Written by SGG Volunteer Birder Pat Pepper
On December 17, 2016, I and five other birders gathered at 6 a.m. to participate in the largest Citizen-Science Project in the world, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). These counts go on internationally all through December and the first week in January.
December 17 in my assigned birding area was cold, windy, rainy, and foggy. I had to count all the different species and their numbers that I and my teammates could find in a 24-hour period. It was going to be a tough day of birding, especially because of the wind, as the smaller birds like to hunker down in windy conditions.
My team split up into two groups of three birders each. My group started at Green Meadows Preserve near The Avenue shopping area on the Dallas Hwy. in Cobb Co. You may remember reading about this preserve recently in Ann’s e-mail about SGG’s new Bluebird box being installed by Jim Bearden of Green Meadows. Green Meadows is definitely the place to go to see Bluebirds. Usually there are many to be seen next to the fenced garden, but we saw none there, even after the sun came up.
Because of the wind, we had to look for a protected area where the birds might be hanging out. We finally found them perched on some utility wires in Oregon Park, which is adjacent to Green Meadows. These wires were behind a row of tall trees in Green Meadows, which blocked the gusty winds and allowed the bluebirds some relief. We counted 35 Bluebirds on those wires. We also came up with several other good species in that area like the Yellow-rumped and the Pine Warbler.
We trudged on to the big field adjacent to the Dallas Hwy. I was hoping to flush a small bevy of Eastern Meadow Larks that hang out in that field. I had just seen them two weeks before and had gotten them on our count last year. Unfortunately, they must have taken cover from the inclement weather in another location.
We were rewarded, however, with a flying Red-tailed Hawk. He was flying from a mob of crows, which is how we spotted him because the crows raise a real racket when they mob. The wind and rain really cut down on the number of birds in the air. Both Turkey and Black Vultures are usually very common to find in the air, but our team only spotted one Turkey Vulture near Lake Allatoona.
While many birders had been seeing thousands of Sandhill Cranes flying south during the week before, none of the 39 birders counting on Dec. 17 saw any. The weather was just too bad. I will make up for that on Jan. 7 when I and my birding group go to the Hiwassee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Birchwood, TN. Thousands of Sandhills overwinter there because the Refuge will put grain out for them.
While the woodland birding was tough, the areas with water did better. My team’s second area included Lake Allatoona, around Cauble Park. The rain didn’t bother the water birds. On the lake were Pied-billed Grebes, Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Blue-winged Teal, and even a Ring-billed Gull.
All the counters of Marietta Audubon met around 6pm at the home of our coordinator to enjoy a nice meal and tally our counts. After calling out all the different species we had spotted, we realized we had beaten our old record with 94 species, despite the lousy weather!
If you would like to participate in this wonderful event next year, please contact your local Audubon or me. I will be glad to help you. If you feel that you can’t be out walking all day, you can participate from the comfort of your own home. If you live in a counted area, you can report the birds that come to your feeders or your yard. We had a feeder watcher in my area, and she was able to add four species to our count! We were so glad we had her.
If you missed doing anything for this year’s count, you still have an opportunity to help count birds in February. Cornell Labs and Audubon sponsor the Great Backyard Bird Count, which will be held February 17-19, 2017. SGG will be participating in that count on Saturday, February 18. I will be on hand to help out—what a great way to spend my birthday! I hope to see you there.
Details of this count can be find at this link: http://www.audubon.org/content/about-great-backyard-bird-count
Pat Pepper email@example.com