Most people have probably heard of the annual Audubon-sponsored Christmas Bird Count. Perhaps you have wondered what it would be like to participate in such an event.
Prior to the day of the count, there is a lot of preparation—gathering my gear, cleaning my gear and preparing supplies. My gear included my 95-millimeter Swarovski spotting scope, a Swarovski tripod, my 12×50 Swarovski binoculars and lens cleaning equipment. I also take with me a Sibley Guide to the Birds.
In addition to my bird watching equipment, I needed a way to document each of the species I observed, as well as a physical count of the number of each bird species seen. So, I packed blank paper, a clip board, and two number 2 pencils.
Then there was the need for warm clothing. I took two pairs of shoes (in case one pair got wet and I needed to change) and I dressed in layers—two pairs of socks, three layers below and five layers on top, along with two pairs of gloves, a Tilley hat, a baseball cap, two beanies, and ear warmers. I wanted to be prepared for whatever nature threw at me.
For food, I took two Cliff Bars, Spanish peanuts, a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar, a bag of raw vegetables, including cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, green peppers, radishes, cucumbers and celery, fresh fruit including strawberries, blueberries and green grapes, a container of chili, and a gallon of water for the day. Do you get the feeling there is a lot of preparation that goes into getting ready for an all-day Christmas Bird Count? There is. In addition, other small tasks included charging my cell phone, filling up my car with gas, and buying a package of both hand and toe warmers!
When I finally arrived in my assigned area (Granite Basin,) there was paperwork to fill out—temperature, cloud cover, precipitation, wind speed and direction, and whether both standing water and flowing water was frozen or partially open. Was there snow on the ground—if so—how much? I had to log my starting odometer reading, and check my step count on my cell phone health app before beginning.
In addition to keeping a record of the bird species observed, I had to keep track of my route, how much time I spent in each area, how many miles I drove, how many miles I walked, how much time was spent driving and walking, and total time spent observing birds! Are you exhausted yet?
I always arrive in my area before sunrise—and I don’t leave until after sunset. It is a full day of birding. This year, I coined a new word for what I did—I called it birdwork. I got thinking how I spend time at work, or at home, doing tasks like yardwork, or housework, or any other kinds of work. Well what I did on Wednesday, for more than ten hours, was birdwork!
I worked hard—I walked almost nine miles, drove 17 miles, kept a record of my observations, and searched for birds, using both my listening and visual skills. I didn’t give up, either. I kept going, in spite of the cold (it was 17 degrees when I started,) in spite of the wind, and in spite of not finding a lot of birds. I just kept going.
So, while you may not have participated in a Christmas Bird Count, perhaps my description of what goes into a count will be interesting to you. It’s work. Birdwork. And, it is funwork!
In next week’s column I’ll share my findings and numbers from my day of birding. Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona – Prescott and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.