Monday, December 10, 2007

Tis the CBC Season

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count season starts today and tomorrow I will cover the village of Baldwinville, Ma. and the Birch Hill Wildlife Management Area(WMA)in Winchedon, for the Athol CBC. Yesterday a foot of snow fell, which will restrict my coverage of Birch Hill, as the dirt roads in the area are not maintained during the winter months. Snowmobiles, cross country skiers and the occasional dog sled team will rule this area during the snowy months. I will probably spend at least a few hours snowshoeing the area tomorrow.

The Baldwinville village area is where I will spend the morning, birding along the Otter River, thickets off Pleasant Street and all the streets of the village. Most of the species will come from this area, while the Birch Hill WMA is an exercise in counting Black-capped Chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers and the occasional Raven or Northern Shrike. I have provided a table (below) of the species counts from this section of the Athol CBC since I started in 1993.

Note 1994 I spent covering another "territory" within count circle.
With a nor'easter predicted for Sunday, some counts have already rescheduled from Sunday to Saturday. This is always a tough call for compilers, while it might be better weather to bird, these counts will loose some participants to other commitments. I had planned to cover the Groton area for their CBC on Sunday, but with heavy snow and high winds predicted, this count had be conducted on Saturday 12/15. In this case I choose to cover the count that is closest to my home, plus Athol count was the first CBC I ever participated in and despite an always modest species list, is my favorite!

Below is a digi-binned photo of a young Sharp-shinned Hawk from Fitch's Bridge Road, in Groton Ma. As I walked the road I wondered why a typically productive area for sparrow was completely void of any birds. I look up this guy was carefully surveying the area!

A back view of an immature Sharp-shinned hawk
...and the front

This bird was looking over it's should as there was some sparrow activity a few hundred feet behind it, one of those birds was a Vesper Sparrow! A "good" bird in this area any time of year, especially during Christmas Count time. Hopefully some one will get this bird on the CBC.

This year's flight of irruptive species such as crossbills, grosbeaks, siskins, redpolls, and Northern Shrikes should help "spice up" CBC's! Especially the counts in some of the higher elevations with little open water and lower species diversity.

Donald and Lillian Stokes have a nice write up on the Christmas Bird Counts on their blog:

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