Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Brrrrr Bird Count

I have included images today of some of the species that my Christmas Bird Count (CBC) partner, Catherine Barret, and I saw yesterday.  The CBC is all about counting and not taking pictures so these are old images dragged up just to show the species.
The CBC is a sun-up to sun-set quest to find as many birds as possible in a designated area in a designated radius around St. John's.  Find and count - that is not as easy as it might sound, but it is fun! The day begins with a last minute checklist before leaving the house:  Long johns - check; two pairs of socks - check; two pairs of gloves - check; multiple layers of shirts - check; scarf, warm coat, warm hat - check, check, check. Then there are all of the items to go in the backpack: Binoculars - check; camera - check; field guide - check; bird call - check; notebook and pen - check; sun glasses - check; phone - check; water bottle - check; lunch - check (well, I didn't do so well with the lunch.  After the last two days of festive foods I didn't think that I would ever be hungry again so I dropped the ball on that one.  Thanks to Catherine, I didn't go hungry.) At last everything is ready for departure.

We met a Tim Horton's to have a SMALL coffee (tissues - check!) and plan our day.  We decided to take the early morning to try to locate several rare birds known to be in the city.  No luck there, so we rushed to our designated areas. We started this year with the White Hills.  Given the time of the day and the way the birds were moving around in other areas we had our hopes up that there were going to be plenty of birds. Well, the long and short of that is that the woods around the parking lot offered up more birds than the 2 km. of trails filled with snow that we managed to slip and slide UP! The number of steps we took were not rewarded with an equal number of birds by any means.

We moved on to Virginia River where we scanned the waters and hiked the trail down to a known feeder.  The feeder was the only area on the trail that was hopping but there were only the typical Juncos and Black-capped Chickadees. Then it was off to Bally Haly Golf Course. Up to our knees in snow in some places and slipping on bare ice in others we worked our way around the edge of the woods. We did find one nice little pocket of small birds but again nothing to write home about.
The real highlight came at the end of the day as we were driving North on Portugal Cove Road.  All of a sudden the sky was black, filled with a huge flock of American Crows having a gathering. As we got closer we could see even more filling the trees and rooftops around.  I have never seen so many crows in one place. It was quite a spectacle! Now I have visions of crows dancing in my head!

On a beautifully sunny, cold day Catherine and I had a wonderful day breathing clean, fresh air and drinking in the snow-covered scenery around us.  We noted all birds that we saw and reported our data to the compiler.  While we didn't bring any great new find to the table, we did a small part in covering a region that, too, is important to understanding the overall distribution and quantity of birds on that particular day.

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