Sunday, February 15, 2009

GBBC Update

We are now about halfway through the 2009 Great Backyard Bird Count. Rob says that submissions now match last year's, after there was some worry that this year's count was falling behind last year's pace. (He also presents some dubious evidence for Obama being a birder.) We will not really know until the weekend is over, of course.

It looks like DC is going give me more review work than in previous years, even though submissions seem to be down a bit. So far DC's birders have reported 68 species on 15 checklists. The species count exceeds any previous year for the GBBC in DC.

For my own counts, I have focused on places close to home. I have submitted a few counts from the bird feeders. I felt lucky to record a Pine Siskin on the first day of the count (but look at how many Bev got!). On an afternoon walk around Donaldson Park on Friday, I recorded a Snow Goose, two Cackling Geese, and hundreds of Canada Geese and gulls. Two Egyptian Geese added an exotic flavor. From the nearby "Meadows" preserve, I spotted a Peregrine Falcon fly up to its customary roost underneath the Route 1 bridge. When I arrived back at home, there was a flock of several hundred blackbirds, of all three locally common varieties, waiting for me. If I remember correctly, the first large flocks of blackbirds of 2008 appeared during the Great Backyard Bird Count as well. I like having them back, as it is a sign the rest of the spring migrants will be here soon.

On Saturday, I was down at Cheesequake State Park. There were no unusual birds but overall the diversity was good. I had hoped that perhaps the many conifers around the park would harbor some unusual winter migrants – perhaps some winter finches, or perhaps a Red-breasted Nuthatch. But that was not the case. Instead, there were some Hooded Mergansers, a couple Red-tailed Hawks, a Northern Harrier, and a lot of Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice.

In the afternoon I did some birding around home again, covering some territory I had not covered on Friday. My afternoon walk was mainly notable for large flocks of juncos – I counted 29 in a single flock, and 15 more in a separate flock. I also saw about a dozen American Robins and more large flocks of blackbirds. It feels good to go out and find birds locally.