Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Bird Count

'Tis the season for the annual Christmas Bird Count, which happens all over the country, and probably in Canada, too. Birders of all stripes go out and see how many birds of all species they can find. Over the years this annual event has yielded some interesting data on bird population trends across North America (most of them not good).

I joined two folks from the Dahlem Center, plus the wife of one of them, for a day of birding, mostly from the car. Now, you might think this is a pretty cozy way to go birding, and some might even think it's cheating, but let me tell you, we were colder in the car than we were when we did a hike into the woods to look for woodpeckers!

Y'see, when birding from the car, one really must roll down the windows for a better view (especially when the windows are tinted). Add to this a winter day where the temp is hovering around 23*F, and top it off with a rather brisk wind. Result? Brrrr. I finally scared up a blanket from the back of the car, though, and soon warmed up (next year I'll wear my THICK long-johns!). A warm lunch at mid-day also helped.

Despite the very seasonal weather, a good time was had by all. While most of the birds we saw are fairly common here, I was tickled to see so many cardinals, a few titmice, and even a kestrel or two - birds I rarely saw in the central Adirondacks. We had turkeys, purple and house finches, goldfinches, mourning doves, blue jays galore, bluebirds (!), juncos a-plenty, chickadees, a few white-breasted nuthatches, possibly some snow buntings, house sparrows, tree sparrows, cedar waxwings, red-tailed hawks, a rough-legged hawk (my first), downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, two pileated woodpeckers, several red-bellied woodpeckers, and a half-dozen or so red-headed woodpeckers (also a life bird for me).

We also saw one small and somewhat frost-bitten opossum trundling across the snow at the road's edge. Poor thing!

While we didn't really drive all that far from our "base," we put nearly 40 miles on the car! We spent our time in and around the Waterloo area, a very scenic spot where old farmland has reverted to woods, much of it oaks. We passed several streams, all frozen over, and at one we saw two great blue herons (apparently they didn't get the memo to fly south for the winter).

Met some more wonderful people, made friends with a terrific dog (Lucy), and didn't get a single photo of any of it because I left the camera home!


  1. Sounds like you had a great count. Ours is late this year, alas.

  2. RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS!?! A whole half dozen!?! Oh my, what a find! I am so happy to hear about you having such a wonderful adventure (despite the cold!) in your new environment. I'm missing you, Ellen, but glad to learn you are making some great new friends. But of course, you would!

  3. Looks like you're making friends in your new home. And having a great time. Just wish you hadn't forgotten the camera. Oh well, next year!

  4. Well, glad to see you have just jumped right in and begun your North Woods adventures. I agree with jackie, red-headed woodpeckers....way cool. I've been meaning to tell you I like the roof of your new home. Hope Tody is adjusting. I have been reading blogs but having had much time to write. Thanks