It's that time of year again: temps below 0 F, snow on the ground, bitter wind..... Must be time to go birding!
Sometimes I think the mental condition that drives the citizenry of Pamplona to run before angry cattle must be the same as that which drives birders. Why else would otherwise reasonable people be out standing in snow-covered fields before dawn in sub-zero temperatures to count ducks and sparrows? Worse yet, there's a considerable subpopulation which does this for many, many days in a row in late December and early January, and they travel far and wide to do so.
Yes, indeed, it's Christmas Bird Count season, and Salida is not immune to the phenomenon. Five years ago I was duped by a hardcore birder chum into hosting a count circle here. "If you compile it, I'll come," he said, implying the presence of a certain level of expertise and experience to get the job done.
Said chum has never ONCE shown his sorry behind here for the event. You can imagine what sort of holiday cheer I send HIS way. (Yes, Woody, this means you.)
Still, we have a grand and dedicated group of local birders and a few equally dedicated out-of-town stringers who routinely DO turn up to tromp around the area and tick juncos until their heads spin. This year's Salida count was yesterday (I always aim for ours on the winter solstice).. with snow on the ground and a -1 F start temperature. Despite a slow start, we managed to record 75 distinct species, a goodly number of interesting subspecies, hybrids, and anomalies AND a record-breaking flock of Bohemian Waxwings.
We don't see BOWAs (for those of you hip to the Bird Banding Lab species codes) here every year. They're avian gypsies, typically found farther north, but once in a while we have a winter graced by BOWA spectacle. This is one of those years! They've been turning up in many parts of the state, but as far as I have heard, yesterday we hosted the largest single flock yet discovered: almost 2000 birds in one place. All total we found over 3000 of the handsome beasties within our count circle. On Friday I looked out my front window to find 1100 of them working the crabapple trees in my yard and across the street. Friend, expert birder, and accomplished photographer Tony Leukering was here for the CBC, and he took the great shots enhancing this page. You can see more of Tony's fine photos on his Flickr site.
A week from today I'm off to spend January in my new satellite studio in that most delightful of winter destinations: Cleveland, Ohio. So. The next few days will be chock-a-block with trying to get organized for the egress. Just in case I miss you in all the hubbub, let me offer warmest wishes for your winter holidays and your heart's desire(s!) in 2008. Expect news from the north after the first of the year!