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".