Last Sunday, I got up in the dark, dressed in mighty layers and joined other hearty souls in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. I didn’t know what to expect. I kind of dreaded the idea of sitting, freezing, in a blind somewhere, alone or with someone else, just the two of us, a bird book and a pair of binoculars. Not even a thermos of coffee.
Wrong. Four of us with high spirits set out in a car and canvassed a variety of neighborhoods, identifying and counting the birds we saw. It was great fun. We found an obscure little pond with twenty wood ducks. We found a neighborhood with a disproportionate amount of Stellar’s Jays. We saw a Peregrine Falcon in downtown Eugene. I was delighted to be able to recognize both Ruby Crowned Kinglets and Golden Crowned Kinglets. I learned the difference between a House Sparrow and a Song Sparrow. We laughed at the moving hilarity that is a flock of bushtits. We saw a Great Blue Heron sitting in a tree. I saw and learned to identify a variety of thrushes, including a hermit thrush. I saw a snipe.
Part of our territory included the riverbank, so we counted a wide variety of water fowl, including ducks, geese, gulls, and cormorants. It was all quite thrilling, actually.
Okay, so I’m a newbie at this bird stuff. I’ve always kind of scoffed at “birders” and yet there’s something really intriguing about their behavior (both the birds and the birders). After a good warming lunch, we partnered with another group canvassing our area, the head of which was Dan Gleason, ornithologist from the University of Oregon, and this kind, patient man filled us with all manner of intriguing information about birds.
A thoroughly enjoyable day. Next year I’ll wear insulated mittens like everybody else. My fingers suffered. I’ll bring my own thermos of coffee and my husband, who would enjoy an interesting day outside as well.
Between now and then, I’ll pay more attention to my bird feeders, my bird houses, my bird book and my backyard visitors.