Part 1-Birds of The Past-Salmon River Christmas Count: I have participated in the Salmon River Christmas Christmas count for the last few years by joining other birders to count birds in my home town of Portland. It was nice just being one of the birders and not having the responsibility of being a team leader. This year I received a call from the group leader of Portland telling me that their was a vacant spot in the East Haddam territory because the captain of that area, had recently moved to Texas. She wanted to know if I could take his place in covering his former territory. I wasn't overly excited about the idea. First of all, Clay is a great birder. He even found a Western Tanager a couple of years ago during the Christmas Count. He went all out to do this count including owling and even searching for ducks by using his canoe. Those were shoes that I knew I couldn't fill but I decided to do my best to try to help out. I started out by making three dry runs through the territory before I was comfortable with the area. I was able to get help from three other excellent birders. Thanks to Adrian, Beth, and Andrew! I wouldn't have been in over my head without them.
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Some of the highlights included:
- Dozens of Eastern Bluebirds. They seem to be everywhere in East Haddam right now.
- A large flock of Cedar Waxwings. I don't have the list in front of me but I think we saw about 70 in one flock.
- A Barred Owl that we were able to call at Machimoudus Park before daylight.
- 2 Pileated Woodpeckers seen in full view at Machimoudus Park.
- A total of 4 Winter Wren and 10 Hermit Thush.
- Several Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.
- Several Red-shouldered Hawks.
- A Red-throated Loon was the last bird recorded that day near the East Haddam Bridge.
- It should be noted that I almost ended up in the Connecticut River when I drove through a puddle of water near the Salmon River Boat launch that turned out to be over three feet deep!
Over all, I think we did okay considering it was the first time we covered the area. The most challenging part was trying to figure out how much time to invest in each area before moving on. I was supposed to take part in another count but it was postponed due to weather. That should be coming up this weekend.Part 2- Birds Of The Present- I spent this weekend camping at Pachaug Forest in Voluntown, Connecticut. Yes, I do know that it is December. It was a bit chilly with a temperature of about 20 degrees but that's a heatwave in places like Minnesota. People that know me aren't even surprised any more when I tell them that I'm doing something......unconventional.
There was one other camper when I first arrived. It did appear that they had a wood stove in their tent as evidenced by the chimney jutting out from the top. I didn't see many birds outside of the usual Hermit Thrushes, woodpeckers, Kinglets, creepers and other assorted winter woodland birds. I was hoping to come across some winter finches but that never happened.
When the night set in, I was all alone. I thought it fitting when the song here -Here Comes The Night started playing on the radio. I have to admit that it was a little creepy being out there alone. I could feel my adrenaline rise a little making me more aware of sound and movement in the vast darkness surrounding me. In the course of every day life , the accumulating number of minor concerns can lead to anxiety that doesn't make make a lot of sense to me. At times I can feel anxious or stressed out without even knowing what the cause is! We are prepared for fight or flight, but against what? At least in the woods I know what the source of my fear is. Being alone in the woods and surrounded by darkness makes you more vulnerable. The unlikely possibility that someone or something may sneak up on me does sometimes enter my mind. I consider that feeling just part of my camping experience and it really doesn't bother me. Spending time alone in the woods gives me a chance to clear my mind of needless thoughts. It is kind of like clearing temporary files/cache from an Internet browser.
I regret not having recorded the vocalizations of an owl that I heard the last time I was camping. This time the owls were fairly quiet but if you listen closely to the video you will hear an owl call out with a short hoot at the beginning and then again at the end of the video.
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Can you hear the owl call in the background? What kind of owl do you think it is?
Part 3-Birds Of The Future:
Participate In The Big January Listing Game!
Some of you may remember this game from last year. Simply keep a list of every species of bird that you see in January in your home state starting January first and ending January 31st. Every species you see in your state counts whether you see it at home, work, or while you're out birding (except for dead or captive birds). Remember, a House Sparrow is worth just as much as a Snow Bunting! I set a goal to see at least 90 species. I'm really hoping to reach 95 or more this year. Set a goal that is realistic for you in your particular state and try to reach or exceed it.
Why? you may ask. Because, It makes the month of January more fun!
You can post results on your own blog or comment on your progress here.