Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 Pine County Christmas Bird Count

Today was my second time participating in my local Christmas Bird Count. I had such a fun time last year, I was eager to sign up for this year's count. I ended up assigned to a group with two birders I had counted with last year, Jim and Steve, and one birder, Diana, who lives near where I work and is very familiar with this area.

This is typical of the roads we traveled on our quarter of the count circle. We had had a few inches of snow in recent days, so it was good we were traveling in an all wheel drive Subaru (not mine). The only problem with this particular road was that in most parts it was twisty and curvy and there were big scary logging trucks traveling at unsafe speeds. But another group did spot a Great Gray Owl along this road in the afternoon, and I tried unsuccessfully to see it in the twilight after the count was over. I think I will be driving this road some late afternoon this weekend...I love those owls. They are a big part of the reason I started this blog.

This was one of the highlights of our day; a ruffed grouse within thirty feet of the road, looking perfectly content in a crabapple tree.

Other highlights came mostly early in the day; within the first hour we came upon a house with feeder that hosted numerous Pine and Evening Grosbeaks. I had not seen large numbers of Evening grosbeaks in a few years, so this sighting was special. We also saw a bald eagle and rough legged hawk in that first hour. I had the excitement of calling a Pileated woodpecker who I only saw because I was scanning a monotonous aspen stand as we were driving by. It presented itself perfectly, bright red crest up. Later in the day we saw a large flock of wild turkeys take flight into some tamaracks as we tried to count them.

But this was special. How often do you see a young bovine dining at a bird feeder?

This happened to be just up the road from my house, a half mile away. My kids are friends with the kids who live there. I thought about calling them and letting them know there was a cow on the loose, but it stayed close by and I think they took care of it.

We also saw more rough legged hawks, bald eagles, and most of the birds you would expect to see here. But even if we hadn't seen anything significant all day, I have to say I totally enjoyed the company of the group I was with. We all got along, cracked jokes, told stories, shared Christmas cookies, and shared the excitement of every bird we saw. So thank you Jim, Steve, and Diana, for a wonderful day birding in my "stomping grounds".


Anonymous said...

Deb, I'm glad you got to take one day and do a Deb thing. We all need a day every so often to put things into perspective. I bet there were a few minutes during the day when you did'nt think of anything but seeing a bird...or listening to the quiet...or just hear your own heart beat. All day birding days are so rare and oh so precious. You deserved it.

Lynne said...

Waaa...and I had to work...
Next year for SURE!! I'm glad you got some time for yourself too. It sound like you had alot of fun and you deserve it!!

RuthieJ said...

Wow Deb, you guys have a TON of SNOW!! I'm glad you had a good CBC. Are the turkeys new in your area? I didn't know they were now living that far north. Thanks for sharing those fun pictures--especially the "bird feeder bovine!" (or is it a new species of cowbird??)

barefoot gardener said...

Sounds like you had lots of fun! Glad to hear it.

Floridacracker said...

Look at all that snow to play in!

Deb said...

Cindy- I was so into birding, and enjoying the wonderful company, that I never once even stopped to have any thoughts about what I was thinking at the moment, or what the rest of the family might be doing, or anything. And yes, when we got out of the car to walk a little, I found myself listening to...the quiet. I find it really difficult to totally lose myself like that. It was great.

Lynne- But we missed you! You would have really enjoyed it too; we were seeing pine grosbeaks everywhere!

I am gradually introducing The Hermit to the idea that I REALLY want to spend the weekend that begins (Friday) with our anniversary at the Sax Zim festival. I think I will be there.

RuthieJ- Yes, I think we have had quite enough snow for now. It gets old, paying a guy to plow our driveway.

Ten years ago, we would not have seen wild turkeys around here. They are a very recent arrival (introduction?) and I think this was the first flock ever recorded in the Christmas bird count. Although they will have a tough time this year with all the snow. I sometimes question the DNR's wild turkey program; it is of course geared at providing more "hunting opportunities", not restoring a native species. This is way beyond their native range.

(Treading lightly here; one of the state's prominent turkey biologists is also a musician friend of mine.)

I did write "cow" on our official tally sheet. :)

Barefoot Gardener- Like I said above, I was having so much fun I didn't even step outside of my thoughts to observe "gee, I'm having FUN!" Now THAT is a sign you're having fun.

Deb said...

FC- My cross country skis are calling me. They have been waiting for a winter like this for years.

JoAnn said...

Jim saw turkeys on our land near you for the first time about 5 years ago. They are slowly moving up. Glad you had a good time on the count and it wasn't too cold. Jim had gone on some with temperatures were brutally cold. Actually I think he was involved in the first three bird counts of Pine County. JoAnn

Deb said...

JoAnn- It is amazing how the turkeys have established themselves here. Although we'll see what a snowy winter does to them. I think your property is within the count circle, so it's nice Jim got involved in the first counts. It's a really fun way to contribute to a long term data set.