My Bird Blog: A blog about my birding discoveries, bird feeders, birds on my life lists, and all things bird related

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Wilson Christmas Bird Count

Published December 15, 2013
Tags: General Observations, Snowy Owl, Horned Lark, CBC, Christmas Bird Count

Yesterday launched the 114th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the longest running citizen science survey in the world. These counts, conducted by tens of thousands of volunteer bird enthusiasts, provide scientists with critical data that help determine bird population trends. Endangered species are often protected as the result of the analysis of this data and findings have even revealed environmental threats to people such as groundwater contamination or poisoning from the improper use of pesticides.

I was very happy to assist Celeste Morien out with her assigned coverage of the Wilson-Lake Plains territory centered in Wilson, New York. It was a bitter cold day and we did most of our birding from the car. We traversed the region in a grid-like approach, getting out of the car periodically to listen, spish, and call-in any birds we could. The pickings were slim, though, with most birds hunkered down for protection from the cold and wind.

We had the opportunity to see a Snow Owl, though!  Willie D'Anna joined us in response to Garner and Mitch Light's great find of a Snowy Owl that they and their group found in Olcott, NY.  We pulled up at the location and found the probably young male owl perched on top of a pile of cut apple trees calmly looking around the area. It didn't seem like a typical spot for a snowy to me, but hey, they're appearing everywhere!  After watching this guy for a little while, Celeste and I continued on our count, seeking whatever few birds we could find.

Our findings included 24 species (+ 1 unknown falcon species, most likely a Peregrine). We found 160 Canada Geese out in a large corn field, 2 other fields contained flocks of Horned Larks and Mourning Doves, along Lake Ontario we spotted White-winged Scoters, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers, and other nice findings included a Wild Turkey and a Brown-headed Cowbird.

One of the nicest sightings of the day was of a Red Fox.  The one hike we took revealed fox prints along the path - and, as we were commenting on that fact, Celeste looked up ahead and whispered, "there he is"!  The fox looked up and stared directly as us for a long several seconds, obviously weighing what to do about these 2 human intruders. He turned and loped ahead of us along the path without a backward glance.  Nice encounter!

Unfortunately, one of Celeste's and my findings was that a lot of folks don't maintain (or even hang) their bird feeders in the winter.  Birds can cope pretty well in the warmer months, but the habitat we humans are voraciously carving up for our own uses, the use of pesticides, and the "manicuring" of our backyards, eliminating healthy, native plants that birds (and bees) need for survival - are making it difficult for our feathered friends to find food sources - especially when the snow and frigid temps set in during these winter months.  If you love birds, please consider lending them a hand and putting out some black oil sunflower seeds, suet, and nyjer thistle.  They will reward you with their beautiful songs come spring!
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Snowy Owl - Olcott, NY
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Snowy Owl
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Horned Lark
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Horned Larks
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Horned Lark
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Horned Lark