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Christmas Bird Counts

Posted on Dec 26, 2016

Merry Christmas! And Merry Christmas Bird Count season! Whenever December rolls around we all look forward to a day in the field with friends near the holidays or New Year, heading outdoors to record every bird we can in designated areas and count circles in the longest-running citizen science program in the nation. You can learn more about the history of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count here on their website.

I have been participating in my hometown count, the Stratford-Milford Connecticut circle, for years. It typically takes place right near Christmas, and in 2016 we found ourselves counting today on Boxing Day. Our section of the circle covers an area from halfway up the Housatonic River in Stratford all the way down to the Audubon Connecticut and RTPI offices at Stratford Point, wrapping around to the Great Meadows Marsh. I was out near home after midnight, and other members of our team were birding pre-dawn. I rejoined them later in the morning and went through sunset with a few others. We were able to tally at least 73 species in our area alone, a strong total despite an up and down weather day, one highlight being this Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata) hanging out with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet around the relative warmth of our sewage treatment plant.

What a looker! Even being able to observe a bird like this in December does wonders for my warbler-loving heart. These little urban oases are a perfect spot to find insect-loving songbirds even in the depths of winter. Outflow water from the same plant harbored Northern Shovelers, Green-winged Teals, and a female Blue-winged Teal, all often difficult birds to find for us. Seabirds were tough today in the winter air with a consistent breeze chilling participants. Finding Black-bellied Plovers and a continuing Eurasian Wigeon at Stratford Point were terrific additions. We added some of the common but uncommon in winter basics like the American Robin plus other infrequent finds like the Pied-billed Grebe, Greater Yellowlegs, and Northern Harrier. I had not seen a Belted Kingfisher in far longer than I recall, and birds like that really help make you appreciate our passion and our work all the more.

I hope you had similar luck during your CBC, and if you have yet to participate in a Christmas Bird Count, see if you can help with a local circle before the season ends! Even if you are simply watching your feeders from the comfort of your home you will be counted as a citizen science helping this wonderful tradition of avian conservation to continue for another year.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator