Category Archives: Christmas Bird Count
(From Marcia’s journal)
December 15, 2007
22 degrees and a rosy-fingered dawn as I headed outside. Two common ravens flew above Sapsucker Ridge. Surely they were a sign of great sightings to come. Our resident red-bellied woodpecker drum-rolled as I set out. The sun was engulfed in clouds, but occasionally a shaft of sunlight appeared.
The crunching of the icy snow beneath my feet made it almost impossible to hear any birds as I walked up First Field. Still, I detected a cardinal-like chip and crunched over to the woods. After a few quiet moments, three female cardinals flew into a grapevine and ate. A couple black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice also appeared. And on Sapsucker Ridge, a Carolina wren sang.
Then I heard nothing until I rounded the first bend on the Far Field Road and five robins flew overhead calling. One landed briefly so I had a good look at it through my binoculars.
Sitting on Coyote Bench, I soaked in the sunshine and silence, but no birds called or appeared.
I went on to a silent Far Field. Only at the Second Thicket did I pick up cardinals, a crow, ruffed grouse and blue jay. But I heard the red-tail call that I heard there yesterday and as I descended the thicket an immature red-tail flew off from a tree. I also saw a few white-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos.
I decided to push on to the hunting lodge on a neighboring property. It was a lovely hike, but except for a few chickadees, nothing stirred even in the hedgerows. The weather held, but still the birds were scarce. Until I reached the Second Thicket area again, I saw no birds. Then I pished up more white-throated sparrows, a winter wren, a singing Carolina wren and an American tree sparrow.
On my way back home along Sapsucker Ridge Trail, I heard one hairy woodpecker and spotted the female hairy I had seen the previous day on the same tree. Altogether, I walked six miles to record 17 species, eight of which also appeared at our feeders. Back at the house, Dave had set up his camera and tripod at the kitchen window to photograph birds while baking bread and showed me a couple shots he had taken of a pine siskin.
Steve was on the cellphone down on Waterthrush Bench in the hollow, as frustrated as I had been by the lack of birds in the sheltered, south-facing thickets of Sapsucker Ridge. Still, he had found a yellow-bellied sapsucker. And he persisted through most of the afternoon, adding more species and numbers.
I needed to bake a blueberry crumb pie after lunch for the Bird Count supper at the Hoyers’, so I turned on the Metropolitan Opera and listened to Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet in between baking and keeping a stake-out on the feeders all afternoon, adding more numbers to most of the feeder birds, and finally seeing a song sparrow there near dusk. Once I spotted a large bird on a fallen tree in the flat area that turned out to be a common flicker. Still, I didn’t add one species to Steve’s list. Altogether, I had 22 species, Dave’s siskin made 23, and Steve added 10 more species — 33 in all.
Later, when we returned from the Bird Count supper, we found a message on our answering machine from Troy Scott, who reported counting 26 wild turkeys at the base of the mountain.
CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT LIST
1. Red-tailed hawk — 2
2. Sharp-shinned hawk — 1
3. Canada goose — 45
4. Mallard — 10
5. Red-bellied woodpecker — 8
6. Common flicker — 3
7. Hairy woodpecker — 2
8. Downy woodpecker — 7
9. Yellow-bellied sapsucker — 1
10. Blue jay — 5
11. American crow — 8
12. Common raven — 3
13. Black-capped chickadee — 30
14. Tufted titmouse — 13
15. White-breasted nuthatch — 11
16. Brown creeper — 2
17. Golden-crowned kinglet — 6
18. Northern cardinal — 12
19. American goldfinch — 15
20. Pine siskin — 1
21. Ruffed grouse — 8
22. White-throated sparrow — 30
23. American tree sparrow — 11
24. Dark-eyed junco — 82
25. Song sparrow — 2
26. American robin — 54
27. House finch — 24
28. European starling — 162
29. Carolina wren — 7
30. Winter wren — 2
31. Rock dove — 5
32. Northern harrier — 1
33. Mourning dove — 4
34. Wild turkey — 26
© 2007 Marcia Bonta
Another Christmas Bird Count on our mountain. As members of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, we have been counting numbers and species of birds one day every December since 1979. In 2006 the date was December 16, and at dawn it was mostly clear and 36 degrees.
