Great Backyard Bird Count

By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader

Derek Stoner and I arrived early at Ashland Nature Center this morning to cook breakfast for the participants in the Breakfast and the Great Backyard Bird Count program.  The count, run by the Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is a mid-winter survey of birds that anyone can participate in.  It is fun, gets you out of the house, and provides a snapshot of bird numbers at this difficult time of year for wildlife. 

The bacon was sizzling, the eggs were scrambling, the bread was toasting, the coffee was brewing, and the potatoes were frying.  This was much-needed fuel to get us around the trails covered in over 20 inches of snow.  After watching the feeders for a bit, we walked the plowed driveway, part of Barley Mill Road, and up to the lodge.  We watched Common Mergansers catching and fighting over fish in the Red Clay Creek.  The Hooded Mergansers were resting on the ice, and quietly slipped away when they saw us.

A trio of Hooded Mergansers swim up the Red Clay Creek near the Ashland Covered Bridge.
A trio of Hooded Mergansers swim up the Red Clay Creek near the Ashland Covered Bridge. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.
Snow Geese flew over, perhaps heading south to escape deep snow.  The snow actually tosses the normal routine out the window for wildlife.  Like us, they have to adjust.  Birds seemed a little out of place this morning.  Bluebirds drank and bathed from ice in the Red Clay Creek…a Northern Mockingbird was down in the marsh mud.
Eastern Bluebirds drink snowmelt from the Ashland Lodge roof.  Photo by Derek Stoner.
Eastern Bluebirds drink snow-melt from the Ashland Lodge roof. Photo by Derek Stoner.
This Northern Mockingbird searched for food in the only snow-free area it could find...the Ashland Marsh.  Photo by Derek Stoner.
This Northern Mockingbird searched for food in the only snow-free area it could find...the Ashland Marsh. Photo by Derek Stoner.
Once we surveyed the plowed areas, we donned our snowshoes and headed onto the trails.  We gawked at brightly illuminated Ring-billed and Herring Gulls.  A Red-tailed Hawk was especially bright as the sun reflected off the snow and onto its belly.  Even the Turkey and Black Vultures looked darling in the brilliant wintry scene. 
This Yellow-bellied Sapsucker paid more attention to its sap-wells than us as we snuck up to it.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani.
This Yellow-bellied Sapsucker paid more attention to its sap-wells than us as we snuck up to it. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.
As we stood still, this Pileated Woodpecker flew in and landed right in front of us, chipping away at the tree as we watched for a few minutes.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani.
As we stood still, this Pileated Woodpecker flew in and landed right in front of us, chipping away at the tree as we watched for a few minutes. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

Through Monday, bird anywhere you like, even from your couch, just make sure you enter your sightings at the official website of the Great Backyard Bird Count.  But if you have snowshoes, it is going to be a lot more fun!

Birding via snowshoe at Ashland Nature Center.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani.
Birding via snowshoe at Ashland Nature Center. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

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