Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Bird Count 2011

Today I did my first Christmas Bird Count with members of the Aiken Audubon Society here in town.  I went first to a member named Patty Lovekin's house in OCC, and from there was assigned to go counting with a lady named Kathy Miller in the area West of Cimarron and bounded by 8th Street and Red Rock park.  We drove around and stopped whenever we saw birds and I.D'd them ( she did most of the but some are common enough that I knew them) and counted them.  In some places, like Bott Park or some empty fields near Fountain Creek or Fairview Cemetery, we got out and walked around.

Here's our count:
Rock pigeon:  45
Raven:  8
Canada Goose:  77
Crow:  25
Starling:  8
House Sparrow:  43
Collared Dove: 52
Junco:  6
Red-Shafted Flicker: 17
House Finch: 110
Pine Siskin: 2
Blue Jay: 1
Black-capped Chickadee:  3
Magpie:  13
Red-tailed Hawk:  4
Prairie Falcon: 1
Scrub Jay:  2
Robin: 2
White-breasted Nuthatch: 1
Downy Woodpecker: 1
Merlin: 1
Song Sparrow: 1
American Kestrel: 1

I recognized pigeons and doves easily, but she called everything a collared dove and I would've thought I would need to look more closely to see if some are mourning doves - I want to check up on the differences. I looked them up in a book and I can see the difference in the band, which I knew before, but now I see there is also a difference in color. Update:  Kathy said, "On the doves, the size of a Eurasian Collared dove is larger, they are "whiter" looking, and their tails are a smooth semi-circle with a whitish band near the tips, where the Mourning doves are slimmer, dusky colored, and have long pointed central tail feathers with the tail looking like a very elongated pointed V."  

I knew a little about differences between Crows and Ravens but learned some more.  I knew Ravens were bigger and a little scruffier in the neck, but I learned that Ravens have a v-shape on their tail (convex) while crows have more of a rounded-fan shape.

I recognized Starlings and Sparrows, House Finches, and Juncos, but I would've had to spend a lot more time telling them apart from a distance.  I learned to recognize the way the finches fly, and I would not have been able to differentiate a Song Sparrow or Sisken, etc., - a lot of those little birds I don't know the differences.  I learned I could use some stronger binoculars and some practice using them.

I learned that Mountain Chickadees have a raspier sound than the Black-Capped, and we might have heard one but we weren't sure.  I know the call of crows, doves and magpies easily enough but some of the songbirds I haven't really learned to differentiate.

I recognized the hawk and falcon, and I'd seen a nuthatch before but didn't know what it was called.  I wouldn't have known the name of the Merlin without using a book to I.D.   But in the field the birds may not stay still long enough for that.  I learned that Canada Geese come in larger and smaller varieties.

After the official count, we went down to the pond by the Doubletree on Lake/Circle to see a rare-for-this-area duck that had been reported there.  It was a long-tailed duck.  We also saw the two kinds of Canadian geese, Mergansers, Mallards, Gulls, a Coot, Shovelers, and Canvasbacks.   I wasn't sure about some others.

This is a picture of  Kestrel.  I didn't take this, but it shows how pretty they are.  This was maybe my favorite sighting of the day.  It does this kind of bowing/flicking thing with its tail that is pretty distinctive.  Kathy was very exciting by the Merlin, because it was a life bird for her, meaning it was a new bird for her life list, a collection of all the species of birds she has seen in her life. I think I will start my life list now, because I really had a good time doing this and hope to do it some more.  Notable about it for ID purposes is the yellow on the beak, the white "eyebrows" and the brown and white belly. This is a Merlin:

This is a merganser:
These were very entertaining to watch in the water - they were lively and diving a lot.

This is a shoveler:

This is a long-tailed duck:

She was by herself and spent more time underwater than on the surface.

This is a goldeneye:

These are canvasbacks:

This is a nuthatch:

This is a pine siskin:

This is a song sparrow:

House sparrows:

House finches:

Black-capped chickadee:


These are often near the ground flitting around in bushes.

red-shafted flicker:

They have a distinctive shape and a long beak, and in flight that white patch is very visible.  

This is a downy woodpecker:  Males might have a red spot on the head.

I found a cool app for my Kindle (also available for phones) that is like a whole bird I.D. website/book that has pictures, their songs, I.D. tips, etc.  Very cool!  It is called iBird 2.0 I think.  I want to work on some of the more common birds around here.  Maybe I'll use the county bird list I found on Aiken's site.


Salihah said...

Beautiful, masha'Allah! My grandparents love to bird watch. We're in Minnesota, it's neat to see the birds returning in the Spring, during the winter there isn't much variety I see, at least in the city.

Diana Beatty said...

Thanks. :) Yeah, I think in winter most places have a lot less going on bird-wise. But, maybe we just have to learn to look to see how much is still here....