Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Bird Count!

Yesterday was the annual Spanish Peak's Christmas Bird Count, led for the past 21 years or more by Dave Silverman, our compiler. I got lucky and was able to ride 'shot-gun' with him, which gave me the opportunity to learn a lot and see far more birds than I'd have otherwise.
The weather was perfect; sunny and bright and without wind, though it never got warmer than 30 degrees.

Other folks who counted included Margie, who I remember from last year and comes down from Pueblo, and Tom Doerk who brought a friend and offered us a place to meet mid-day. As he always does for the count, Tom opened his home as place to eat our bag lunches and made a wonderful soup, offered hot chocolate and tea and included the best sliced pears I've had in years. Fresh is best!

Other La Vetions included Polly and Paul Neldner as well as Dave Moore. We split up into two's and three's and headed out to our slice of the 15 mile-radius counting area. I would say a good time was had by all. It was a good count, too; 44 Species this time.

Highlights included the Greater Roadrunner
that hangs outup near Annie and Dave's place, here in La Veta. Paul and Polly got a fine picture of it...good thing because Dave and I totally missed it when we went looking!

At the Neldner's home, there have been large flocks of all four jays; as many as 40-50 Pinyon Jays, plus a few each of the others. Good to hear, as the Pinyons are just about on the danger list.

We found many Scrub and Steller's at Dave Moore's home, too; feeding on old Juniper trees. Nobody else seemed much impressed, but I enjoyed watching the Towsend's Solitaire there, too. Perhaps the greatest highlight was finding a sweet flock of Cedar Waxwings, feeding in the same trees! They were a count first.

I bet there were at least 30 American Thrushes at the Moore's place, too. ...I mean American Robins (that was a bow to Polly who feels we have no right insisting other countries change
their bird's names when we do not do the same in the name of science! ...I agree!) We saw the red-breasted beauties everywhere. I'm always surprised at how big they are; are they smaller on the West Coast, I wonder.

We'd all been on the watch for a towhee, but it was Paul and Polly (again) who found them and even got a picture of this gorgeous Spotted Towhee in their own yard. Nice!

One of the birds I've not seen in around my yard yet, is a Brown Creeper. Now, I know they have to be here...and Dave Silverman pointed out two just around the corner from where I live; but the most exciting thing is when the gang went out to listen to the Great Horned Owl we got to add to our list...they saw a Creeper in my yard!

Not being familiar, really, with the little creepers, I 'PhotoShopped' a couple pics from Wikipedia to give an idea what they look like. They're tiny little things that spiral up a tree-trunk...working it all the way. When they get up maybe to where the tree begins to limb, they fly down and start all over. They're way cool!

Obviously, I do not know my sparrows...nor how rare they can be. Or perhaps it is because I've seen them in my yard and had no idea they were rare for the Christmas Count...but the rest of the group was very happy the Neldner's got a White-throated Sparrow to add; in addition to the lovely photograph. Those two are awesome at catching the hard-to-find ones!

A couple other birds the experienced counters were looking for was another American odd little bird that
hangs out near rivers and walks around under water (!)
looking for aquatic bugs and such. Margie got the bird and added it to the count, not often accomplished during this count.

Dave and I were unsuccessful with the Dipper, but somehow I managed to find a Wilson's Snipe; first one I've ever seen. Dave had really wanted to find one...yeah, I was tickled pink! That he found the White-winged Dove in my yard was another plus for both his county list and our Christmas Count.

Dave taught me to look for raptors while driving around the volcanic Dykes. He suggested we 'scope' along the top of The Great Wall, saying that the big birds often sit and survey the surrounding area . He was right on the money.

I thought this painting, by Archibald Thornburn showed exactly what we saw. I thank Dave again...I learned so much while birding with him.

Here is the list, with numbers, of the birds we saw. HC = High Count, CW= seen during the count week, but not on count day:

Cackling Goose, 2; Canada Goose, 175; Mallard, 15; Wild Turkey, 82, (HC); Bald Eagle, 1; Sharp-shinned Hawk, (CW); Red-tailed Hawk, 10; Golden Eagle, 1; Prairie Falcon, 1; Wilson's Snipe, 1; Rock Pigeon, 50; Eurasian Collared-Dove, 48; White-winged Dove, 1; Greater Roadrunner, 1; Great Horned Owl, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 5; Hairy Woodpecker, 3; Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker, 12; Northern Shrike, 0, CW ; Steller's Jay, 28; Blue Jay, 4; Western Scrub-Jay, 28, (HC); Pinyon Jay, 34; Black-billed Magpie, 102, (HC); American Crow, 140; Common Raven, 47; Horned Lark, 18; Black-capped Chickadee, 36, (HC); Mountain Chickadee, 25; Bushtit, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 7; Pygmy Nuthatch, 9; Brown Creeper, 3; American Dipper, 1; Mountain Bluebird, 4; Townsend's Solitaire, 5; American Robin, 57; European Starling, 97; Cedar Waxwing, 12; Spotted Towhee, 1; American Tree Sparrow, 1; Song Sparrow, 2; White-throated Sparrow, 1; Dark-eyed Junco, 52; Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) Junco, 6; Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco, 20; Dark-eyed (Pink-sided) Junco, 19; Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco, 22; Red-winged Blackbird, 26; Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, (CW); Black Rosy-Finch, (CW ); Brown-capped Rosy-Finch, (CW); House Finch, 72; Pine Siskin, 4; American Goldfinch, 22; Evening Grosbeak, 25; House Sparrow, 44.

For some reason, I get a kick out of the fact that the White-winged Dove, Sharp-shinned Hawk, the Rosy-finches, and one of the Brown Creepers were all from my own yard. I so want my yard to be a special place for birds. Polly and Paul found the Roadrunner and had the other Song Sparrow, the White-throated Sparrow, the Towhee and the Shrike, as well as the large flocks of several Jays...right in their yard. Dave Silverman, Dave Moore and I got to see the small flock of first-time-on-the-count Cedar Waxwings at Dave Moore's home. Margie got the Dipper and, I think, the Prairie Falcon. Good eyes on that girl!

Do click the photographs for a larger image.
Photos from Wikipedia, except the three noted from P. Neldner. Thank you so much for sharing here!


Bosque Bill said...

Sounds like a great day with wonderful highlights.

If I may correct you on one thing. Brown Creepers, like woodpeckers, use their tail as a prop, so only creep up trees, not down.

Nuthatches cling only with their feet and by not relying on their tails can move either up or down tree trunks.

Beverly said...

Ya know...not only are you so right, but I knew that! I wrote about the creeper while I was thinking of the several White-breasted Nuthatches we watched. Sheeshhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Thanks again, for catching my faux pas, Bill, I appreciate your comments...always.