I was off by 8:30 a.m. for the CBC. Steve had left an hour earlier, having already counted yard birds at dawn, including a pair of eastern screech owls! As I reached the top of Butterfly Loop, an American crow flew overhead. At least four Carolina wrens caroled back and forth. Then a downy woodpecker called, followed by a distant pileated woodpecker that was also drumming. Next I pished up dark-eyed juncos and the one American tree sparrow. So far, so good.
I tracked back and forth along the edges of the powerline right-of-way, getting the expected species–ruffed grouse, hairy woodpecker, the local Canada geese flying overhead, a song sparrow, and blue jays. Then I heard a common raven. I walked along the top of Sapsucker Ridge, but I occasionally beat back down into the thickety areas and found lots of juncos, black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice but not much more.
On the sunny edge of the spruce grove, I did glimpse a winter wren twice that dove into the underbrush and saw my first red-bellied woodpecker. And on the Far Field Road, an eastern bluebird called. Still, I was anxious to reach the Far Field and find the fox sparrow I had seen the previous day. But I had no luck. Only chickadees, juncos, downies, and a song sparrow. Very disappointing. I so wanted that fox sparrow and the white-throated sparrows, but there isn’t much in the way of fruit for them except for Japanese barberries. Because the few wild grapes have been eaten, there are no American robins or cedar waxwings. So, despite the glorious, warm weather, I didn’t find any lingering migrants like eastern towhees, hermit thrushes or gray catbirds.
I sat resting near the end of the Second Thicket, which seemed devoid of birds, but I was too tired to care. What will be, will be.
Then I thought I heard a towhee beyond the Second Thicket and laboriously made my way up and over to a heavy blackberry thicket. To my delight I pished up the white-throats and fox sparrow along with a northern cardinal and Carolina wren. I sat down to see if I could get a better towhee call and sure enough I did. What a bonanza. I never knew this thicket existed high above and to the left of the Second Thicket, almost to the mountaintop, giving me a great view of Sinking Valley.
Pulled back down the slope by the elusive call of the towhee, I made it to Parks’s old road and wet area where the stream begins. I stood and pished at a cluster of barberry shrubs and more white-throats flushed. I waited a little longer and the male towhee emerged and then quickly hid himself again. At last I had a real view. And to think that there was not a bird here yesterday. Thank goodness for the siren call of the towhee. As I sat there, he continued calling “toe-hee.”
Finally, I headed back home for a very late lunch and saw only the usual juncos and towhees. I ate quickly and went out again. There, hunting low over our field was a female northern harrier. I watched it for ten minutes as it quartered back and forth and finally circled high and headed down Sapsucker Ridge.
Walking along Laurel Ridge quietly, I was suddenly startled as a wild turkey flew up a few feet away in the understory. Dave had gotten a flock of ten around lunch time, but this was a single.
I pished at the bottom of the spruce grove and juncos flushed all around me like snowflakes and like snowflakes, they were too many to count.
From Alan’s Bench I watched the setting sun light up the most distant mountain as chickadees and juncos called from the spruce grove. I kept hoping for a golden-crowned kinglet or two. Even before the sun set, I heard the continual, shivering, downscale cry of a screech owl.
At last it was time to call it a day. With 27 species on my own–three of which were unusual–I had had one of my best CBCs, even though I had missed the brown creepers and golden-crowned kinglets of the previous day.
Steve had even more surprising species than I had–a Lincoln’s sparrow, a barred owl, a belted kingfisher down by the river, and, just like last year, a golden eagle. Altogether, we found 37 species, missing both cedar waxwings and robins. Still, it brought both of us some exciting moments as it always does.
© 2007 Marcia Bonta