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The CBC life(r)

January 4, 2008

It was cold in North Carolina Wednesday morning. I know, several of you guys up north would laugh right in my face at that, but I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to the South’s more temperate climes. So much so, that when the temperature drops below freezing, the wind kicks up, and snow (snow!?!?!) is in the air, I’m taken aback. That was the weather I was faced with as I did my part in the red-headed step-child of triangle area bird counts, Falls Lake. It’s a great area but participation is often lower because it’s a mid-week count as opposed to the weekend ones. I’d done it once before when the vagaries of my schedule allow and this week I was able to make it work again. Good for me, it was my last count of the season.

My section had a bit of lakefront, but very little that wasn’t also covered by surrounding count areas. I also was posed with an interesting situation early on when the gulls (mostly Ring-billed) that roost on the lake at night were gathering for their daily foraging at the nearby landfill. 300 gulls that would be shortly leaving for someone else’s count area. I put them on my list with a note, the compiler can decide to take them off.

Most of my area was accessible from the state park trails, so it was outside, rather then the relative comfort of my car, that I was going to be spending most of my time. This was fortunate, because if I hadn’t been on my feet I would have missed my best bird of the day, and my first lifer of the year.

As I walked through the woods, my ears were constantly tuned to the sounds of passing foraging flocks. Suddenly I heard what sounded like the high-pitched call of some Golden-crowned Kinglets so I stopped. Nothing. I turned 90 degrees to get another angle and a ball of feathers exploded from my feet and took off into the woods. I recovered from my shock to realize an American Woodcock had been sitting mere inches from me, in fact I nearly stepped on it, and I hadn’t a clue until it took off. I noted where it landed and took off to try for a better look and maybe a picture, but if it’s hard to see a feeding Woodcock, it’s practically impossible to see a wary Woodcock. The bird flushed again before I got with 20 feet of it and flew farther this time. Oh well, it was good enough to count, so I did.

I managed some really good luck with forest birds though, with personal highs for Hermit Thrush (8!) and Blue-headed Vireo (2!) along with more Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers than I’ve ever seen in one place. Add to that the requisite Chickadees (Carolina), Titmice (Tufted), Kinglets (both crowns), and Warblers (Myrtles but one gorgeous Pine) and it wasn’t a bad morning despite the relatively low species count and cold weather.

I had a momentary heart stopper when a gull with a strong dark “M” on the back of the wings and an all-white tail had me thinking something rare. A chase ensued and my county first turned into a normal first cycle Bonaparte’s Gull, lending credence to that lesson we all must remind ourselves of from time to time, that there’s a huge difference between a positive field mark (seeing something) and a negative field mark (not seeing something). To whit, seeing a white tail is wildly different than not seeing the black terminal band. Make sense?

With a small area to cover I had an early afternoon, so my thoughts turned from the collective accumulation of bird knowledge that is a CBC to the personal accumulation of good birds, namely when they can be added to a certain NC Big Year list. Fortunately there was a good one in the right direction, so on my way home I swung by Lake Crabtree County Park to pick up “Dougie” the Red-necked Grebe (named for the spotter) that had been hanging out there all week. It’s an important bird for an NCBY as it’s only seen regularly on the coast and even then, it’s no guarantee. This one was practically in my backyard so I came, I saw, I tallied.

41 down, 307 to go.

One Comment
  1. SQUAMATAMAN permalink
    January 5, 2008 12:08 pm

    Hello Bro! Nice to meet you. Excuse my for my English, but well!…. I’m a naturalist from Barranquilla-Colombia and you can visit my blog I have added a link of your site in my blog. You should do the same for a better diffusion about our sites and ideas. Good luck! If you like, for a better personal communication, my e-mail is squamataman (at) gmail (dot) com. Bye!

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