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.