Monday, December 20, 2010

Joe Neal recounts news from annual Christmas bird count

It’s fun to walk around in the cold dark. We started Fayetteville’s CBC day, December 19, for owls. I had 18 layers, including 3 coats, and the 4 of us, all suited up, looked 2X our size and could have been penguins. We got the expected owls, then heard a sharp call in the dark that sounded like someone had stepped on a cat's tail. Was that a Long-eared Owl??? I stayed warm, but by mid-morning, with sun, I felt like I was wearing, or maybe cooking in, a crock pot. But, hey, it's the second half of December and who is complaining??? 
--Despite some last minute scrambling to get parties into our traditional sectors;
--Despite some unexpected stress & illness;
--Despite remarkably mild, warm, sunny, calm weather that makes it a joy to be outdoors, BUT can really put the proverbial chill on a CBC;
--Despite missing species we expect or least sometimes "get": bobwhite, cormorant, Horned Lark, etc;
--Despite needing to arrange things so someone else plays with the kids while mom goes birding--
We still crossed the magic 100 species threshhold; 102 it looks like this morning. Possibly a few Count Weeks birds more to come. This is a Great Result for our count. Thanks to Doug James and Elizabeth Adam for allowing us to use their home again for the tally.
Big stars of the day: Anna's Hummingbird still coming to the feeder at the home of Sara and Coy Bartlett; a very yellow Palm Warbler that Mike Mlodinow has been seeing since November; a female Red-breasted Merganser tallied by Joanie Patterson's group; a Grasshopper Sparrow seen by Andrew Scaboo and Brandon Schmidt and amazingly photographed by Andy; a fine, black-necked, unmistakable Eared Grebe tallied at Lake Fayetteville, and 3 Greater White-fronted Geese, happily for us, mixed with Canadas.
More big stars: all of you public-spirited folks who gave a long day to record and formally document the many earth treasures in our neck of the Ozarks. Thanks for the generosity, wit, intelligence, skill. 
So we had a great day with relatively balmy weather, providing no support for the oft-stated hypothesis "good weather equals bad birds" or "bad weather equals good birds." If my math is correct, next year we celebrate the 50th local count, which dates to 1961. We should maybe consider a big party, since 102 (+?) species will be hard to beat.

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