|Red Tailed Hawk|
This year marks the 114th Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Since the Christmas Bird Count’s birth on Christmas Day of 1900 with 27 observers at 25 locations across Canada and the United States the Count has grown to include well over 63,000 counters at more than 2200 locations each year from above the Arctic Circle to the waters of the Drake Passage off Tierra del Fuego.
Across North America the CBC (Christmas Bird Counts) occur on Saturdays and Sundays and have assisted us in gaining much knowledge of birds, their migratory routes, their habits and living conditions. They do this by promoting a culture of conservation and by connecting people with nature. As we participate and involve ourselves in this educational endeavor we ourselves become more aware of the need to share this planet generously with our feathered friends and all wildlife.
Birding itself is amazingly satisfying. Even as a novice it is very fulfilling to have a list of birds, divided into species and types and to systematically check off the ones indigenous to your yard, your nearby parks, your vacation spots and soon...every place you go. My first experience was with a regular birder and almost once a minute she would stop in mid-conversation with her ear averted skyward and a quizzical look in her eye. Then the look of accomplishment when a bird darted out of a bush or tree and she'd say "I thought that was a chickadee" or some other local bird.
This centuries old tradition has been held for longer than I can remember, at our own Hidden Valley. The Sunday before Christmas is the usual date and our local chapter of the Audubon Society breaks up into many organized groups and heads out to various locations to make a fastidious count of where, when and how many of each bird species they sight.
Our local group is usually led by Mariann and Keith, adventurous and zealous birders for years. Each year we anxiously wait for the completion of the count to get an accurate idea of the wildlife that our park supports and is graced by. This year 23 species were sighted at the time our park was counted. The list was small this year. I was surprised that the birds we see most in the part of the park where we live were not among them. During this last week, in addition to the birds below we have seen scissor tails, mockingbirds, titmouse, grackles, killdeer, our mascot "Roadie" the roadrunner and of course, cardinals. Other parts of the year have many other varieties as well.
Here's the list:
Red-Tailed Hawk Black Vulture Kestrel
Great Blue Heron Mourning Dove
Fox Sparrow Golden fronted Woodpecker
Song Sparrow Flicker
Vesper Red-Winged Blackbird Chickadee
House Finch American Goldfinch
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet Eastern Bluebird
Chickadee House Wren
W. Pelican Barred Owls
If you've never tried birding, feel free to come by Hidden Valley (advance phone call required: 210-623-6737) and see what you can see. We'll point out some good spots and you can take a relaxing stroll through the park. Binoculars are helpful but not required. A field guide or smart phone apps are available that can be very beneficial in identifying the individual birds. A remember, if you'd like to participate in next years CBC...google Christmas Bird Count or your local Audubon Society for information of how to sign up.
If you already love birding and have seen your life bird or an unusual bird where you live, tell us about it in the comments.