Yesterday Ann and I drove up to Dan and Susan's place to help out with their Christmas Bird Count, and even though I got the arrival time wrong, everyone is still speaking to me. Even Ann, who now threatens me with some sort of payback for depriving her of an extra thirty minutes of sleep can't say I blame her, it was a long day!
We anxiously awaited for sunrise yup, that's how early we were and as we hit the road with Judy and Stephen, dozens of hungry Snow Buntings had already lined the hydro wires on Dan and Susan's property.
Our team was called the "Whiskey Jacks", and looking back now, perhaps a shot of just that in our morning coffee would have helped jump-start our day, as we truly had to work hard for our birds. After eight hours of searching our assigned zone, including sixty kilometres of driving and five kilometres of walking, the final tally came in at twenty-seven species and one thousand five hundred and forty individual birds. But we had an absolute blast, and my thanks go to Judy, Stephen, and Ann for making it an enjoyable day:
We began our day enjoying the scenery more than counting birds, as it was very quiet:
I could sense that Stephen was already getting worried by the lack of birds....
That, coupled with the enormous pressure put on him by Dan as we left the house: "You better find that kingfisher today, Stephen, or you'll not be staying over here another night". Yikes, no pressure! Wasn't this supposed to be fun??
...so what's a guy to do? Head to the local dump! And yes, we found the Belted Kingfisher, phew!!!
Judy, Stephen, and Ann are doing a great job of counting crows OMG, did I just legitimately say that??? while I lag behind, after publicly humiliating myself while attempting a not-so-graceful pole-vault over a fence ANN: this is what's known as a preemptive strike!
We cursed the Works Department for doing such a bang-up job of concealing the garbage, as it meant minimal birds on the premises, other than Common Crows and Ravens, and European Starlings. No Bald Eagles, nor any gulls were to be had, waaaah.
We did eventually have some good activity at the bridge in Burnt River, where the deafening sounds of both Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, and White and Red-breasted Nuthatches were music to our ears after hours of silence.
Wild Turkey tracks were seen on the ice, but we never did see any actual birds to include in our count. This view of the Burnt River is from the very same bridge where Brenda, Jim, Robert and I had set off on our kayaking day trip back in September:
We eventually split off from Stephen and Judy to ensure our territory was covered off, and on Concession Road 3 Ann and I were thrilled to find sixty Evening Grosbeaks feeding in sumach bushes:
These most certainly were not Ann's BOTD, based on her subdued reaction to them she went insane, you have no idea:
And to top it off, a Pileated Woodpecker (one of my target birds for the day for my Winter List) flew across the road while we were out of the car enjoying the Grosbeaks!
Ann's grinning from ear to ear, if you can even recognize her in her winter fashion gear. It turns out that where she's standing on the side of the road was also a trail for snowmobilers how were we to know?? so we had to be extremely careful where we pulled over:
We joined up with Stephen and Judy to compare notes, then arrived at Jack's home for his amazing feeders, all thirty plus of them!! The first bird we saw from the car was a Common Redpoll, whooohoo, not only a Winter but also a Year bird for me, as last winter they were nowhere to be found in our part of the province.
It's named for the bright red cap on the forehead:
Many more of them joined in with American Goldfinches at the feeders, but finch snob that I am, I only paid attention to the Redpolls:
More Evening Grosbeaks got in on the feeder action:
We also saw Northern Cardinals, Dark-eyed Juncos, and later in the day, a Sharp-shinned Hawk perched in a treetop off in the distance, scoping out the feeders for an afternoon snack.
And speaking of food, Susan and Dan put on a great mid-day spread for the gang, what a nice break from the cold temps:
Meanwhile, Cooder decides to have his meal outside.
DAN: you now officially have my permission to use this photo for a "lost dog" poster after I kidnap him for myself, mwahaha
Now did anyone notice Ann's absence at that lunch table? She was outside enjoying this spectacle:
Hundreds of Snow Buntings, aka the extended family of Dan and Susan!
This poor sweetie, the second from the right is getting harassed from both sides, check it out! Ann and I were just howling with laughter:
But it was time to hit the road again to continue our count...
Dan had tipped us off to another potential hotspot within our zone to investigate, so off we went along this narrow "closed" snowmobile trail, and at the end we found this totally surreal winter scene:
Ann was in her element, with horses and an energetic pup. And yes, that is a real horse on the top of the hill off to the right. This was also the location where I decided to test out my winter tires they suck . Thanks go to Stephen and the gang for....well, you know ;-)
We had a few more surprises for the day, including more Pileated Woodpeckers, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Red-tailed Hawk, and even some Bohemian Waxwings.
My Winter List now sits at 67 species (added Common Redpoll and Pileated Woodpecker), and my Year List at 253, with only two days left to go!
It was a wonderful day, thanks to the company of Stephen, Judy, and Ann, as well as our hosts Dan and Susan and Cooder, and finally the spectacular location of the Kawarthas. I'm already looking forward to next year's count, as it looks like we've been invited back by Dan, who has promised us a pishing workshop on the condition that I get the start time right duh.