CBC Part 1

by Carl Strang

 

Yesterday was the Fermilab Christmas Bird Count, in which I have participated for several years now. It’s an opportunity for birders to join in a continent-wide effort to compile an annual snapshot of bird numbers and geography. Other groups cover other areas at other times, generally in the second half of December or early in January.

 

Each count circle is divided into areas, 8 in the circle centered on the Fermilab grounds. Here are the other members of our Area 4 group from yesterday, left to right in the photo: Judy Morgan, Linda and Frank Padera, Chuck Drake, Marcia and Lee Nye, and group leader Urs Geiser.

 

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Our day began very early, with most of the morning devoted to covering a 4-mile stretch of Prairie Path northwest from the intersection of County Farm and Geneva Roads. If the birds were competing to be counted, on this day the starlings jumped to an early lead with this tightly packed mob on the wire, and never looked back.

 

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As you might expect, most of the birds we see are of the more common or familiar species, like this white-breasted nuthatch.

 

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The icy snowfall of a couple days ago made walking more of an effort than in many years, but did add to the beauty of the scenery.

 

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While birds that were moving and calling were easy to find, others held still and required a little more effort, like this mourning dove.

 

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We encountered great horned owl tracks in the snow.

 

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The night before, the owl had killed a cottontail rabbit.

 

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Tracks don’t count, however, so we could not include the owl on the day’s list. We also saw a coyote, and passed where it or another had caught a mouse or vole beside the trail.

 

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The day’s tally included several red-bellied woodpeckers,

 

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as well as downy woodpeckers.

 

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In the afternoon we explored additional sites, such as Kline Creek Farm (cattle also don’t make the list, nor did we find any cowbirds).

 

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Tomorrow I’ll share some of the birds that were unusual enough to get us especially excited.

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