American Crow, Perusing the Fields of Lenawee County
On Sunday, December 18th a group of birders, including myself, participated in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. The count area was a 15 mile radius around the city of Clinton, MI.
I spent the entire day birding around the City of Tecumseh and north of Clinton. Overall, total numbers and number of species were down for me this year. But I still had fun. The highlight of my day was being surrounded by approximately 350 American Crow in the middle of nowhere and finding a Screech Owl peeking his head out of an owl box.
Now that the CBC is over I doubt I will be birding as much. It’s time to go cross-country skiing. It’s time to make some art. It’s time to design that spring garden to attract more wildlife.
Keep those feeders full.
For those of you who can’t get enough birds, dont forget about the Great Backyard Bird Count coming up in a month or so. I’ll write about that next week.
This sunday is the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. I’m pretty excited to get out there and count birds near my hometown of Tecumseh. The CBC is one of the more formal counts that are done for birds. There are instructions and a small participation fee. There is a count leader or “compiler”. He or she assigns people to certain locations within the count circle. If I’m not mistaken our Clinton circle is an 15 mile radius around Clinton. The circle is divided into sectors. Some circles have sector leaders. I will be counting birds on the East side of the Raisin River around Tecumseh. Since I am counting in the same place where I live I was able to get a lot of scouting done lately. I’ve been visiting the local hotspots looking for waterfowl, and other rare birds. I receive tips from the Southeast Michigan Birders listserve which is operated out of the University of Michigan. They announce sightings of rare birds in the area. For example there have been a few Snowy Owls seen in southern Michigan. Also, the nomadic White-winged Crossbill has been spotted in our county. I will be looking for those in Spruce trees and Tamaracks. We have birders who will be going out very early in the morning to look for owls, such as Screech, Barred and Great Horned Owls. We’ll keep an eye out in brushy tangles for Saw-whet Owls too. This year the weather will be on our side. It appears we will have open water so we should be able to find more species of waterfowl. I look for freshly plowed fields where mixed flocks of Lapland Longspurs, Horned Larks and Snow Buntings hang out. My scouting has not turned up any Northern Shrikes but there have been Shrikes in my area before so I will keep an eye out for them.
If all this sounds like fun but you are not sure you can ID all these birds I understand. It takes time to get to know them all. It can be a life long process. I started simply by purchasing a Petersons Birding by Ear CD. Then I went out on my own and counted birds in my yard and local parks. I entered my findings on Ebird.org I just love doing it. It gets me outside. It’s good exercise and it’s mentally challenging. Stay tuned for more news about upcoming bird count events. The next one is the Great Backyard Bird Count. I’ll write more about that in a few weeks.
Ok, it’s not a National Geographic award-winning photo. But they were the coolest birds I saw today. I did some scouting for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count next weekend. Here’s a list of places I checked on my route.
Red Mill Pond for Bald Eagles and other waterfowl.
Brookside Cemetery for White-winged Crossbills.
Pennington Road for Hawks
Blissfield to look for Bald Eagles and WWxBills.
My gear includes county maps, bird guides, camera, scope, back pack, tripod, rubber boots and hot coffee.
When I’m driving around in the country I almost always run into mixed flocks of Snow Buntings, Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs. Most of the time they are hanging around fields of corn stubble. The best part of finding Snow Buntings is not seeing them at rest. At rest they look like stubby little birds with funny looking orange beaks. But in flight they are amazing and mesmerizing. A picture does not do them justice. You have to see them to appreciate them.
To learn more about Snow Buntings go to Cornell’s website.
Tonight, seventy-eight people took a slow stroll through Michigan woodlands at Hayes State Park to look for owls. Chelsea, the naturalist at Hayes State Park, led the walk and played Screech and Barred Owl calls through her iPod to draw them in. Although no owls cooperated tonight I don’t think anyone left disappointed. It was a calm night. The temps were in the 40’s. And, midway through the walk the moonlight broke through the clouds. We all huddled around a bonfire before and after the walk. It was truly a beautiful night to take a stroll though the woods. Before I left Chelsea thanked everyone for coming. I was happy to hear her say in her closing statement that the woods are not a scary place. We should all take time to stroll through them to hear the sounds of nature. Soon after I overheard many people tell their own personal stories of owls in their own back yard. I was pleased to see such a big crowd show up for a birding event in Lenawee County and I’m looking forward to more nature based activities at Hayes State Park. Kudos to Tracy Ball who organized the event. For more information about events at Hayes State Park visit their website.