January 04, 2005

Christmas Bird Count


One of my favorite New Years traditions has been to participate in the Portland Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Started in 1900 to counter the Christmas hunts that dominated that time, the first Audubon members resolved to find a different way to appreciate the birds. During the Christmas Bird Count, birders all over North America join their compatriots in counting all the birds they can find in a seven mile circle on a selected day spanning from December 14th to January 5th. While the original goal was to provide a way to have a friendly, yet competitive day searching for birds that didn't involve killing them, today the information from the CBC is used by scientists to track the distribution and health of bird species in the United States.


This year, the CBC for Portland was held January 2nd, a cold, yet incredibly clear day, unusual for this time of year in Oregon. Frost coated the ground and made the bridge at Crystal Springs Lake treacherous. Nevertheless, the sun was welcome after several days of drizzle and gloom, and warm when we left the shadows. And if we humans liked the sun and its meager winter warmth, just imagine how the birds responded -- they filled the day with song and noisy chips as they went about gleaning for their meal.

These guys are some of the prettiest birds we found yesterday. The fellow on top is a Wood Duck. Usually a very secretive bird, the Wood Duck is rarely seen, except at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, one of the stops on my route. Nesting boxes for the wood ducks have been very productive and now Crystal Springs Lake has over 35 pairs which are quite willing to join the mallards and domestic geese in eating the duck feed which you can buy at a nearby stand. Today, the problem isn't that it is hard to find wood ducks to count. Now the problem is that it is very hard not to undercount the number of wood ducks that you find.

And in Reed College Canyon, where Crystal Springs flows before dropping into the lake, we found the magnificant Hooded Merganser. Sometimes it is hard to believe that these beauties were created by nature and are not an artist's fantasy.

Usually, the weather for the CBC is pretty iffy. And, in fact, it can be a down right miserable day especially if you live in snow country. And in Portland, it is more likely that the day will be a cold and wet with periods of sleet. The pleasure of a day with sun and therefore active birds was very welcome and in my opinion made up for the nasty weather we had last year.

Here is more about the CBC that I wrote about last year.

Posted by Mary at January 4, 2005 12:00 AM | Environment | Technorati links |

Aww, pretty :) Thanks for posting this.

Posted by: natasha at January 4, 2005 12:56 AM

The Hooded Merganser reminds me of Buffleheads and Goldeneyes. There are lots of buffleheads and goldeneyes in the ocean out here on the Massachusetts coast. I love to watch them. They swim together, and dive all at once to catch fish. They stay under for a minute or two, and then all of them surface at the same time. I could watch them for hours. I've never seen them up close though.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at January 4, 2005 09:15 AM