Our maiden CBC voyage
I read on the state birding listserve, COBIRDS, that Salida was conducting an experimental CBC this year, to see if it might be worth running annually. And after having tried to get to the Penrose CBC (but missing everyone because I started from C’dale too late), I wanted to give this one a try. I wasn’t sure if Z (my husband) would want to do it; but our friend D said he’d like to do it with us and Z said that he had assumed he was doing it too. D drove in from the eastern plains—~150 miles—the day before.
We left C’dale at 6:30 a.m. and headed to Bongo Billie’s for the organizational meeting. T and B were both there; S arrived late. We were assigned our sections and we headed off at about 7:30.
Our first stop was the fish hatchery. We walked along the fish hatchery fence for a ways. D spotted a small flock of Goldeneyes, with a few Barrow’s Goldeneyes in the midst of the Common Goldeneyes. I didn’t really get much of a look at the Barrow’s Goldeneyes; the flock was very skittery and flushed easily.
Next stop—Frantz Lake, where we heard a Swamp Sparrow among Dark-eyed Juncos and Song Sparrows. Nice find and a life bird for me (although I didn’t get very good looks at it). We then headed to Mt. Ouray State Wildlife Area (SWA) wetlands, where we found 7 more Swamp Sparrows (and I got good looks and heard the call several times) as well as a Virginia Rail! (The pig-grunting call is quite distinctive.) Z found a large flock of American Goldfinches in the trees at the far end of the area. We also heard a Northern Flicker calling.
We headed north to Hecla Junction. At the river, we found an American Dipper and a Canyon Wren; on the road back to US 285, we found a large flock of Bushtits. D noted that we should probably spend more time on the road if we did it again—it was classic pinyon/juniper habitat.
We then drove up to the landfill to see if there were any gulls—not a one. D even climbed up the hill to get a better view of the landfill; the well-attended shooting range next door made for less-than-optimal habitat for gulls, I guess. We drive by this landfill often and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gull there in winter.
We headed to feeders east of US 285. On the way there, I thought I saw a Bald Eagle in the trees along the Arkansas River east of US 285; but when we stopped, I couldn’t find it. However, D found a flock of Horned Larks scouring the field below where we stopped. At the feeders, we heard the Bald Eagle and counted it (although J & R saw one in the same area, which we figure was the same bird).
We gathered at the Division of Wildlife (DOW) offices for lunch—they bought pizzas! We arrived with an important piece of information about the landfill: Since we found nary a gull—and since the landfill is so far north—the Compiler decided to shift the center of the count circle south a bit for next year, so it can include the hills and mountains to the south (e.g., the Rainbow Trail and Methodist Mt.). That’s one of the important functions for an experimental CBC: During the 1st year, you can tweak the count circle center. After that, the count circle has to remain the same from year to year.
The group did a species count tally and our Swamp Sparrows and Virginia Rail were admired by all. No one had found Red-winged Blackbirds, so we were sent out with a mission to find some. (The DOW manager had seen them at the SWA.) Just off CR 291, we saw a Rough-legged Hawk (perhaps the CR 291 roughie we see there a lot)—no one had gotten that yet. We found a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds at the other end of the SWA–we approached it from a different road and parked at the bridge. That was the last big find we had.
After doing a round-robin of the # of species at about 4 (quite a yawner at the end of a long and tiring day), we headed back to C’dale around 5. The dogs were fine—it had probably been in the 40s with considerable sunshine, so no problem. It was a really fun time. We heard later that the group had tallied 73 species, which according to D was a really good count for a mountain count circle. Hurrah, us! One of the things I most enjoyed was that, although a number of CO’s excellent birders traveled a ways to participate in this CBC, little of the too-often-typical competition reared its ugly little head. (Okay, there was a bit, but it was quite tolerable.) Instead, everyone really seemed to want to do what was best for the group—e.g., what species we’d all missed and that we need to beat the bushes for after lunch—rather than one-upping around who had the biggest checklist for the day/week/month/year/city/county… Now that’s my kind of birding!
I hope we can do it again next year. D said he’d like to make it a tradition to do it with us. Heaven knows that his presence as a ringer on our team really made the difference. And it was a really fun day for the 3 of us to spend together. I learned a lot.
© 2008 Tina Mitchell