Sunday, February 19, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend has been the Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and I've been making bird observations around my feeder and the waters along the Indian River. The count got off to a slow start on Friday; it seemed all the birds "flew the coop". But things picked up on Saturday and then Sunday morning was spectacular, despite the rain. Between 7 and noon Sunday morning I identified 25 species of birds - from the tiny brown-headed nuthatch to the American bald eagle.

Blue Jay - (c) Rogard Ross
The morning got off to a strong start when I spotted a red-tailed hawk swoop into one of the loblolly pines with its breakfast in its talons. Meanwhile, the bird feeder had steady traffic of cardinals, chickadees, white-throated sparrows, house finches, and a persistent red-bellied woodpecker. Also hanging around were blue jays and yellow-rumped warblers. Out on the river, there were floats of bufflehead and hooder merganser ducks taking turns diving for small fish and other subaquatic prey. There were also a few mallards and two canada geese that seem to be setting up housekeeping across the channel. Out on a dock were some ring-billed gulls and a cormorant. Then a large hawk flew overhead, dark chested with white speckles; I wasn't sure what it was so I broke open the bird book and identified it as a 2nd year bald eagle; having not yet developed the classic white head.

I knew there were more bird species that frequent the area, so I kept watching after breakfast. Spotted a crow and a turkey vulture. Then a mockingbird braved the rain to sit atop one of the young live oaks in the area. Then it seemed it was time for the second wave. The lawn was besieged by a flock of robins - with a couple of European starlings intermixed. Some tiny brown-headed nuthatches and several red-winged blackbirds joined the rotation at the bird feeder. A carolina wren hopped past and then a beautiful northern flicker woodpecker landed in the tree. And to the overall list a great black-backed gull from Friday, a brown pelican from yesterday and a pileated woodpecker that I spotted during our Walk in the Park, also yesterday, and the total species cound for the weekend is 28. I still haven't spotted any herons, egrets, or kingfishers, but overall a great count.

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