Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Bird Count 2015

     Last year I got hooked, participating in my first Christmas Bird Count. An annual event that used to involve shooting as many birds as one could, the count has now become a wonderful citizen science event where you count every single bird you see, so if you came across 65,972 house sparrows, so be it!
     This year I only got to participate for half of the day, on Saturday 12/19/15, but it was very well worthwhile and fun. Despite the fact that the world finally decided it would be a bit more wintry than it has been. Layers, gloves, hat and scarf were all necessary, as well as the hot cocoa break. I birded with a group in Northern Prospect Park and with a slow morning, the later morning and afternoon picked up as the sun helped to warm the place up a bit.
     Highlights for my portion of the count included some botany 101 with our wonderful group leader and naturalist, Paul, a pair of golden-crowned kinglets, a rusty blackbird, a late hermit thrush, a very late ruby meadowhawk (that is a dragonfly, not something you see in December in New York), and some sassy sapsuckers.
     The preliminary count can be found on the Prospect Sightings Blog, totaling 117 species, so far. I was fortunate enough to grab a few decent shots before leaving to gather with my family for a (very lovely) early holiday celebration, enjoy:
This pair of Yellow-bellied sapsuckers were feeding on berries in the area of the park known as "the Vale."
The two began to squabble with one another, allowing this individual to fly down to a tree just a few feet away from us.

Isn't their plumage just perfect? They bend in so perfectly on the bark of the trees they cling to. 

Moments later we found a few fox sparrows, the Vale was where we finally saw a good variety of birds.
Fox sparrows are one of my favorite, plump, large, and that gorgeous rusty color. They are not rare, but only show up come winter, then disappear by March.