Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bird count day

We had a lot of fun yesterday. We saw 24 or 25 different kinds of birds and more than 500 individual birds. One of the most spectacular for us was seeing this juvenile bald eagle - maybe two if the second bird I'd seen wasn't a hawk. There were two huge birds feeding on a rabbit or some creature that had had the misfortune to poke it's head out of the snow . Three ravens and another eagle or perhaps a hawk were also trying to scavenge a meal as well.

It was amazing to see a bird of this size on the ground, eating.

We also saw some snow buntings up close and personal. I've only seen these birds looking like a swirl of snowflakes flitting across a stubby field or high in the air, twisting and turning and generally looking as if they're having fun. So seeing a group of about 10 at a bird feeder was also a treat - we were close enough to see the yellow on their heads - bright golden crowns.

The purpose of the day is to see how many birds there are around in a proscribed area and report it back to Bird Studies Canada, that monitors the rise and fall of various species across the country. Our section - my 96 year old partner in this venture and I - covers territory in the country away from towns and villages. So my friend calls certain people whom she knows usually have big bird counts at their feeders. We drive around  the section - about 160 kilometres or more - looking for birds on the wing, sitting in trees watching or at feeders.

As per usual many of the people we visited didn't have the number of birds they'd had the day before. I'm not sure why this happens - do the birds know? On Bird Count day, I seldom see the numbers or the rare birds that often appear at mine throughout the winter. But we were very happy because often we start off with nothing or only a pigeon or two - this year we saw a dozen pigeons and ten sparrows at a milking barn within a hundred yards of the start. And so it went.

This image is of one of the best places to visit of all - the couple who lives nestled in this woodland paradise has many feeders in place and sees incredible numbers of birds: more than 100 goldfinches, numerous chickadees, red and white breasted nuthatches and many other small birds. Among them all a lone turkey. The gentleman is an artist and carves birds - some of his carvings are simply beautiful, many shorebirds. He has a large following and has begun carving eco-friendly toys from wood, important now that we have learned so many children's toys from China contain lead and other toxins.

The day overall was a huge success. At the end of the day, we gathered with 13 others at the coordinators home on Georgian Bay, watching the waves splash up onto the ice to make huge peaks. While we only had three records for birds - an increase in the number of mute swans, red-bellied woodpeckers and eagles for the day but we all laughed a lot and had great fun. "Twas successful on all counts.

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