Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Bird Count in Bibb County

A tale of a first time participant. 

Have you heard of the CBC (Christmas Bird Count) before? More than likely you have.  Most birders are familiar with the CBC.  This is an annual event of counting birds in specific areas to help with birds conservation and ... please, find out all about it here Audubon Christmas Bird Count if you don't already know.  Maybe you know more about this than I do because this was my first CBC! 

Our group was led by Dr. Ty Ivey  (we call him Ty).  We started before daylight, which was good, because we saw five Barred Owls before dawn.  One flew right over us and two, in the tree, were hooting side by side.  What a thrill!

This whole event was exciting from the beginning.  It felt like a covert military operation as we moved under the cover of the darkness in our unmarked vehicles, using radios, and going into restricted areas with special codes and keys, armed with our binoculars and scopes... I like this!

The chase began.  We knew where to go, moment to moment, in great and efficient precision.  To pull this off Ty has to scout the areas beforehand and get a good idea of what to see and where.  I never asked how he did it but my gosh, this area is big with multitudes of ponds, small unpaved country roads in the woods, fields, and birding secret spots.  We left no corner unchecked! We covered the Macon Brickyards, the Lower Poplar Street, the old 7th Street, and all the dark alleys assigned to us. 

I've been on many birding outings with groups and I've never seen one as well coordinated.  Ty was checking with the small groups on the radio regularly (we were divided in three groups of three birders each).  We'd convene, compare notes, head back in different directions, check the count, drive through fields and meadows, and make sure there were no duplication of efforts.

At one point, Ty, Trey and I climbed over a fence near the Macon Water Treatment to get on a deserted path in order to pick up the counts for Common Yellowthroats, Eastern Towhees, Winter Wrens, Orange-Crowned Warblers.  We saw the Baltimore Oriole and other warblers in the same area too.  I saw a clearly defined and fresh alligator path on that deserted lane.  No time to look for alligators today.  The Robins? Let's just say that they have invaded Macon for the bird count. 

The ducks on the ponds.  Thousands of them.  Everyone got out with their scopes and went to work.  It took the whole team to count the ducks on some of the ponds.  I was assigned the count of the American Coots.  I've estimated over a thousand.  We ended up with close to two thousands Coots.  We had the same level of high count with the Ring-necked Ducks.

How do you actually count or estimate that many ducks on ponds? How accurate do these figures have to be anyhow?  This is also to check the avian health.  And believe me, the alligators and Bald Eagles were appreciating their health too.  Even the Northern Harriers came down for the party.

We had to work harder for some birds than other ones.  Among all these ducks, the Lesser Scaups were harder to find.  Ty knew where we'll find them if all fails. And we did.  (James saw a Greater Scaup!) Same with the Hooded Mergansers.  Had to work for those.  And they were elegant too, these Mergansers. 

Our group ended up with 100 bird species!!! Our smaller group of Ty, Trey and I had 83 species! A record for me.  It couldn't have happened without Ty's preparation and coordination, Trey McCuen's amazing ears, and the talent and experience of some of the birders in our group such as James Fleullan and Jim Gilreath.

It ended up being a truly amazing CBC.  I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.  Time to head back home and get ready for the "counting party" at the Amerson's.  They were great hosts.  We broke some records.  Check for yourself here.

There were several groups like ours.  We'd love to read about your experience as well.


Anne said...

What a great account from your team! I really enjoyed it!

Andre said...

Thanks Anne. Your team did great too!

Marie said...

Delightful to read how your team accomplished its goal. Ty is a great leader, and he would be sure to say he had a great team.

Joy said...

Your capturing the memories of this amazing day is very appreciated. This was also my first CBC -- what a treat it was to be part of the brickyards team!

Andre said...

I guess we both were lucky, Joy.
Remember the chase for the Common Ground Doves? Especially when the group found out we needed them? A lifer for me! lol
They're not so common, these "Common" Ground Doves!