18 February 2008

GBBC '08

With one day left in this year's Great Backyard Bird Count event I thought I'd just mention some of my results from our outings. Saturday morning I took the girls to the Reedy Creek Nature Center for their event, and while my enjoyment level definitely exceeded theirs, we had a good time nonetheless. With as much modesty as I can muster I can tell you that I was far and away the most skilled birder there, as the majority of the attendees were parents with their kids or childless adult couples that were just beginning to explore the hobby. We, meaning the staff naturalist and I, identified quite a few birds in the 30 or so minutes we spent outside by the feeders, and the girls had fun climbing on tree stumps and throwing rocks into the little fish pond (guess which one was doing that). I rewarded the girls' indulgence of my trip to the nature center with a picnic lunch at the park, which they devoured mightily before heading off to build mulch castles and perfect the new found art of jumping from a moving swing.

Later in the afternoon we went down to the Moss Creek Nature Trail, mostly just to get out of the house, but also because I wanted to see if the Pileated Woodpecker would afford me a little better view of himself than I had the last time. He was neither to be heard or seen, but I was able to add a brand new species to my Big Year list, the Brown Creeper. As has been the case this year with this list, upon seeing the first one I immediately saw another, a mere 3 feet higher up on the same tree. I'd studied his pictures in my field guide numerous times, but neglected to read the description. I suppose I expected something at least as big as a nuthatch, but this little guy was no bigger than a kinglet. From my vantage point he was on the left side of a tree, which allowed me to see his bright white belly. From there I watched his camouflaged back help him disappear into the bark of the tree, undoubtedly the reason why I've never seen him before. He's tiny, and his camouflage is extremely effective. His addition brings the list total to 60 for the year.

After the trail, I took the girls to Chick-Fil-A for dinner, having again promised them a reward of food in return for their cooperation with my hobbying. We played and ate, and on a lark (pun only mildly intended) we drove around the back of the Babies-R-Us to see if the Red-headed Woodpeckers were out and about. They weren't, but as I scanned the water for ducks I heard the familiar squawk of the Red-winged Blackbird. I perused the treetops and sure enough, there were two males perched on a branch making their call. I knew they would be on the list by spring time, but these two made an early arrival and allowed me to add them now. Two new list'ers on a day when all I really wanted was to get out and do some citizen-science is a great surprise. Today is the last day of the annual event, and we might try to make one more list before Mandi gets home tonight.

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