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.
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.
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.
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!