Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Athol CBC 12/15/2012

This year's Athol CBC would mark the 20th year I have done this count and the 19th I 've done the Baldwinville/Lake Dennison area. The early hours before dawn were calm and good for owling which yielded a single Great-horned Owl. Later, just before dawn, while imitating an Eastern Sscreech Owl's call, off Memorial Street, I was able to hear the double chip-note call of a Winter Wren in the dark. Later during the daylight hours I would see this Winter Wren two more times in the same area again.
The old Temple-Stuart (a former furniture manufacturer) water tower in Baldwinville
While bush-whacking along the Otter River I would be able to get a good count on the Canada Geese and other waterfowl that had roosted the previous night on the river. There was one smaller canada that looked like a Cackling Goose candidate, but it did not have a "frosty looking" back and the bill didn't appear quite stubby enough. Perhaps this was a lesser Canada Goose which breeds well to our north.
The weeds along the river attracted a good number of American Tree and lesser numbers of Song and White-throated Sparrows. Not completely unexpected, but tough to find, was a Swamp Sparrow. Within a small flock of American Goldfinches were a few Common Redpolls and a single White-winged Crossbill was also heard flying high over head.
A small(er) form of Canada Goose, just above center
The day was off to a great start with 31 species by 8:30am, which is equal to the daily average since I have been doing this section of the count. The only "easy" species missing was Mourning Dove!
One of six White-throated Sparrows on the day
 Jillian, a state biologist, would joined me at 8:30, and we'd walk most of the streets of Baldwinville (north of the Otter River) and a portion of the Lake Dennison/ Birch Hill area during the early afternoon. With the weather being so nice, few birds were driven to feeding stations, but we found plenty of Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, House Sparrows and other common feeder birds. A nice surprise was an adult Chipping Sparrow sunning itself in shurbs, this was only a street away from were I had seen one (an immature) during last year's count. While "chippies" are very common in the warmer months they are very uncommon between November and April, perhaps this was the same individual as last year.
Chipping Sparrow
Most notable and really the hilight of the day was a large flock of Common Ravens, a minimum of 22 (seen at once), just before this group came into sight 14 had passed, however it was tough to determine if the 2nd we new birds or not. Up in the Lake Dennison area chickadees and nuthatches were either not as plentiful as usual or just not responding to spishing and screech owl imitations. While those species seemed low in number we did pick a male Belted Kingfisher (the 2nd of the day) and 2 Common Mergansers (same place I'd seen two during last year's count.
Two female Common Mergansers
After birding the Lake Dennison area I returned to Baldwinville to attempt to add a few more species to the day list. I'd hear the sweet calls of a single Pine Grosbeak from the top of a tall conifer, the crab apple trees in this area where lacking fruit and I didn't expect to find many in my area of the count, so this bird was a nice surprise. Late in the afternoon two Purple Finches put in a brief appearance. A single Common Redpoll was feeding with a small group of House Fiches low in the some weeds, I would only see a few of these over the course of the day despite the fact there seemed plenty of weed-seed along the Otter River.
Purple Finch

Common Redpoll (R) with House Finch (L)
As the day closed the usually "easy to find" Mourning Dove had yet to be make it on the list, typically each year there is usually one or two common bird species that nearly go undetected. One year I missed House Sparrow and another year I managed to "catch" a flock of European Starlings flying to roost at sunset. This year the Mourning Dove would slip off the list of species I had never missed on this section of the count!
Sunset over "The Back Bay" of Baldwinville

The day's list

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