My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Friday, December 31, 2010

It's Still the Season - for Christmas Bird Counts

December 14 to Jan 5 mark for me the season of Christmas Bird Counts.  This is a tradition started by Audubon about one hundred years ago and is a way to see what is happening to the birds across the country, in count circle by count circle. It allows regular people to collect data which Audubon manages and then uses to report on each species.

For me, it is a way to give back something to the birds for all the enjoyment they provide, learn more about how to identify birds by going out with experts, and have a social occasion with old and new friends.  My favorite way to bird is by canoe or kayak, and this year I'll be able to do 3 of the 4 counts by canoe.

On Tuesday I did a nineteen-mile paddle on the Trinity River near Cleveland, Texas with a paddling/birdwatching friend, where our personal highlights were seven bald eagles and two greater yellowlegs.   Yesterday we did a 14 mile paddle as part of the Old River Count.  This area is in my favorite paddling area - a lot of wild places with many routes that may or may not be open at any given time. We only found 43 species of birds but several hundred yellow-rumped warblers and several hundred American goldfinches. We also found about one hundred white-winged doves, a species which has moved into the U. S. with a vengeance.  I had to go to the Rio Grand Valley to see my first white-winged dove.  Now they are urban yard birds in places like Houston and Austin, Texas.The day was mostly overcast so my pictures are not the best but here are a few if them.

Our Route from Old River to the Cut-Off to Pickett's Bayou. 
We took out at Champion's Lake in the fairly new Trinity River NWR.

Bruce Scans for Birds at the Put-in Under Old River Bridge on Hwy 1409

We got our only house sparrows around the Old River Bridge. 

Looking and Listening for Birds

Most of the time we were paddling, we could hear myrtle warblers.  Kingfishers, grackles, American goldfinches, crows, and blue jays were also common voices along our route. 

Bruce Catching Up on Species Counts

Palmettos Growing at Edge of Old River

An Osprey with a Big Fish on the Cut-Off
One hundred fifty species of birds were found on this count by about twenty people. The count dinner was at Iguana Joe's, a very good Mexican Restaurant just north of I-10 on Hwy 146. If you are passing through, be sure to check it out. And check out the counts for your area and try one or more next year. Click here to find out more about how to join a count.

I'm off to get ready for my last long day of paddling and counting birds.