. It seems as if it gets any warmer, we will have Roseate Spoonbills in NH!

Anonymous said...

What - no chickadees?? I hope you just forgot to list them, because it would be so sad if you didn't have any at all!

Lillian Stokes said...

Oops, copied from our written list and omitted then. Yes, we did have chickadees, those Little League Baseball Player looking birds with their perky black caps, what's there not to love. We added them to the list.