Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Area Christmas Bird Counts Underway
December 21, 2013
By Steve Grinley

     First a follow-up note from last week’s column. The free booksigning for the book “Look Up, Birdwatching in Your Own Back Yard” by Annette LeBlanc Cate scheduled for last Sunday at Mass Audubon Joppa Flats, was postponed due to last week’s storm. It has been rescheduled, and Annette will be at Joppa on Monday, December 30, 1:30-3:00 pm as part of the vacation week series of all day Free Flyby’s at the Center. I hope that you will stop by to meet Annette, have her sign your book, and, perhaps,sketch something for you!

     This year marks the 114th anniversary of the National Christmas Bird Count. Every year, teams of birders spend a day counting chickadees, titmice, Canada geese, and every other bird that they encounter that day. This census produces valuable data that helps determine the population trends of various species of birds. Each area count encompasses a 15 mile radius circle. There are Counts for Newburyport, Cape Ann and Andover in northern Essex County during the count period, which began last weekend and ends the first week of January.

     The Cape Ann Count was originally scheduled for last Sunday, but the storm forced a postponement until December 29, which, for me, is great because it is a lot easier for me to help out after Christmas. We usually help out in the Hamilton/Wenham sector, where not too much unusual usually shows up. So we spend the day counting chickadees, etc. We have seen pileated woodpeckers, ravens, and an orange-crowned warbler in past years, so it is always fun.

     The Newburyport Count is scheduled for this Sunday, Dec 22. Don’t be surprised to see people with binoculars walking around your neighborhood that day, trying to peer at your bird feeders. After all, they need to count every goldfinch, titmouse and junco. The Count emcompasses Newburyport and parts of Newbury, West Newbury and Salisbury. 

     If you have an unusual bird at your feeders, do call the store and let us know and we will make sure that the Count Coordinators include your sighting in their Count. I have already been told about a pine warbler visiting a suet feeder in Newburyport. We are hoping it stays for at least Count Week. If a bird is not recorded on the Count Day, it can be counted for “Count Week” if it is seen within the period that includes three days before, and three days after Count day. So do let us know and we will inform those who are counting in your area. 

     It will be interesting to see how many snowy owls are recording on this year’s counts. It should be a record high year for snowys for many counts, not just Newburyport, but all across New England and the northern United States. I have heard that a snowy owl sought refuge on a freighter that was heading out to sea, and it stayed on it as the ship heads for the Netherlands! I also heard that another snowy owl made it to Bermuda! 

     Often times, because of the through coverage that an area receives on the Christmas Count, a rare or unusual bird is found. Last Saturday’s Christmas Count in the Hampton, NH area discovered a gyrfalcon, another bird from the arctic tundra. This bird is still being seen, as of this writing, in the marshes west of Route 1A and north of Route 101. The gyrfalcon is the largest falcon in the world, larger and even more powerful than our peregrine falcon. The last one that I saw in the lower 48 states was about seven or eight years ago in Boston, at the Boston Design Center at Black Falcon Pier. (That gyrfalcon was gray, however.)

     So I wish all the Counts good weather and good birds. And I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season and a New Year full of colorful and exciting birds!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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