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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7 Comments

  1. DONNA HATHAWAY said,

    December 26, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    THANKS FOR THE OWL TRACKS, IT HELPED CLARIFY THE TRACKS I SAW RECENTLY. THEY WERE FARTHER APART, LONGER LEGS. SO MUST CERTAINLY TURKEY.

    • natureinquiries said,

      December 29, 2008 at 11:48 am

      Hi, Donna,
      This set of tracks was unusually close together for a GHO. A more typical spacing is shown in the photo with the December 29 post.
      Regards, Carl

  2. January 17, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    […] Yesterday I outlined the story of a shared day with other birders in the Christmas Bird Count. Today I am finishing with some of the birds we were especially happy to find, species we certainly don’t see every winter day. […]

  3. May 14, 2009 at 10:49 am

    […] Bird Count in DuPage County. I explained the principle in my description of last December’s Christmas Count . I have less to show you on the spring count. The area was much the same, and again was led by Urs […]

  4. December 22, 2010 at 7:02 am

    […] a group portrait go here to the account of the 2008 outing. The weather has been very cold, most bodies of water are frozen, […]

  5. March 9, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I’m very excited you guys you came to my neighborhood to view our local Monk Parakeet population! Looking at your guy’s counts on ebird, it appears as if they were not as active, though it was definitely a bit windy! But still, I’m glad you were able to find the location! I hope you guys found it to be a good one!

  6. March 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

    By the way, when Ms. Nye, Ms. Padera and Ms. Hipes documented ’20’ viewed, was that an estimation or an actual count? If twenty were actually spotted, that means there has been a population increase! (I’ve only seen 18 at most on the multiple occasions I’ve gone.

    I visit this colony at least once every other week, though I don’t always record my sightings. It has been a challenge to watch them;they are smart birds and usually detect my presence right away, and may change their behavior, hide in the nests. Sometimes I have to stake out under the small pine trees for a while before they start socializing with each other. But when they do, it it fun to watch! They groom each other, bicker amongst them selves over which birds gets to sit closest to the nest. They walk along the beams (my favorite because they have their funny waddle-like one-foot-in-front-of-the-other stride).

    They also embark into the neighborhood for feedings in small flocks of 6-10, leaving a couple birds behind to watch the nests. The Monks seem to do this in shifts, as one group comes back, the other half goes out! They are extremely chatty when they are in flight.


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